Do you ever wonder how much waste you actually throw out? This week I’m going to do my best to go zero waste and I’m terrified.
The hard part about starting a zero or low-waste challenge is that it’s nearly impossible. People naturally are wasteful. The average American produces 1,704 pounds of garbage a year.
That’s a big number, so let’s break it down.
The average American weighs 181 pounds. So on average, we produce almost 9.5 times our weight in garbage every year. To continue, the average American lives 78.54 years. That means that each of us, on average, produces 133,832.16 pounds of garbage in our lifetime. America’s population constitutes 4% of the global population, but we produce 12% of the municipal solid waste created. I don’t want to depress you with statistics, but I can’t quite delight you with them either.
I would love to say that this week turned me around and I’ll never use another plastic cup or go out without my reusable forks. While it didn’t quite convert me, I have become much more conscious of the gross amount of waste I produce.
This week, I was made even more aware that I am a flawed person who has not done her best to take care of the earth. I started the week off strong, trying to do my best, but then I realized that it was going to be more of a challenge than I thought.
At its soul, zero-waste means that you don’t contribute to a landfill. I promised no more depressing statistics, but you don’t need a number to know that contributing to a landfill is probably the worst thing you can do for the environment.
A sustainable YouTuber I watched talked about how long showers, red meat, even your coffee brand contribute to waste. That’s an aspect that I don’t think people take into consideration when they start their zero-waste journey. It’s easier to go out and buy reusable this and that, but the research and the alteration of your lifestyle can become quite in-depth.
Starting Zero- Waste
Starting zero-waste can be difficult. The all-or-nothing mentality in me was tempted to throw out everything I own and replace it with an environmentally conscious choice. While the vendors at my local farmer’s market would enjoy that, I actually would be contributing more to the waste than not. One action to take when you start zero-waste is to not throw out things, but when they are out, get sustainable substitutions.
For more information on zero-waste, this YouTube video discusses the myths of zero-waste that aren’t true. I also love how this video goes into a few ways you can save things and make them zero waste!
A Little Background
I tried to be somewhat low/zero waste last year. When the pandemic hit, I began to research some ways that I could reuse or repurpose things. I DIYed a few reusable makeup removers and I bought a June Cup, but that was about as far as it went. When I moved a few months ago, I decided to purchase a few zero-waste items because buying zero waste once is much cheaper than buying wasteful items every month.
Notice that my reasoning for going zero or low-waste was never because I wanted to improve the environment, it was to cure my boredom or to save me money. While these aren’t necessarily bad reasons, I wish I had been a little more aware of the impact I had on the environment.
I wanted to give an overview of the week instead of a day by day because zero waste is more of a lifestyle rather than a once-a-day thing. I started my week off strong. I took my used coffee grounds and put them in my garden along with the hair from my comb (it’s biodegradable and helpful for birds building their nests). I also made certain to carry my hydroflask with me everywhere I went, along with my reusable straw.
I was ~blessed~ that this week allowed me to use my June Cup. I honestly think I will solely use that brand for the rest of my life.
I usually use a sticky note for my to-do list and carry it around with me all day. I transferred that to my whiteboard and my notes app on my phone, which I honestly like better.
I used toilet paper like normal, but I switched paper towels with cloths. Amazon has a million unpaper towels that you can wash and reuse and they do the trick.
I also tried to use as little electricity as possible and as little extra water as possible. I found small things I could do to help the environment, like taking my hydroflask out with me or my reusable forks. I took quicker showers, used less power, and even saved my soap scraps to make a new bar!
That being said, I still produced waste. I went out to eat at places that had paper napkins. My partner got us Crumbl Cookies, and you can’t say no to Crumbl Cookies. We went paperless with online movie tickets, but then we got a bag of popcorn. It’s the things that we do without even thinking of them that cause America to be so wasteful.
This week has taught me I’m much more wasteful than I thought. There were times where all I wanted to do was go to Sonic at midnight (there is no other time to go to Sonic) or go by Starbucks and not have to worry about a reusable cup. Going zero-waste and being waste-conscious is harder than I thought it would be. That being said, there were also times where I went out to eat and the restaurants had paper straws, a more sustainable option.
This article isn’t intended to shame anyone, but I think it is important to see how hard it is to not add to the waste in our world. We need to question why that is.
The Question I Always Ask
Would I continue a zero/low-waste lifestyle? Yes and no. I think we all need to do things and find ways to produce less waste. Like I’ve said, it benefits the environment, but it’s also cheaper and easier to not have to go out and buy 10 rolls of paper towels every 3 months when you can buy 1 set of reusable towels every 3 years.
I honestly want to continue to look for ways to decrease my waste and be more conscious of the impact I have on the Earth as I continue.
My Favorite Zero/Low Waste Products
What challenge should I try next? Comment below!
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