All this week, as we count down to Earth Day, this coming Friday, April 22, the Farmers’ Almanac will be highlighting the concept of Zero Waste.
Most of us grew up thinking very little about the amount of waste we generate during a given day, week, month, or year. We just filled up a trash bag and, when it was full, put it outside for someone else to deal with.
Over time, we may have learned about recycling, and done our civic duty by sorting out metal, glass, plastic, and maybe, depending on the recycling program where we live, even paper. By reducing the amount of trash we put into the landfill, we started to feel good that we’d done our part.
The concept of Zero Waste asks us to go further, though, by changing the whole way we think about waste. Rather than seeing waste as an inevitable evil, and trying to feel better about it by removing a few things from the waste stream, Zero Waste advocates say that the real work happens long before an item ever gets used up and heads for the trash. It happens when we’re still making our decisions about which items to even consume.
While the name may sound daunting, and conjure up images of living in a thatched hut somewhere, wearing animal skins and using bones for utensils, the reality is much less extreme. By simply paying closer attention to consumption choices, and working to change unexamined habits, some people aiming for Zero Waste have been able to reduce their weekly trash output to a small bathroom sized can, or less. One popular Zero Waste advocate and blogger has managed to reduce her family’s waste to a fistful of trash per week.
In the coming days, we’ll share a few strategies to help you reduce your household waste. While changing lifelong patterns can be an uphill climb, the principles involved are pretty simple: opt for quality, long-lasting reusable items over disposable versions, forgo products with excessive packaging, and plan ahead when shopping or eating out. Recycling will still play a role, as will composting.
The greatest virtue, when aiming for Zero Waste, is creativity. Think of ways to reuse items you might normally throw away, or ways to get items you need without consuming extra packaging. As with any environmental commitment, it helps to think in terms of the benefits, rather than the sacrifices. Instead of thinking of waste reduction as something that limits your choices, think of it as an opportunity to make use of the wealth of materials all around you.
Tomorrow, we’ll discuss some strategies to keep in mind while shopping. Be sure to check back in with us throughout the week. And if you have some helpful tips you use to reduce your waste output, please share them below!