Imagine that every square meter of all the coastlines in the world is littered with 15 grocery bags full of plastic garbage – that’s how much it is now entering the oceans around the world in just one year. , the world generates at least 3,5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste per day, which is 10 times more than 100 years ago. And the United States is the undisputed leader here, producing 250 million tons of waste per year – about 2 kg of garbage per person per day.
But at the same time, a growing number of people are dedicating their lives to the zero waste movement. Some of them produce so little garbage per year that all of it could fit in an ordinary tin can. These people lead a normal modern lifestyle, and the desire to reduce waste saves them money and time and enriches their lives.
Katherine Kellogg is one of those who has reduced the amount of her trash that hasn’t been composted or recycled to the point where it literally fits in one can. Meanwhile, the average American produces about 680 kilograms of garbage a year.
“We also save about $5000 a year by buying fresh instead of packaged, buying in bulk, and making our own products like cleaning products and deodorants,” says Kellogg, who lives with her husband in a small home in Vallejo, California.
Kellogg has a blog where she shares the details of a zero waste lifestyle, as well as practical advice and guidance for those who aspire to start a zero waste lifestyle. In three years, she had 300 regular readers on her blog and in.
“I think a lot of people are ready to cut back on their waste,” Kellogg says. However, she doesn’t want people to get hung up on trying to fit all their trash into one tin. “The zero waste movement is all about minimizing waste and learning how to make informed decisions. Just do your best and buy less.”
In college, out of fear of breast cancer, Kellogg began reading personal care labels and looking for ways to limit her body’s exposure to potentially toxic chemicals. She found alternative means and started making her own products. Like the readers of her blog, Kellogg learned from other people, including Lauren Singer, the author of the popular blog. Singer began reducing her waste as an environmental student in 2012, which has since blossomed into a career as a speaker, consultant, and salesperson. She has two stores designed to make life easier for anyone looking to minimize the amount of trash in their lives.
There is an active online community for sharing ideas about a zero waste lifestyle, where people also share their concerns and give each other support when friends and family do not share the desire for a zero waste life and find it strange. “Everyone feels the fear of rejection when they try to start doing something different,” says Kellogg. “But there’s nothing drastic about cleaning kitchen counter stains with a cloth towel instead of a paper towel.”
Many solutions to help reduce waste were common before the era of plastics and disposables. Think cloth napkins and handkerchiefs, vinegar and water for cleaning, glass or steel food containers, cloth grocery bags. Old-school solutions like these produce no waste and are cheaper in the long run.
What is the norm
Kellogg believes that the key to the waste reduction movement is to question what is normal and think outside the box. As one example, she says that she loves tortillas but hates making them, and of course she doesn’t want to buy packaged tortillas at the grocery store. So she found a solution: buy fresh tortillas from a local Mexican restaurant. The restaurant is even happy to refill Kellogg’s food containers with its tortillas because it saves him money.
“Many of these waste reduction solutions are very simple,” she says. “And any step to reduce waste is a step in the right direction.”
Rachel Felous of Cincinnati, Ohio, took drastic steps in January 2017 and reduced her waste to one bag a year. Felus was surprised and delighted with the impact this had on her life.
“Zero waste is great,” she says. “I’ve discovered an amazing community, made new friends, and have new opportunities.”
Even though Felus has always cared about the environment, she didn’t give a second thought to how much waste she generates until she moved. It was then that she realized how much stuff had accumulated in her house, including a dozen half-used shampoo and conditioner bottles. Soon after reading the article on waste reduction, she decided to take the matter seriously. Felus also talks about his struggle with waste and the challenges and successes along the way in his.
Between 75 and 80 percent of the weight of all household waste is organic waste, which can be composted and added to the soil. Felous lives in an apartment building, so she puts her organic waste in the freezer. Once a month, she delivers the accumulated waste to her parents’ house, from where it is collected by a local farmer for animal feeding or composting. If organic waste ends up in a landfill, it most likely won’t be composted because the air in there can’t circulate properly.
Felus, who runs her own web design and photography business, suggests adopting a zero-waste lifestyle in stages and not pushing yourself too hard. Lifestyle change is a journey, and it doesn’t happen overnight. “But it’s worth it. I don’t know why I didn’t start sooner,” Felus says.
An ordinary family
Sean Williamson began living a zero-waste lifestyle ten years ago. While his neighbors in the suburbs outside of Toronto carry three or four bags of garbage to the curb on cold winter evenings, Williamson stays warm and watches hockey on TV. In those ten years, Williamson, his wife, and daughter only carried out six bags of trash. “We live a completely normal life. We just eliminated waste from it,” he says.
Williamson adds that, contrary to popular belief, reducing waste is not difficult. “We buy in bulk so we don’t go to the store as often, and that saves us money and time,” he says.
Williamson is a sustainability business consultant whose goal is simply to be less wasteful in all aspects of life. “It’s a way of thinking about finding better ways to do things. Once I realized this, I didn’t have to put in much effort to maintain this lifestyle,” he says.
It helps Williamson that his neighborhood has a good plastics, paper, and metal recycling program, and he has space in his backyard for two small composters—for summer and winter—that produce a lot of fertile land for his garden. He makes purchases carefully, trying to avoid any losses, and notes that throwing things away also costs money: packaging increases the cost of the product, and then we pay for the disposal of packaging with our taxes.
To buy food and other products without packaging, he visits the local market. And when there is no choice, he leaves the package at the checkout. Stores can often reuse or recycle packaging, and by leaving it, consumers are signaling they don’t want their avocados wrapped in plastic.
Even after ten years of living without waste, new ideas are still popping up in Williamson’s head. He strives to reduce waste in a broader sense – for example, not buying a second car that will be parked 95% of the daytime, and shaving in the shower to save time. His advice: think about what you mindlessly spend in your daily life. “If you change that, you will have a happier and more comfortable life,” he says.
Five principles of zero waste living from the experts:
1. Refuse. Refuse to buy things with a lot of packaging.
2. Cut back. Don’t buy things you don’t need.
3. Reuse. Upgrade worn out items, buy secondhand or reusable items like steel water bottles.
4. Compost. Up to 80% of the weight of the world’s garbage can be organic waste. In landfills, organic waste does not decompose properly.
5. Recycle. Recycling also requires energy and resources, but it is better than sending waste to a landfill or tossing it on the side of the road.