Hello hello !!!
So this weekend I had an AMAZING time in Raleigh / Durham – catching up with new friends, eating my literal weight in southern food, drinking some fancy craft beers, doing a few shoots, and (somehow) catching a nap.
I haven’t seen some of my friends in over 6 months, and while we were catching up, I was totally flattered to hear that they had been following my journey to reduce my waste !
However, when we started talking about going zero waste, I kept getting the same interesting response:
Oh Sam, I am definitely not that hard core. I am nowhere on your level.
But the thing is: I DON’T THINK I AM THAT ‘HARD CORE’.
Am I kind of a straw Nazi? Yes.
Do I have a reusable bag on me? #Always.
Do I spend more time in the grocery store / planning my meals because I now have an extra filter on my shopping habits? Definitely.
But, I have been on this journey for 5 months now, and since January I have been making tiny, baby steps to get to where I am now (which by the way is definitely more of a reductionist lifestyle than a Zero Waste one. . . I still have a long way to go).
So, for this post I would like to introduce:
10 Easy Steps to Help Reduce Your Waste !
(and some scary facts about trash for inspiration)
- Invest in a reusable bag (or two) – did you know Target gives out enough plastic bags per year to wrap around the circumference of the earth SEVEN times? Think about it. . . those flimsy, shitty, single use plastic bags are SO unnecessary. We get them all the time (especially in NY with take out meals and quick bodega trips). Investing in a reusable tote allows you to say “NO” to the plastic bag. Plus, with so many styles and patterns, you can get a bag that expresses your style !
- Buy a glass / metal water bottle – Plastic water bottles take over 1,000 years to break down. So when they end up in the landfill – and studies show that 88% of them will – they are there for (basically) FOREVER. Investing in a glass / metal one not only insures that you can re-use them, but it also means that those harmful chemicals won’t seep into your water.
- Get a mug for your morning cuppa’ – If you buy one cup of cofee / tea in a disposable cup every day, you’ll end up creating about 23 lbs of waste in a year. Now. . .think about allllllll the people that go to starbucks. that 23 pounds IMMEDIATELY mulyiplies just like *snap* that. refuse the to go cup by bringing your own mug / tumbler with you to the coffee shop.
- Donate your clothing – The average American throws out nearly 65 lbs of textile waste teach year, and nearly half (48%) of Americans throw out perfectly reusable textiles. When you’re doing your spring (or summer) cleaning, consider bringing those old clothes to a Donation center. For clothes . items that are unusable, you can even look into companies that donate fabric scraps to local schools / artists. One (wo)man’s clothing trash is another (wo)man’s treasure !
- Look into composting – Did you know that 30-40% of the US food supply is wasted? That’s more than 20 pounds per person. . . PER MONTH. I promise (promise promise promise x 1000) that composting does not make your house smell like rotting food. If you think about it, you probably already have food in your garbage can right now. Imagine throwing all those banana peels and stale pieces of bread into an air-tight container, and then shipping it off to get ground up into soil ! There are lots of options for composting. You can do it on your own in your backyard with worms or fermentation. Usually, you can drop it off at your local farmer’s market. And sometimes (in our case) you can even sign up for a service that picks your compost up right from your door and provides you with a clean bucket !
- Shop for grocery items with minimal packaging – Usually, you can buy potatoes in a plastic bag, or loose from a bin. You can probably also find lettuce in a plastic tub, or wrapped in a single rubber band. Often, you can even find bread in a plastic sleeve, or a whole loaf that is un-packaged. Making tiny changes to your grocery shopping habits can have a huge impact on your trash.
- Shop for items with minimal packaging. . . wherever you are – the other day I was in the Farmer’s Market in Union Square and I saw 2 bakery stands. One had cookies that were being sold individually, and wrapped in cellophane. The other had cookies – that were still sold individually – but they were unwrapped and in a glass case. The baker was using tongs to dole them out to hungry (and sugar crazed) customers. These items were virtually the same – but one came with unnecessary packaging and the other came without. The same is to be said for any other items ! It may be slightly less convenient and a tiny bit out of your way, but if you look, you can almost ALWAYS find a replacement for the item you need that comes with with less packaging.
- Bamboo over Plastic – Toothbrushes, kitchen utensils, makeup brushes, cutting boards. . .these things we don’t even think about (and usually only buy a few times a year at most) are adding to our consumption of plastic. By searching for bamboo alternatives, we can help cut down on our dependence on plastic. Plus, bamboo is a sustainable resource and grows much faster than trees – and muuuuuuuuuuuch faster than plastic, lol.
- Silverware is your friend, plastic-ware is not – Living in New York means that I’m always running around. It is so convenient to just grab my food to go. And almost always, my food comes with little plastic cutlery wrapped in a plastic film. So, in order to avoid plastic cutlery at work, I bring my own silverware in every Monday. That way, even if I get take out, I don’t need to take the plastic fork and knife with me.
- Razors are not recyclable – The EPA estimates that 2 billion razors are thrown away each year. That’s outrageous, considering that you can’t recycle disposable razors in the U.S. However, you can recycle the steel blades !!! If you do shave, consider investing in a reusable metal razor eliminates the need for those cheap few-time-use razors from the drug store.
- BONUS: Recognize your efforts / changes in habit and chat with others about going Zero Waste ! – I swear, this is one of the best things you can do if you are looking to cut down on your waste. Just by telling others about your choices makes them more aware of their subconscious habits, and then inspires them to make some changes too. Imagine if tomorrow morning, everyone woke up and grabbed a reusable water bottle from their pantry. The water bottle business would be virtually eliminated. How about if we refused to tolerate single use plastic bags? Then we wouldn’t have them floating around in our oceans ! Change begins with an idea, and speaking those ideas out loud can inspire others to join in the movement.
Finally, I would like to leave you with one thought.
The average American generates 4.5 lbs of trash per day (compared to the global average of 2.6 lbs . day)
If you make any efforts to reduce this number, no matter how insignificant it may seem, you are reducing your waste.