Mission: Zero-Waste

Greetings fellow tree huggers and eco-warriors,

I will be writing to you every week or two to share my thoughts, lessons, and experiences in 2018, as I make my way through a year of zero waste! Full disclosure, I am allowing myself a reused sauerkraut jar (slightly larger than a mason jar) for any landfill waste I am unable to avoid… which as you can see, already has some waste in it. I will touch back on this later.

If you follow Global Green and our projects, you may know that I work mainly with our resource recovery programs, and feel most at home when I am either: a) in a dumpster, or b) talking about waste. This is what gets me jazzed. To be honest, I can’t even pinpoint when it started, but since I was very young I’ve been a strong advocate for recycling and the prevention of wasted food. It was during my undergrad at UCSB that I learned about composting and the recycling of food waste, and really, my insatiable obsession for all things waste has just skyrocketed from there.

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Don’t get me wrong; I hate waste as a concept. There isn’t such thing as “waste” in nature, as everything has its purpose in the circle of life. Waste is a human-designed concept, a flaw in the system that we have created… and now it’s time that we fix this flaw, or at the very least, do everything we can as individuals to be more mindful of our waste, to prevent waste in the first place, and to find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle what we are unable to prevent.

Now to loop back to my zero waste challenge, I have been preparing for this for months. Last April, or as we at Global Green called it, Earth Month, several of us staff attempted a zero waste challenge for the month. What I learned from my month’s worth of jar debris surprised me in several unexpected ways. From collecting my landfill waste over the course of 1 month, I learned the following lessons about my personal waste generation:

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1. I eat a lot of protein bars (the wrappers aren’t recyclable, so I was forced to come to terms with this).

2. Dental floss makes up about half of my waste (which isn’t to say I use an exorbitant amount of floss, but it peaked my curiosity as to the floss alternatives out there).

3. The metal wire twist ties used to hold together produce at the market need to be switched out with rubber bands (who can ever have enough of those?), or be done away with completely.

4. I produce a lot less landfill waste than expected.

You could say that in the years leading up to last April, due to my fascination with waste and recycling I had already shed myself of much of the everyday packaging and other items that make their way to the landfill. You could say there may have been some bias in my actions and purchasing decisions during that month because I KNEW any landfill-bound materials would be showcased in my mason jar for the world to see. You could even say I was feeling a little competitive about this challenge due to my being the waste nerd in the office. Who knows? I’m guessing it was a bit of all the above.

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Anywho, taking the challenge last April inspired me to challenge myself even further by doing this for a full year... to really walk the talk, practice what I preach, [insert related metaphor here].  However, instead of continuing on from April, I wanted to take some time to do my research and prepare for this long-term commitment. I shared this dream with several colleagues, many friends, my family, and undoubtedly some strangers along the way. I did this not only for ideas, but also to hold myself to it. I figured if I told enough people, expectations would be set and there would be no going back on my word… and lookie there at that 2018 mason jar, I was right!

As you can see from the photo, it doesn’t look like I’m off to a strong start. Fear not! In the jar now are a few days’ worth of dental floss, the plastic-coated tag from a bunch of broccoli, and a snag of scotch tape. I’m currently waiting on my biodegradable dental floss in the mail, which I will share all the deets on in a future post as I don’t want to take up much more of your time today. The floss load in my jar will soon be at an end. The broccoli tag urges me to buy my broccoli elsewhere that doesn’t bunch it with plastic, and the scotch tape I know is a one-time deal as it’s leftover from the revisions I’ve made to my 2018 Vision Board.

I appreciate you embarking on this journey with me, and encourage you to challenge yourself to a zero waste x amount of time (a week, month, year, decade, etc.). Join me and share your journey with us on Twitter or Instagram!

It is my hope that as we move forward through this year together that you find this blog as a useful guide to the little things you can do to live a more waste-free lifestyle. Stay tuned, as I’ve been cookin’ up ideas for future posts such as:

1. Zero Waste Dental Hygiene (DIY toothpaste, DIY teeth whitening, and dental floss)

2. Prepared, Mindful Grocery Shopping

3. Zero Waste at Music Festivals

4. DIY Waste-Free Beauty Products

5. Caffeinating Without Waste

6. Zero Waste Travel

7. Waste-Free Dining

Always,

Madisen

 

Madisen Gittlin