Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Going Zero Waste: A Guide

I'm a little bit bored today. Both of my kids are home sick from school. Fortunately it's not the type of sick that sends me into a panic. HB does have strep throat....again. Therefore the doctor gave him another round of antibiotics but from a different class. Yesterday he barely spoke because he said it hurt too much. This morning he was jabbering away and declared how happy he was that his tonsils have shrunk. I think he'll be returning to school tomorrow after he's been on the antibiotics for the required 24 hours.

Knee has a rather nasty cold. He's really congested and has a dry cough. When he talks, you can hear it in his voice. So I forced him to take a cough syrup to break up the obviously large amount of mucus and sat him on the couch with a water bottle and box of tissues. He'll probably be okay to go back to school tomorrow after a day of couch surfing. Sometimes colds make you feel worse then they really are. It also doesn't help that he keeps sniffing junk in.

Anywho...so I thought I would clean out my car from all the kid trash that's accumulated and churn out a blog post. I suppose I should be grateful that they aren't so sick that they can't couch surf, but I hate having not a bunch to do. I'd rather be at work covering for teachers who also have sick kids. Then again I'm glad that neither has scarlet fever again or the flu.

What is zero waste?
Basically it's a lifestyle for how one produces waste. I'm not talking about bathroom waste. I'm talking the trash variety. It follows the principal of 5 Rs in this order Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. 

What do you mean Refuse?
Refuse means to refuse to bring into your home something you don't need. This means refusing junk mail, business cards, freebies, and swag.  It can also mean borrowing instead of purchasing. Borrowing or renting a prom dress instead of purchasing one. Borrowing books, dvds, and cds from the library instead of buying them. Renting or borrowing tools that you need for a one time job. You'd be surprised how borrowing a tool from a neighbor leads you to actually getting to know them.

What do you mean by reduce?
Reduce means reducing the amount of stuff that you purchase so it works hand-in-hand with refuse. It also means being wise to what you are purchasing. You can reduce the amount of food that you purchase so it doesn't spoil. You can reduce the amount of packaging that you bring home by buying things not in packaging. You can buy fresh green beans without the packaging found in canned or frozen.

What does reuse mean?
That one is easy. I use reusable water bottles, reusable dishes and silverware, reusable shopping bags, etc. Basically if there is a reusable version, purchase that over the disposable version. It can also mean reusing the packaging of something. I know it's a southern thing to reuse glass jars and plastic butter tubs. That's putting reuse to use, but....you shouldn't accumulate a million butter tubs if you can help it. You should find a way to reduce it by purchasing butter in the paper-wrapped stick variety for example. I can also mean purchasing things that can be used multiple times. For example, it may be better to buy a prom dress second hand if you are also going to use it for homecoming, a wedding, or any other more formal occasion. I have a prom dress that I put a shirt over and it looks like a skirt so it's more dressed down for everyday wear.

What do you mean by recycle? I already do that.
Most people do recycle, but this is why there's a word order to things. If you refuse an item or reduce it's packaging to none, you therefore don't have to recycle as much stuff. Some things like plastic are difficult to recycle. Truth be told reducing the amount I have to recycle is difficult in my house hold, but I'll explain that later.

What is rot?
Rot is composting. I've tried my hand at composting and let us just say that it's difficult to do backyard composting when you live in the desert. I have looked into a service that is similar to a trash or recycle pick up except it picks up your food scraps. It costs a fee. I'm thinking we may try that route instead. 

How do you go about zero waste?
Well the first step is to do a waste audit. Basically it's to go through your trash and see just what it is that you are throwing away. Then you think of a way to reduce that or find an easier to recycle alternative. The problem that I find is that I live in a household with 3 other people. I can only think of alternatives for myself and my own waste. I do have some leeway over the younger set, but not complete control. For example, my kids take reusable water bottles with them. They wear clothes that are second hand just like I do. That said there are problems. I can't refuse to take their drawings and worksheets. Those come stuffed into their back packs. I can't make them give up their favorite ketchup because it comes in plastic bottle. Believe me I've tried to switch them over to a glass type but they hate it. I've found their ketchup in a can, but that's the best I can do. Even then I have to put the ketchup into a squeezable bottle or another glass bottle. And because they are children, it's easier for them to use an all-in-one pump bottle to bathe themselves with. I haven't found a place to refill it that isn't across town thus wasting gas.  I also can't get my husband to switch either. I've tried tissues to handkerchiefs but he hates them for one example. Without making my family hate me for it, I can't force them to think about their waste. I can only focus on myself.

So what have you done?
Well since food is the largest issue because it involves all of us, I've reduced my waste in ways that I can. I buy my clothes second hand, but I've done that for a while now. Nobody wears my clothes. Also nobody uses my toiletries. I switched to bar soap both for my body and hair. I switched to recyclable toothbrush, tooth powder, and deodorant. Currently I'm trying out makeup that comes in recyclable packaging. I also have switched to recyclable dish washing powder and laundry powder that both come in cardboard. I take my lunch to work in reusable containers with some exceptions. I can still work on those exceptions though. I think it's my next project. Trying to find alternatives to foods that I typically am the only one consuming like tea.

The point is that you make the changes in small steps. You will find that you won't be able to switch for everything. For example, my medication, which I only take, has no packaging alternatives. You do your best, but you won't find perfection. The idea that a person can store their waste for a year in a single mason jar is a bit over the top for most people (my medication bottles wouldn't fit in said jar). You do your best for what's available to you and what's affordable. Things that are consumable are often the most expensive in non-packaging varieties (fresh beans are more expensive than the frozen or canned variety). Sometimes they are cheaper in the long run but have a larger up front cost. Reusable feminine hygiene products work that way. Look through your garbage and pick one thing to start with. As they say it's a marathon, not a sprint.

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