We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly. – The Environmental Cowboy
So true, Mr. Cowboy.
There are a few steps you need to go through to get to get down to as little waste as possible. Once you reach the end, and it may take a few months, you should circle back to the top and start over again. Those habits will sync in, and before you know it, you’ll be canceling your trash, for good.
1- Reduce and Refuse
The packaging industry and manufactures have gotten on the the zero waste wagon. They keep selecting for shiny, slick looks, which involve multiple materials, and mean they can’t be recycled. Take-out and home shipping have the same problem. They are selling what we want in packages we don’t want. Say no (politely). Another company deserves your hard earned green. Start buying in bulk. Bring tuperware to your favorite taco joint.
Here’s some examples of bullshit that can’t get recycled anywhere: receipts that have a plastic coating on paper, brown sugar pop-up bag with a zipper that is made from many kinds of plastic, the plastic, and woven avocado bag with plastic fiber label.
2- Start composting
First, you can get some chickens to eat your veggie scraps. Just kidding, that’s composting step 8 or 9. But you can start a backyard pile or a worm bin. That will get about 60% of your biodegradable waste.
If you want to get the rest, look for a commercial composting service in your neighborhood. Micro composters are popping up like prairie dogs in many communities! These are little services to pick up your compost from your home. I started one in Aurora called Wompost: worker owned compost. If you live in Denver, you have city-wide composting. If you live in an apartment, start pestering your building management to get commercial composting. Commercial composting can get a lot more than just your sunflower seeds. They will take most anything biodegradable. That includes chicken bones, avocado pits, and lime peels – which would all kill your worm bin.
3- Find a hard-to-recycle drop off place.
There’s some stuff you can’t just eliminate from your life. My honey would have a fit if I told him we couldn’t have a mattress just because we couldn’t throw it away! Same with the coffee grinder, and our headlamps, and batteries that run out too quickly. For these, you can’t put them out on the curb and hope that the recycling fairy will take them to the right place. Fairies ain’t real. You need to pile them into your truck, and find a place like SustainAbility Recycling, or CHaRM. I started a home collection service if you don’t have a pickup. Recycle Almost Everything is an affordable way to get rid of a lot of stuff.
4- Rinse and repeat!
It might be difficult at first – habits take time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re trying, and we need a lot more folks like you. Take a look in your trash can, and see what you could avoid.