Events like World Environment Day, June 5, are a reminder of our responsibility to protect and safeguard Mother Nature.
We all understand the consequences of Climate Change, but many of us seem to remain in a state of paralysis, not knowing how to help. We view the problem as enormous and don’t see how our actions can contribute to the solution.
I understand this feeling - I used to live there.
What empowered me was discovering that there were things I could do to aid the environment that would also improve my well-being, happiness, and even my finances.
My family has been living Zero Waste for three and a half years. This means embracing the goal of sending nothing to the landfill. In fifteen months, we went from producing a large bag of garbage weekly to no longer needing a trash can.
Moving in the direction of Zero Waste is a decision any individual or family can readily make. Most people can’t afford to retrofit their home for solar or geothermal energy or to swap their gas-guzzler for an electric car, but they can pursue a Zero Waste lifestyle with no financial expenditure.
The average North American creates over four pounds of trash daily. Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to understand that taking responsibility for our consumption habits is one of the simplest and most impactful changes we can make.
Want to join in? Here are my suggestions to get started on a path to creating less waste.
- Use Grocery Totes and Reusable Produce/Bulk Bags
Reusable grocery totes have become common practice. But we all forget them in the car or at home from time to time. When this happens, be strict and do not allow yourself to use plastic bags. Run out to the car, ask for a box or fill up your purse or knapsack. The stricter you are with yourself, the faster you'll establish new habits. If you're already a rock star in the tote department, take it to the next level and give up using plastic bags for produce and bulk items. Simply place loose items in your basket, reuse plastic bags from your home collection or use the brown paper bags provided in store.
- Lose the Excess Trash Cans
Set yourself up for success by eliminating excess trash cans in the home. In the name of convenience, most homes have a trash can in the bathroom, office, bedrooms, etc. Because picking through and separating waste material is neither convenient nor fun, I suggest having only one trash can in the kitchen right next to your compost and recycling bins. This increases the likelihood that items will end up in the right bin the first time.
There are many options for composting: public programs, backyard composts, and my favourite, bokashi composting. Bokashi is the simplest form of home composting because everything from meat, dairy, cooked foods, fruits and veggies can go into the bin.
- Start a Questionables Bin.
This bin is for any item that you think is recyclable, but is not accepted by your local blue bin program. Batteries, light bulbs, scrap metal... anything goes. Once a year, find alternative recycling solutions for these items.
- Ditch Excess Packaging and Shop Bulk
Reacquaint yourself with the bulk section! Did you know that upwards of 15% of food prices go to packaging? I recently invested in reusable bulk bags. I use these for bulk, bakery and produce items. Explore your local farmers market for fresh plastic-free produce or investigate produce box delivery programs.
- Refuse The Big Offenders
Single-use plastics permeate every corner of our planet. However, avoiding the four big offenders (plastic bags, straws and water bottles and to-go coffee cups) is easy. They can be replaced with reusable tote bags, reusable water bottles, stainless steel straws and travel mugs.
- Explore the World of Second-Hand
Initially, I found this idea terrifying. However, I am happy to report that shopping for second-hand clothing and household items has been a thoroughly positive experience. You are no longer shopping for the sake of consumerism; you are doing so with intention. Instead of focusing on deals, you strive to find items you’ll proudly wear and use over the long term.
8. Swap Out Disposables
As you finish up disposable items in your home, look into reusable or compostable alternatives. Here are a few examples of easy swaps:
Paper Napkins = Cloth napkins
Wax Paper = Silicone Mat
Plastic Food Wrap = Beeswax Wrap
Menstrual Products = Menstrual Cup
Kleenex = Handkerchiefs
My last piece of advice is to not surrender all your luxury items. For me, this includes having my hair coloured and buying new makeup, running shoes, B12 vitamins and the occasional bag of chips. I have challenged myself to stretch the time between hair appointments, to research makeup brands with sustainable packaging and to limit my chip consumption to road trips. For Zero Waste to be sustainable long-term, however, it must also be realistic. After all, the goal is not perfection, it's progress.
If you are already on a path to Zero Waste and are looking for inspiration, check out my blog, PAREdown. (www.paredownhome.com)