CAN: Act Sustainably

Lifestyle Choices - Move to Zero Waste (easily)

What is Zero Waste?

We hear the term, but what does it really mean? The EPA offers many definitions for Zero Waste and we like this one from the State of Connecticut because it focuses on a way to get us to this lofty goal:

Zero Waste is a philosophy and a design principle for the 21st Century. It includes 'recycling' but goes beyond recycling by taking a 'whole system' approach to the vast flow of resources and waste through human society. Instead of viewing used materials as garbage in need of disposal, materials are recognized as valuable resources. A pile of 'trash' represents community and economic opportunity including jobs and new products from raw materials.

The zero waste approach seeks to maximize recycling, minimize waste, reduce consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

Zero Waste:

  1. Redesigns the current, one-way industrial system into a circular system modeled on Nature's successful strategies–creating products and packaging that are durable, can be reused or easily recycled

  2. Provides waste-based business opportunities to create jobs from discards

  3. Recognizes the importance of producer responsibility

  4. Aims to eliminate rather than manage waste

  5. Works to end tax payer subsidies for use of virgin materials enabling reused and recycled products to compete.

Take a 12 Month Challenge to move Toward Zero Waste

We can't get to Zero Waste overnight, so let's not try. It first takes awareness and then a creative approach to find sustainable alternatives for many of the things that wind up in the trash and, ultimately incinerated or buried in landfills, each with their own dire consequences for current and future generations.

In this article by Jonathon Engels you'll find a doable 12 month plan to reduce your waste stream. We've added a pre-activity: Inventory your waste. Take the 12 month challenge and even if you reduce 10% you've made a difference. It takes plastic up to 1,000 years to decompose. You'll find easy tips and tricks, as well as additional resources in the 12 month zero waste article. Here is the program summary:

Pre-activity - Inventory your trash

What is going into your trash and recycling bin? Keep a piece of paper near the trash and jot down what gets thrown away. Do the same with your recycling bin. We think you will be intrigued to discover what gets discarded. For every item that makes it to the trash or recycling bin, you'll be thinking about alternatives if possible. Challenge yourself to think of ways to reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle, or repair what is being tossed out as you move through the 12 step program. For items in your recycling bin, consider reusable alternatives, such as those found in this helpful article on moving to zero waste in the kitchen.

Month 1: Use What You've Got

In addition to the tips offered, check out the websites that provide recipes for ingredients you have on hand.

Month 2: Make a Packaging Plan

Month 3: Set Up a Waste Stream

Month 4: Start Composting

Month 5: Break Into Bulk Bins

Month 6: Get Reusable: Bottle, Thermos, Bag, Containers

Month 7: Home Cooking Challenges

Month 8: Waste Free Lunch

Month 9: Clean-out Chemical Cleaners

Month 10: Homemade Hygiene

Month 11: Go Energy Efficient

As you look at efficiency, also cut down on wasteful water use. The EPA WaterSense website has lots of easy tips.

Month 12: Abstain from New Stuff

Let us know how it is going and what you are doing with this challenge! We hope to hold a forum on this in the future to share the experience of moving to Zero Waste and was you are making a difference.