The "Zero Waste" Family January 22 2020
In our current society and culture buying more is always encouraged but at great cost to our environment and culture. Social media sites are design and major companies are competing for your attention but they typically are benefiting large corporations that sometimes do not have the best track record for sustainability or ethics.
The Zero Waste movement has gained so much momentum but there are skeptics that say it is impossible for "normal" people to do this and then come the excuses and reasons why you can't reduce your trash for a year to a single mason jar.
I am not here to shame or guilt anyone but I have come to the realization that for most families in most places a "Zero Waste Family" is near impossible in a modern industrialized country BUT there is a lot we can do to make huge impacts and there are vital reason why any steps you can take are better than getting discouraged and not doing anything differently than before.
If you are planning on reducing your waste while also growing your family you might find this resource helpful as you consider making your Zero Waste Baby registry.
-Major area I see where most people can make big impacts-
The impact of plastics and microplastics on our ocean ecosystems and other waterways is staggering. Sometimes though the thought of changing part of our routine lifestyle can be so overwhelming it is easy to think about throwing in the towel before we even start the fight.
So here are my tips for starting to improve your environmental impact as a consumer.
-First off. Keep trying-
Don't give up! The guilt of not being good enough or doing enough can be overwhelming. Don't let perceived "failure" stop you from taking action today and making a plan about how to make permanent changes to your lifestyle to make the biggest impact.
Avoid Single Use & Disposable Items
This item is particularly close to our heart since we absolutely love being able to offer Cloth Diapers for sale but also Cloth Diaper Rentals!
Disposable diapers contribute 18 billion diapers to landfills in the US every year. The plastics and chemical contained in disposable diapers cause them to take "approximately 250-500 years to decompose in landfills."
That is mind boggling and something that as a new parent was one of my first efforts to reduce my waste and lessen the environmental impact not only I was making but the impact raising children was having on the environment.
After reading this chart about the times it takes for items to decompose in a landfill it becomes so evidently clear to prioritize my own list of change to make:
1. STYROFOAM- It does not ever break down or decompose in a landfill.
Our family doesn't use styrofoam at all nor do we purchase it directly. but indirectly we are occasionally patrons of restaurants that only offer styrofoam cups and a few of our favorite local places only have styrofoam to-go containers. Huge fail for myself and it is definitely time to make a plan. I plan to start asking for a non-styrofoam cup/plate at those places because I wonder how often people in the HUGE line wrapped around the Chickfila drive though ask about this. (probably never)
2. TINFOIL - It does not ever break down or decompose in a landfill. We use wax covered canvas food wraps, silicone or lined reusable food bags at home but on the occasion foil is something that slips through the cracks. Also at restaurants this one is a hard one to notice and change.
It is time to start prompting genuine conversations when we encounter this with our favorite establishments.
-Reduce Reuse Recycle as often as you can-
Seek out reusable options and staples for your home and when traveling for school or work and errands.
1. Plastic Bags
Think about reusable shopping bags instead of single use plastic bags and don't forget about swapping out the single use plastic produce bags for reusable ones when you do shopping! Just going to the grocery store once a week and swapping plastic bags for reusable ones can have a huge impact from just one family if you commit to doing it every time you go shopping.
Also food storage bags can be swapped from plastic to reusable with options like Bees Wrap and other reusable food storage options.
2. Plastic Straws & Disposable Cups
- Purchase a set of reusable stainless steel or bamboo straws (usually come in a storage pouch convenient for traveling) and a reusable cup stashed in your car, locker, desk, or office.
Learn about recycling and actually seek out opportunities to recycle in your community since your local efforts will be directly impacting your local ecosystems.
3. Toxic Items
Huge polluter of waterways are CFLs, Fluorescents, Batteries and other used and discarded technology. Find a local recycling center that can take these items and make the effort to dispose of them properly.
Our local community is lucky enough to have a "CHaRM" facility (Center for Hard to Recycle Materials) and can take mattresses, batteries, lightbulbs, old electronics, chemicals, fertilizers, styrofoam and more!
-Where you shop can make a Big Impact-
As consumers we "vote" with out dollars. If we shop at a store we are choosing to support their model of business, their mission and also their values. This really is digging deep into sometimes hidden aspects of a business but are so important.
here are some tips and thoughts when considering where to shop:
1. Support farmers markets and CSAs which are great options if they are available in your community. Not only do these options keep your money in your community they are also fostering sustainability reduce energy and emissions from transporting and storing as compared to grocery store models.
2. Seek out smaller local grocery stores and local cooperatives
3. Think about locally produced, thrifted, and handmade items as a first choice when possible.
Talk about "Zero Waste"
1. Talk to your favorite restaurants, grocery stores, and retail shops about their practices. Chances are the smaller the store the more likely they are willing to talk about their practices and changes their current method for something more environmentally friendly.
2. Talk to your family and friends about things you see when you are together.
3. Talk about Zero Waste on social media.
Join and follow zero waste support groups that are encouraging and not shaming. In my own experiences local group can help most by sorting out the questions of "where can I find a store that offers "x" " in your own town.
If you can't find one you could start one and invite others to join.
Even if we never make it anywhere near actual "Zero Waste" if the goal is to reduce as much of our waste and environmental impact that kudos to you and me for doing our best and also helping to encourage others to do the same!
Share this with someone who can start taking manageable steps today to reduce our waste and comment below to let us know what your favorite tips and tricks are!