Could You Live A Zero Waste Life?
About a year ago, I read a book that opened my eyes to something completely new and thoroughly captivating: a lifestyle of producing zero waste. Bea Johnson, author of The Zero Waste Home, has produced only a mason jar’s worth of trash in the last year – and that’s including all of the trash for her family of four.
Ever since reading this book, I’ve been trying to find ways to reduce the amount of stuff I use and get rid of, as I’ve learned that being eco-friendly is more than just recycling and carpooling to work.
Reducing your waste not only helps the planet, it has health, financial, and time-saving benefits.
Whether you think this idea is intriguing or completely unachievable, I wanted to share a little bit about the book and the ways we can try to incorporate zero waste into our lifestyles.
How is zero waste possible?
Refuse what you don’t need, such as single-use plastics, freebies (anyone else have way too many hotel pens?), junk mail, plastic bags, etc. This way you won’t accumulate ‘stuff’ that you didn’t really want in the first place.
Reduce what you already use, like packaging, products, your car, technology, and reduce the quantities of things you buy.
Shop with non-plastic bags, rent out your car or house (think Airbnb style), buy used, buy smart (durable, rechargeable), and extend the life of what you already own by repairing it or using it in new ways.
Because recycling uses a lot of energy to recycle and it’s confusing to know what can be recycled and what can’t (this Portlandia clip is so spot on), Bea says you should look at labels before you buy anything to make sure it can easily be recycled or reused before purchasing.
Aka composting. Instead of throwing away food scraps, you can compost your food waste, turn it into soil, and use it to grow new things. It’s nature’s way of recycling!
Why is this important?
The average American throws away 4.4 lbs a day, adding up to 1,600 lbs per year (source). It’s not surprising considering just how much packaging and non-recyclable materials we encounter every day: napkins and straws at your morning coffee shop, plastic water bottles and utensils at a work meeting, wrappers from your afternoon snack, and the disposable makeup wipes, razor, and that bottle of lotion you used up in the evening.
It’s a bit overwhelming to think of how much stuff we get rid of. Since we don’t have to deal with trash for more than a week before the garbage man comes, we never get to see the accumulation of the things we throw away. But we all know it goes somewhere and that ain’t a pretty place.
P.S. Did you know it takes 450 years for a disposable diaper to decompose? Whaaaat.
I think if I can contribute in any way to reduce the amount of waste I produce, I’m going to try. While I’m not ready to ‘zero waste it’, I am prepared to ‘less waste it’. The more I pay attention to how much I throw away, the more shocked I am that I didn’t notice before.
All it takes is little more awareness of your own actions and some preparation ahead of time to reduce your waste.
6 Simple Ways To Reduce Your Waste
Zero waste is a bit extreme for most people, but making an effort to reduce at least some things is so much better than continuing to throw away 4.4 lbs of stuff every day. Here are 6 simple ways you can reduce your waste during the day:
1. Java The Cup. Bring your own cup to your coffee shop. They’ll probably even give you a discount!
2. Bulk Up. Get nuts, grains, and spices from the bulk aisle of your grocery store, and bring a reusable baggy or mason jar instead of using the plastic bags they provide.
3. Get Fresh. Buy produce from a market or grocery store that doesn’t wrap it in plastic. Bring your own produce bag.
4. Unsubscribe. Get rid of that junk mail once and for all here.
5. BYOB. Try to always carry a reusable tote with you when shopping, and opt for an email receipt if possible.
6. Go Vintage. Buy second hand items as much as you can. Poshmark is a great app for finding used clothing.
What do you guys think? Is it too Portlandia for you or are you inspired to reduce your waste?