Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Where's the Weekend Wednesday: Zero-Waste Living

With everyone trying to achieve an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, you may have heard of zero-waste living before, but what does it mean? And why does zero-waste living bring up the concern of: why isn't recycling good enough anymore?

Zero-waste living is a lifestyle where you perpetually reuse everything you own. Ultimately it eliminates waste, thus contributing to the concept of "zero-waste." For example, when you shop at the market you provide your own packaging (e.g., cloth bags or mason jars) rather than choosing to purchase product with excessive and non-reusable packaging.

A video I came across from the Today Show highlights the Johnson family. The California family of Béa and Scott Johnson, along with their two boys, live a zero-waste lifestyle as normally as possible. They have cars, shop at Whole Foods, and use toilet paper just like you and me.

As described in the video, the family has eliminated a lot of waste, but also financial waste as well. According to Scott Johnson, he states he saw a 25% drop in the family's expenses since they began the zero-waste lifestyle. And when you really think about it, the way the Johnsons are living is the way humans used to live before the dawn of cardboard boxes, plastic jugs, and aluminum cans. We relied heavily on cloth bags and reusable objects, simply because we could not afford to discard something.

If you analyze what the Johnsons are doing a little further, you may just realize that the simple idea of taking glass jars to the grocer to store meats is a brilliant idea for a myriad of reasons:
  • There's no non-biodegradable styrofoam packaging to deal with.
  • Without the stryofoam you heavily eliminate the risk of common food borne illnesses, such as E. coli poisoning.
  • Glass is much easier to sanitize, which is healthier than having a meat-juice-laden stryofoam package sit in your kitchen trash can.

So, not only is the zero-waste lifestyle better for the environment, but better for you. Béa Johnson even states that she feels "... so much better, so much happier ... " in the video featured on her blog, The Zero Waste Home
(direct link to the video).

An easy way to think about zero-waste living is best described by Béa, where she says on her blog to get " ... your 4Rs right. Refuse-Reduce-Reuse… Recycle only as a last resort."

Why is recycling listed as a last resort?

Because a product designed to simply be discarded and recreated into its original form is an arduous process. What makes it even more difficult is companies have to find a way to reuse those bare materials. Instead it's much easier to simply bring a washable cloth bag or glass jar to the grocer to store your goods.

Perhaps the zero-waste lifestyle seems unachievable to a lot of people, but starting in small steps can make a huge difference (it took the Johnson family five years to get to where they are now). You can start by using cloth bags at the grocer rather than plastic, or even opt out for paper. Just because you want to make a difference doesn't mean you have to live to the standard of the Johnsons'. Just live to your own, because in the end it'll make a much bigger difference to the future of our planet.

On the other hand, if you do want to begin a zero-waste lifestyle in your home, please read Béa's blog to see her tips and articles. She even has a list of recommended products to use in the home.

- Emily

1 comment:

  1. While I'm too tired to do so now, this is an IOU on a *real* comment or serious post on the Zero-Waste lifestyle. I like the idea that people are working towards this goal. As you know here, Ari and I were able to very quickly implement that kind of life style (without knowing someone had given it a catchy name. Out here it is the Maryland way of life) in full swing the moment we got the house. We throw out less than a bag of a garbage per week. Usually, it is less than half full (10 gal bag). Between us, the birds, the compost, and the dog, we have little to no waste. And let me tell you, that compost is a voracious eater! We love non glossy junk mail and the weekly paper - it keeps the birds' cages lined and the compost happy. In terms of the junk mail and excess paper, we shred it and use it to absorb any leakage in the bottoms of the recycling bins and trash bins. It ROCKS.

    But like I said, you can get a real post later. For now, I'm tired. lol.