Zero Waste

Zero waste living

Sunflower fields planted by the city. After the blooms are finished the field will be harvested and turned into biodiesel. Beautiful and useful. 

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and then at church the next week had your minister start a multi-week lesson on the same topic? Sometimes I think we humans have more of a hive mind than we like to acknowledge. Now for something 100% unrelated:

I’ve been reading and watching a lot of videos about zero-waste living and it’s really intriguing to me.

I’ve always recycled and tried to live sustainability, but something about the zero-waste movement has really struck a cord. What would it be like if we eliminated plastic entirely?

Sure, recycling keeps those plastics out of landfills, but I’ve seen several things recently about how the way we recycle in most places in America – single stream – is really difficult to deal with from a waste management perspective. And it causes people to forget the rules of recycling; they throw just about anything into the recycle bin.

No, your used pizza box is not recyclable and yes, it will ruin the entire batch and cause it all to go to the landfill.

Even without the pizza boxes clogging things up, between the soggy cardboard/paper and broken bottles that happens when you mix recyclable goods, about a quarter of all recyclables end up in the landfill anyway. Or worse, it all gets shipped to a less developed country (in the past, it’s been China) to sort and deal with.

Then you get into all sorts of issues about off loading our waste on those who don’t have the privilege to live in a developed country AND all the fuel and resources it takes to get the waste there.

And of course, this is all assuming the best case scenario where everyone in the country both has access to recycling services and utilizes them. Which is not even close to being true…

So, what do we do?  What does it mean to eliminate plastic?

I personally am starting small. I have a tendency to jump into things and try to make huge changes all at once that wind up with me feeling burned out and eventually like I’ve failed.

One thing that I realized would be a super easy shift is storing cut veggies in Tupperware instead of ziplock bags.  I only used half a lemon last night for our dinner and my usual action would have been to grab a sandwich bag and throw it back into the fridge for use later. Instead, I found a reusable container that fit the lemon and stored it that way.

Of course, my reusable containers are plastic. They were purchased quite some time before I realized plastic was an important issue, but they will last a long time and be used many more times than a single sandwich bag. (And no, I am not going to start washing those out and drying them).

I also ordered a set of stainless steel straws today. I’ve been wanting to cut out my plastic straw usage for a while – ever since I saw that video of the turtle, you know the one… – but I struggled. I don’t like drinking straight from the cup when there is ice, but it became annoying to always remember to ask for my drinks with “no ice” and I like my drinks to be cold. Some restaurants don’t have chilled water and room temperature tap water is gross.

This was another thing that seemed like a really obvious solution, but I just was previously blind too.

I want to get a little pouch for my straws so I can carry them around with me. The set that I ordered comes with a cleaning brush in case you use the straws for smoothies or things, but I pretty much only drink water or unsweet tea at this point in my life, neither of which would really dirty a straw.

Overall, I’m really excited about finding creative and simple ways to reduce the use of plastic in my home. Especially with little Sophia on the way, I am becoming way more conscious of how much waste is produced through the “conventional” way of raising babies. Someone so much smaller than us shouldn’t double or triple our waste production. (Although, this little girl already has way more clothes than I do).

If you’ve got some simple ideas or things that seem obvious after you realized them, I’d love to hear about it.

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