How to get to Zero Waste

Most of us have heard the term “zero waste” by now, but some may wonder what it actually means. Zero waste means living in such a way that you create (almost) no trash. According to Edward Humes, author of Garbology, the average American throws away 7 pounds of trash per day.  We are the world’s leaders in garbage generation.

Think of yourself standing proudly atop the (inverted) waste pyramid.  To get there, you must exercise a little discipline to circumvent the usual channel of waste coming your way. Key verbs are:  refuse, reduce and reuse.

Waste Pyramid

via: Port Macquarie Hastings Council, New Zealand.

First, refuse what you don’t really need. BYOR (Bring your own reusables) at every possible opportunity to avoid unnecessary waste.

Next, review your purchasing and reduce waste by choosing items with the least disposable packaging. For example, you might consider purchasing a shampoo bar, rather than a plastic bottle of shampoo.  You might bring reusable produce bags (keep them on hand in your reusable shopping bag) for veggies, fruit and bulk bin purchases.

After making choices to eliminate and reduce waste from the get-go, the next best thing you can do is reuse something. Try checking out the Goodwill, Craigslist, Freecycle or local consignment shops before buying a brand new product.  And consider these options again when you need to clear out a closet. Donate your used items to the Goodwill, rather than sending them to a landfill or incinerator.

Here is one family that changed their way of life without hardship, while saving a pretty penny:

The Zero Waste Home and The Zero Garbage Challenge are two blogs that cover just about every situation you can think of that might stymie your efforts to produce less garbage.  Check them out for tips, advice and course correction.

In our consumer culture, it may seem impossible to achieve zero waste, but with  some planning  and fortitude, you will swiftly decrease the amount of waste you personally contribute to the ugly American garbage picture.


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