The goal of Zero Waste is to produce no waste that would go into the landfill. In other words, I like to think the goal is for our children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren to not find or worry about our waste from today. For this challenge I followed these rules below:
- Avoid all packaged items
- Bring Your Own Everything!
- Turn down trash
- Keep Your Trash (if you make any) The goal is to keep waste out of landfills. So yes, I can recycle or find a way to re-purpose my trash into something useful.
- Toilet Paper
- What I buy in packaging: wine and cooking oil
Unconsciously I grabbed a clementine and started to peel then I realized I was producing peel waste. I immediately reassured myself, “I can bring these peels home to compost. I’ll just do the dig and drop compost method."
I came home and decided I was going to make beef stir fry. A few issues with the menu: the beef was packaged in a plastic zip lock bag (however, I did butcher and packaged the cow myself from a farm in Frost Lake which is less wasteful than buying meat from the store), the bell peppers had produce stickers, and the onion came in a blue plastic net. It really opened my eyes to realization we are surrounded by plastic waste around every corner. I washed and dried the gallon zip lock bag for later use. I could not find a way to repurpose the produce stickers and blue onion net. Everything that was compostable -- bell peppers, onion, and garlic peel -- I buried in a small hole in my yard. I noticed the neighbor’s dog was watching me while digging and did not think too much about it until later I saw the hole dug up by the dog and he ate the bell pepper scraps! I couldn’t decipher if it was because the dog saw me where I was digging or because he really did like bell peppers. Later that day I dropped my French press on my way out the door to compost the coffee grounds. My heart broke into as many glass pieces and left over grounds on the pavement.
I successfully did not produce any waste!
Day 3 and 4
I was very challenged these two days because I love free food and drinks!
When I went to last Wednesday’s YPro event, I couldn’t resist free coffee, fruits, and pastries. I recycled my plate and kept my coffee cup for later, but I forgot to bring a container to keep my compost (toothpicks, fruit scraps and peels) so I tossed those items out! On Thursday morning I went to a meeting and had an amazing breakfast and lunch. I tried to minimize my waste by avoiding plastic spoons and forks. I was selective and picked finger friendly food options. I ended up using napkins because the garden sandwich I had was juicy from the vegetables.
I took a half day to go to the cabin with my family and so I cut off my challenge by noon. I did not produce any waste the first half, but right when we got to the cabin, we made dinner and trash was produced. So many of the ingredients we used were packaged in plastic. It was inevitable.
Before I took on this challenge, I did my research, talked to people about it. I was deeply passionate about trying to produce zero waste, and yet I wasn’t able to do it! I believe if I prolonged the challenge I would have made a bigger impact to my lifestyle and to others in my life. For 26 years of my life I depended on a waste basket to take care of my “no longer useful items”. This 5 Day Zero Waste Challenge revealed a culture of waste, inconsideration, inefficiency, and gluttony. Overall I produced 2-3 pounds of trash: produce stickers, blue onion net, broken French press and left over grounds, Thursday’s breakfast and lunch (paper plate, napkins, and cup). The average person produces 22 pounds of trash over the same time period, so I did make an impact, if only a small one.
The things I did well:
- Air drying my hands vs. Using paper towels
- Avoid using plastic utensils
- Bringing compost home
- Carrying shopping/grocery items in my backpack
- Keeping disposable cups for later use
I will continue to do my best to live a minimal waste lifestyle and work my way up to Zero Waste. It is challenging and may seem impossible but what motivates me is asking myself, do I really want my children or their children to find and worry about the waste I make today?