How to be (almost) zero waste

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We’ve all heard the stories of zero wasters and how they and their family of four went a whole year without producing a single piece of trash. It’s inspiring, commendable and hilariously impractical for the rest of us. But just because we can’t be 100% zero waste like the Captain Planet families out there, doesn’t mean we can’t be ALMOST zero waste!

First, lets breakdown what counts as waste; that is anything that can’t be recycled, composted or reused in another way. If you don’t already recycle..why? Start today, there is no reason not to! City or curbside recycling is more and more common and recycling centers outnumber landfills 2 to 1 in the US (yay!). If you don’t already compost, don’t fret, it’s SO much easier than you think. Most big cities offer compost pick up. It’s as simple as calling your city’s waste or recycling department and asking what you are allowed to put out. If your city doesn’t offer compost pick up, privately owned pick up companies are becoming more and more popular. If you live in a rural area, lucky you! That means you probably have a yard (something us city dwellers only dream about) and you can do your own compost.

 

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One of the most environmentally impactful, lifestyle change you can make is to limit the amount of plastic you use. While most plastic can be recycled, it can only be recycled a handful of times before its no longer usable. Plastic also never breaks down. Every piece of plastic that’s ever been made, still exists today. Google the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you will be stunned. While you may not be able to go 100% plastic free, you can slowly start to decrease your usage with small changes. When I decided to start cutting my plastic consumption, I looked at items I used everyday and the products I replaced most often. When I took a critical look at my home, I was surprised how much plastic I used. I bought a new tub of olive oil every couple weeks. My beloved JIF peanut butter came in a plastic tub. Floss, toothpaste, shampoo, even my organic Dr. Bronners soap came in plastic packaging. I decided to change one product at a time….everything at once would’ve been overwhelming. I bought mason jars to start buying my granola in bulk, (yup, the organic, gluten free granola came in a plastic bag). I bought a glass olive oil dispenser and starting buying oil in bulk.  Items that I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) buy in bulk, I switched to brands that came in more environmentally friendly packaging. Glass is best! Glass can be recycled over and over again, it never loses its usefulness. So I begrudgingly gave up my JIF peanut butter and switched to a brand that comes in a glass jar. My plastic dental floss is out, and a silk floss in glass packaging is in. Plastic toothbrush out! Bamboo toothbrush in! Liquid laundry detergent in plastic tubs has been replaced with powdered detergent in cardboard packaging. Liquid hand soap is now a bar of hand soap (beautifully made by my friend Britt, I might add). When I go out for drinks with friends, I’m that person that requests ‘no straw please’.

 

I’m still sticking with my ‘one product at a time’ rule. Next on the list is toothpaste and face wash, and I’m challenging myself to make my own. Making your own products is really the best way to be zero waste, it just requires more effort than most of us are used to putting in and I’m no exception. I bought the ingredients months ago and still haven’t gotten to it. But hey, it’s ok! I sacrificed my peanut butter for the environment, so the homemade toothpaste can wait a bit longer.

We may not be fully fledged Planeteers, but with small daily changes and a bit more consideration for the products we buy, we can be Almost Zero Wasters, and that’s something to be proud of!

jillian clark