Hello friends! I said I would blog through out my zero waste June challenge but that clearly did not happen. Here’s a summary of how my month of producing very little trash went!
I started off the month with enthusiasm for my new endeavor. Word about my challenge spread quickly amongst friends and family. I kicked off waste free June by giving a talk to my moms real estate office sales meeting and stood up in front of 25 people eating from paper bowls with plastic utensils. This sight negated all of my doubts about my challenge (Am I wasting my time? Is this dumb? Will people actually care about this?). I realized that people need to be aware of the impact that plastic and other waste has on our earth. Single use plastics (utensils, plastic wrap, water bottles, bags, etc) are completely unnecessary, there is almost always a more sustainable alternative. The sales meeting crowd was mostly receptive except for a man who practically argued with me the whole time. We won’t talk about him. The rest were inspired to start making changes around the office! We had a great conversation about simple ways to reduce waste. This made me excited for the rest of the challenge… Armed with my bamboo utensils, my stainless steel straw, my eco friendly togo container, and of course a plethora of mason jars I went off to discover how little waste I could produce in just one month.
If only this enthusiasm carried with me through the following days. I quickly discovered that plastic is most certainly inevitable. I can’t buy coconut oil without a plastic seal circling the top, nor buy kale from Weaver Street without a twist tie holding together the bunch. We are bombarded with packaging. It’s everywhere. Most of this packaging holds our chemically delicious processed food. Megan Kimble from Unprocessed: My City Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food states that “the primary reason we process food is to sell it. Processing improves texture, augments appearance, enhances taste, and makes better mouthfeel. We process food to preserve it not just seasonally, but indefinitely. Without context an outsider might guess that today the purpose of processing is to make the food less nutritious.” We feed our bodies chemicals just for the sake of convenience. It’s easier to buy a frozen dinner than it is to make your own delicious meal from fresh local produce. It’s easier to buy a bag of chips than it is to dehydrate potatoes to make your own package free one ingredient chips. It’s easier to buy a bottle of kombucha than it is to wait one month to ferment your own. Certainly there are some healthy packaged food options, but the majority of the time you’re better off just eating some local produce. As a society, we are addicted to overly processed packaged food, myself included. While I never actually bought any packaged food, I did steal some chips, crackers, goldfish, etc from those around me. It was hard not to. With every stolen chip and every sighting of unnecessary packaging or waste, my enthusiasm ran down the drain.
It’s almost like I have super vision now. Super vision that only detects packaging and waste. I can’t go into super market without eyeing down all of the people separating there apples from their kale from their oranges with mountains of plastic bags. I hyper aware of the people eating from their weaver street to go containers with plastic utensils AT weaver street instead of using the washable bowls and metal utensils that weaver so graciously provides and washes for you. Even at home I’m surrounded by my moms plastic starbucks cups and my brothers doritos. Plastic and packaging is everywhere and I can’t go anywhere without detecting it. Cucumbers are wrapped in a thin layer of plastic.. right over it’s green “packaging” that nature provides. Lemons are bundled up in plastic mesh bags. Bell peppers in groups of three are prepackaged in plastic bags. It may sound like i’m being overly cautious or overly sensitive but lets go back to some important stats. An average American is capable of producing 4.6 lbs of trash per day. In total Americans produce 230 million tons of trash every. single. year. Most of this waste goes into landfills or into the oceans. Lets not forget that our landfills are reaching their all time capacity. What will happen when we can no longer store waste in landfills? Where will all of that waste go? The food waste will decompose and the plastic waste will make it’s way into the oceans, breaking up into smaller pieces, endangering animals and polluting the earth. Every single piece of plastic that has ever been produce still exists today. Plastic takes 1000’s of years to decompose completely. This new found supervision is exasperating at times… but just what I need to become more aware. Change happens after you are able to recognize a problem and then become passionate enough to do something about it.
I have to remind myself to not get too caught up in the statistics and to just focus on the little things I can do to help make a difference. In my case it’s going waste free and educating others on the importance of sustainability. Others may find that buying a reusable water bottle instead of using single use plastic bottles is all that they can do for the time being. And that’s ok. As long as we make a collective effort to reduce waste, things will change. While my enthusiasm definitely went down the drain half way through the month, it still didn’t stop me from denying plastic straws at restaurants, making my own package free food, and practically producing no waste. While I did have my waste free lows throughout the month I was usually brought back up to a high thanks to those who are also passionate about zero waste. People behind me in line at whole foods asked all about my mason jars holding my bulk goods, friends told me all that they’ve done to reduce waste, my mom came home multiple times with her groceries in reusable bags. Little moments like these gave me the energy and passion to keep going with this zero waste lifestyle. It’s so easy to get discouraged, but getting discouraged is not going to change anything.
It’s July 2nd, and practically the only waste I have produce since June 1st sits right in this mason jar.
It contains a few receipts, a bunch of kombucha plastic seals, a few kale twist ties, some labels, tags, fake grass from a sushi restaurant, and one plastic straw.
I did not include fruit and veggie stickers, a couple of used bandaids (gross), and a few other plastic seals. I did have one major slip up during this challenge.. one night I wanted to have a bonfire with friends but did not have anyway of chopping up my own wood so I had to buy a couple bundles of wood from a gas station. The wood came wrapped up in band of plastic wrap to hold it together. I justified having a fun night with friends around a bon fire over sitting around in my room. Fun won! Considering I hardly produced any other trash this month, I don’t feel much guilt.
For my first time attempting zero waste, I think I did a pretty good job. Definitely not perfect but it’s a start. I’m lucky that I get to attend a school this fall where compost bins are all around campus, and zero waste options are in abundance. I feel confident that I can keep a semi zero waste lifestyle.
Next challenge? Zero Plastic July. Join me and many others attempting to give up single use plastic for the month of July! Thank you to everyone who attempts to lessen their impact on the environment! Lets make our future a little more sustainable! Remember… we can’t recycle the earth!