Zero waste – what does it really mean? This last weekend my kids and some friends went on a camping trip and I said to them as they were packing to leave “how about seeing if you can make this a zero waste camping trip?” As it turns out they thought that meant eating all the food they were taking with them, and they declared they would be fat upon returning. Ok, so it appears that I need to explain zero waste, at least to some of the college age set.
Most of us have heard the slogan “reduce, reuse, recycle”. That is a good start – but let’s tweak it a little – reduce, reuse, recycle, compost.
Reduce/Reuse – we can ask ourselves do we really need to buy this disposable or treat this as disposable? For example, instead of that one time use water bottle, how about bringing your own reusable water bottle? Yes you will have to wash it which uses water, but it is far less water (and energy) than it took to create the one time use bottle, and less water than it will take to recycle it. Check out this video by “How Its Made” on how reusable water bottles are produced:
Recycle – When we do use something like a plastic bottle, milk carton, glass bottle, or anything that can be recycled, a little discipline goes a long way toward diverting from the waste stream. Did you know that it costs less for a recycling bin pickup than it does for trash pickup? Also, what can be recycled changes from time to time – it’s getting better! Keep up to date with what CAN be recycled (includes round food containers, plastic bottles, food containers, toys, etc. See the latest from the City of SD:
Composting – I began my composting journey a couple of years ago and recently took some classes that were very helpful. I learned that many things you cannot recycle CAN be composted. We are well on our way to zero waste now! Check the Solana Center’s website for free composting classes and significant discounts on vermicomposting (composting with worms) and standard composting bins for San Diego residents:
How much effort does it take to compost? Not much as it turns out. I am currently utilizing 2 composting methods, vermicomposting and standard composting. I feed my worms 1-2 times per week (takes less than 5 minutes) and my compost piles take another 15 minutes per week. There is no smell, and no hassle. Now that I am better educated on composting, I have significantly reduced my outgoing recycling!
So, what is zero waste? With very few exceptions, almost everything that comes into our homes and businesses we are able to reuse, recycle, or compost with relative ease. Striving for the goal of zero waste means we find another use for, recycle, or compost everything that we use.
How do you get started?
1. Be mindful – think before you buy or consume
2. Education – there is a wealth of free education on waste reduction and zero waste topics – see resources above.
3. Make changes – you don’t have to change everything overnight. Little steps are better than no steps! Make small changes in your daily and weekly habits.
4. Ask for help – ask a local sustainability expert for help! Give me or another sustainability expert a call!
Good luck on your journey toward zero waste!