Zero Waste Should Be Everyone's Goal
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Politics and Activism

Zero Waste Should Be Everyone's Goal

The Zero Waste Movement has been gaining a lot of traction lately, but what does it actually entail? What does it mean to go Zero Waste? Here are some of my thoughts from my journey to be Zero Waste.

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Zero Waste Should Be Everyone's Goal
Photo by Anna Oliinyk on Unsplash

The idea of going Zero Waste is scary and intimidating. How could we possibly eliminate waste when it's everywhere? The packaging on our food, the tags on our clothes, the plastic bags from going shopping...

But before we jump into all that, the first question is what exactly is the Zero Waste Movement?

To put it simply: Zero Waste is an opportunity to give back to the planet (and its inhabitants) and to leave more mindfully.

The average American throws out an average 4.4 pounds of trash everyday. Multiply that by the current population of 330.8 million and you get... well, a lot of trash. Our everyday trash typically finds itself in a landfill, or giant holes in the ground where trash is buried and covered with soil or another alternative. At face value, it doesn't sound too bad, right? Well, not exactly. As the garbage decomposes, it produces methane, CO2, and a fractional amount of non-methane gases. This combination is composed entirely of greenhouse gases.

It is important to note that some areas use methane from landfills as a source for natural gas or producing electricity. Through vertical wells and vacuum pressure, methane can be harvested and processed into something much more useful.

But why not treat the problem rather than the symptoms?

If Americans could cut down the amount of trash they produce, the amount of methane and CO2 being released into the atmosphere would be drastically minimized. The Zero Waste Movement is the path to salvaging the environment and decreasing the amount of greenhouse gases we are emitting into the environment.

Being Zero Waste means eliminating all waste produced with the mantra "Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order." Bea Johnson could easily be credited with getting the Zero Waste Movement a national audience. She has reduced her family's waste to a single jar with that mantra. But getting your personal trash to be so minimal it fits in a jar is a process, so don't be intimidated.

January 2019, I started taking steps to reduce my impact on the environment. But being a senior in high school that lived under my parents' roof, it was hard. I didn't get to make decisions about where we shop for food, what brands we get, or what other members of my family buy. I could voice an opinion, but my parents ultimately decided where they put their money and what filled our house. This isn't to say they don't care about the environment, but they have to balance their checkbook and appease their stubbornly ambitious daughter. It is not an easy job.

So I settled on little things:

1. Take reusable bags into all stores, not just grocery stores. Buying a t-shirt in Target? Getting new shoes? Need to buy Q-tips? A perfect opportunity to use that cute tote bag.

2. RECYCLE! Aluminum can be recycled infinite times so there is no excuse not to get that can into the recycle bin.

3. Carry a reusable water bottle with me everywhere. Who needs to get a water bottle from McDonald's when you have your own HydroFlask (yes, mine is covered in stickers)?

4. Now this is easily the most important one: talk about this with my family (and everyone else). When I find an article that interests me, I pass it along to my parents. I tell them about brands I've researched. I bring them into my interest so they will (hopefully) come to agree with me.

Going Zero Waste is HARD.

I am nowhere close.

But every time I pull out my reusable produce bags or tote bags or turn down a plastic Starbucks cup, I feel my connection to nature growing deeper. It's like a little nod to the environment that I see what's happening and I won't turn a blind eye to it. Like with any other goal, achieving Zero Waste is about the little steps culminating into huge leaps of progress. To be a part of the Zero Waste movement doesn't mean you need to immediately eliminate all trash from your life; it means you care enough to try.

You're going to make mistakes. You'll forget your water bottle or the reusable bags. You'll forget to use aluminum foil and instead use plastic wrap. You'll be too tired to walk to your friend's dorm so you take your car. I do it. But it's the continuous return to the goal that puts the honor behind the badge of being Zero Waste.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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