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”.
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.
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.
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!