A Not So ZERO Waste Challenge

31 days of striving for zero waste and not once did I go a day without creating a piece of trash, womp womp. In fact, in the last 10 days I lost count. And it was not for lack of trying, I kept steady track of each item of trash but I’ll let you in on a little secret: there’s actually no such thing as “zero waste”.

The term zero waste is referring to an industrial model of design and manufacturing called a circular economy (zero waste). This is where we design products from the very beginning without waste as an end product. Currently, we live in a linear economy, where we design, manufacture and consume with waste as an end product.
— BeZero
  1. We live in a linear economy, where products are designed and consumed with waste as an end product. Unless I decided to go off the grid (which would never happen, I love pizza too much), I am participating in a world that is literally DESIGNED to create waste.

  2. We generate trash without even trying. Trash hides in the weirdest of places, here are some examples of places I created garbage without even realizing it…

    • Our clothes. On average, synthetic fleece jackets release 1.7 grams of microfibers each wash but it’s not just limited to fleece, these microscopic plastic fibers can be found in most sweat wicking athletic ware and yoga pants.

    • All the disposables used to create a meal at a restaurant such as plastic gloves, plastic wrap, twist ties…even if I ordered my meal “for here” there are countless disposable products that go into the growing, transport, and production of food.

  3. The recyclability and compostability (I think I just made that word up?) of products are not fixed. They are dependent on a number of conditions such as whether the waste treatment facility in your region has the mechanisms to breakdown and repurpose the products, the condition they are recycled or composted in (i.e. if your recyclable clamshell is filled with food, it’s not likely to be recycled), and it’s dependent on others properly sorting their waste (i.e. if enough of the wrong type of product ends up in a recycling or composting load, it can result in the entire load being rejected and sent to a landfill).

Then why do a zero waste challenge? Because reducing my personal garbage footprint is still going to have a significant environmental impact, and if each of us took this kind of action we could create a monumental improvement for our communities and our planet. And it’s okay if life just sometimes gets in the way. When I started this journey I wasn’t planning to have surgery and while it definitely set me back that doesn’t negate the fact that I produced very little trash the first 21 days of the challenge. We can’t let perfect be the enemy of good. And while my challenge is technically over, this is just the beginning to a lifelong journey of striving for less waste.

If you started a zero waste challenge of your own, where would you begin? Consider picking one item to start reducing today (disposable coffee cups, paper towels, straws) and see where it gets you. My fellow board member Jessica Felix-Romero has decided to do just that, she’s taking on the torch of the zero waste challenge and tackling a different disposable item each week to prevent and reduce. So stay tuned, follow along, and find inspiration to join us in the crusade against waste!


In the month of May I’m refusing coffee on the go, saying no to candy bars, passing up gum, avoiding Amazon, and striving for zero waste. No I’m not some masochist who wants to be under caffeinated with stinky breath and deprived of all the joys that come with online shopping...I’m doing this to waste less.

Striving for zero waste means I’m living my life in a way that generates as little waste to landfill as possible (and really as little waste to recycling and compost as possible for reasons I’ll explain in a later post). And I’ve upped the ante by doing it for a cause: raising money for Food Recovery Network.

Why zero waste?

  • Garbage is bad. Nothing EVER really goes away. When we put things in a bin to be hauled off our trash doesn’t actually disappear. At best it gets piled in a landfill where it never breaks down and while sitting there it emits greenhouse gasses. At worst it escapes and finds it’s way into our waterways and oceans poisoning our environment, destroying habitats, and polluting our beautiful world.

  • When we waste ANYTHING, we waste all the precious resources and energy that went into producing that product.

  • It’s actually not that hard to go zero waste. It’s something we can all do. It’s painful to hear about the effects of climate change every day and feel powerless. I will not stand by while our world is enveloped in trash, I can and will take action. This is empowering, I can make a difference.

Why for a cause?

  • Accountability. It’s motivating to do the right thing when it’s for something greater than me.

  • Community. It’s better when we’re all in this together. I can learn from you, you can learn from me, and we can be better and do better because of it.

  • Cause duh! Food Recovery Network is an extension of my zero waste values, they’re an organization empowering students to recover excess food that traditionally would go to waste, and redistribute it to people in need. My heart is 100% behind that mission.

Rules to live by

So the zero waste challenge works like this: for the month of May I’m going to try not to create any landfill waste. When I do, I have to put a $1 in a jar to donate to FRN (think of it like a swear jar, but my problem isn’t a dirty mouth, it’s a dirty garbage bin).

And to make things fun, if you donate $15 or more to FRN during this challenge, I will extend the challenge another day.

And to really increase the stakes, if you donate $15 or more to FRN and you pledge to strive for zero waste too, I will donate an additional $1 for each piece of landfill trash I generate during the challenge.

Throughout the month I’ll share tips on how to reduce waste in your own life through my successes and blunders. My goal is three-fold:

  1. Waste less in my own life

  2. Inspire you to waste less in your own life

  3. Raise over a $1,000 for FRN in the process

“The world doesn’t need saving. The world needs folks who are willing to save themselves and be humble enough to serve when and where they are needed.” - Chani Nicholas

I’m not going to save the world by going zero waste, but I’m asking you to join me in saving ourselves from trash with the hope that in changing our habits and empowering organizations like FRN who serve when and where they are needed, we can make this world a better place. Will you join me?