by Mary Jane Bogle
In our grab-and-go culture, low-waste living might seem like an impossible dream. Not so, according to Jodi Leamon, sustainability coordinator for the Allen County Department of Environmental Management. Defined simply as “keeping matter out of landfills,” a zero-waste lifestyle is something we can all work toward. And no, you don’t have to move off-grid to a homestead in Montana to make an impact.
- Take a trash can inventory. What are you currently throwing away, recycling included? Yogurt containers, squeezable applesauce pouches and disposable coffee cups all add up. Why not make yogurt or applesauce at home? And remember to bring your own cup to your favorite coffee shop for a fill-up. Pick one product to eliminate from your personal waste stream and go from there.
- Cut back on your purchases. Buying products only when you really need them will go a long way toward achieving that low-waste goal. (Think clothes, gadgets and household items. Do you really need that new pair of jeans? Can you take those boots to a repair shop instead of buying a new pair?) Joining the “minimalist” trend, even in small steps, can make a bigger impact than you think.
- Make smart buying choices. Consider second-hand options whenever possible. Companies such as thredUP.com and Poshmark can help you stay in style without adding to the number of products making their way to a landfill. While shopping, consider timeless, quality pieces that won’t go out of style or wear out quickly. And don’t forget yard sales, where you can find all kinds of treasures, from jewelry and crockpots to tools and furniture, all at bargain prices.
- Recycle as a last resort. Keep in mind that products like plastic and paper are not infinitely recyclable, so recycling should be a last step, not the first. In addition, according to Leamon, “we produce and use so much stuff, so relying on recycling alone is not sustainable.” And remember that a lot of the wrong types of items in the recycle bin could trigger the whole batch to be thrown in the landfill. For a complete list of what to recycle where, check out acwastewatcher.org.
- Advocate for change. “One of the biggest challenges to zero-waste living is packaging,” said Leamon. We are all ordering so much from home, which results in more packaging entering our homes. “Producers need to bear much more of that responsibility,” she said. “If there’s a brand you love, find the ‘contact us’ button on their website. Let them know that you like their products, but you want them to be more responsible in their packaging.” Ask them to work with end-life recyclers to come up with packaging that works for everyone.
“Most of us are never going to get to zero-waste,” said Leamon, “but you can always reduce a little bit more of the waste you produce. Remember that at some point, everything comes from a natural resource. The more you preserve for the future, the better. Putting those products in a hole in the ground or dumping them in the ocean just doesn’t make sense.”
Want to know how you can move toward low-waste living? Here are five great tips to get you started:
For even more tips, check out “A Material Girl Goes Green” podcast, where Jodi shares her best eco-friendly tips with “material girl” Lesley. And wherever you choose to start, from making more meals at home to advocating with corporate America, every step you take toward low-waste living makes a difference. It’s time to take that challenge. How low