I do my part to recycle and bring my own bags for purchases, but I am far from producing zero waste. While lugging multiple recycling bins to the curbside every week it has occurred me that I have a lot of recycling for only one person. I never totally connected the dots that the goal should be to have a system where all of the wrappers, junk mail, jars and cans don’t enter my home to begin with!
I was recently inspired by a television show where Bea and Scott Johnson of Mill Valley, California talked about their Zero waste lifestyle. They produce the equivalent of a quart jar of waste per month for their entire family of four. Now that is pretty close to zero waste and a goal I am going to aspire to!
In a recent article about them in Sunset magazine, I was inspired by their commitment as a family to leave a lighter footprint. Their children are just as committed to the cause, and wrap their lunches in large cloths which they roll up and carry to school and reuse the next day. They have simplified their lives so completely that they are able to pack up on a dime and spend extended periods of time traveling and doing things they love. They are able to pay for the trips because of the 40 percent less they are spending on living expenses! They also rent their home while they are gone and use it as a teaching tool with detailed instructions for the renters on how they can create a zero waste lifestyle.
I yearned for the freedom from encumbrances that they have achieved, and the good feeling that comes from knowing my lifestyle is completely in alignment with my ethics about sustainability for the planet. I am inspired by their example to do more!
In Bea’s recent article in Yes magazine, she outlines 10 tips to help the average person get on board and move closer towards zero waste. Here are some of her great suggestions:
- Refuse what you do not need.
- Reduce what you do need.
- Reuse by using reusables.
- Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse.
- Rot (compost) the rest.
2. Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs, and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another “free” pen?
3. Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You’ll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.
4. Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you’ll have to deal with.
5. Swap disposables for reusable (start using handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, etc.). You might find that you don’t miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings. [Noted!]
6. Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store and farmers market. [I always keep reusable totes in my car.]
7. Know your city’s recycling policies and locations—but think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced, or reused first? Question the need and life-cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.
8. Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal, or cardboard. Avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, the ocean).
9. Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).
10. Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost the more people will use it. [I will add that you want to have a bin that has a lid and is an attractive receptacle.]
I hope you will join me in working toward these zero waste goals in your own household. I am going to start today with stopping the junk mail, which has been a goal of mine for ages and I am ashamed that I haven’t gotten around to it….Done!