Last week, I very briefly eluded to a presentation I created while living in the Seattle area—Moving Towards Zero Waste.
It has certainly been a personal passion and mission for me over the past decade, and was doubly inspired by the City of Seattle’s adoption of a ‘zero waste strategy’ in 2007.
This was as forward-thinking as any city policy could be, eliminating out-of-state transfer of landfill garbage while implementing mandatory recycling and composting. You’d think such a visionary goal would be impossible to roll-out in a metropolitan area of that size, but the people embraced it—and the rest is history.
Maybe you haven’t given the concept of ‘garbage’ too much thought yet? I didn’t, until I heard an interview with Heather Rogers, author of Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage on the radio. For me in was a moment where ‘the light went on.'
As a lover of the Earth, I started realizing how out of control our ‘throw away society’ had become. Even when I lived in rural eastern Washington, do-it-yourself dumps had arisen everywhere, leaving evidence of careless humans all over the glorious landscape. I would go out on clean up missions when I rode my bike or took walks around our area.
Every time I went camping, I’d spend the first hour picking up trash. Nowadays, only 17 percent of the Earth remains untouched by humans, but we are certainly making our mark. We are the only species that has forgotten how to live in harmony with nature, creating 4-4.5 pounds of garbage a day, on average.
There is hope however, if we just start paying attention to what we are ‘trashing’ - and make a concentrated effort to slowly and deliberately change our habits. Just starting with one small step at a time, such as using reusable bags at the grocery store, keeping them in your car all the time so you don’t forget to use them, is progress.
Then, realizing the needless use of plastic produce bags, and simply shopping the way our grandparents might have - putting produce right into the cart, into our own bags, then into a drawer in the refrigerator or our own containers at home.
Eating less processed and packaged foods by buying in the bulk section and using our own containers, we’re not only drastically minimizing waste, we are eating healthier. If we were to focus on one or two ways of minimizing waste—examining why we use plastic or styrofoam would be the best places to start:
- Consider taking your own containers, preferable stainless steel, to a restaurant for your leftovers or take-out.
- Consider buying your own travel mug for when you get espresso or chai at the local coffee shop.
- Consider filtering your own water into a stainless steel bottle instead of endlessly using plastic bottles.
Every positive choice, especially when you influence others to do the same, is fabulously contagious!
Let’s ‘infect Tarpon Springs’ with the zero waste bug - and become an outstanding community example of what is possible.
For some personal inspiration, the Johnson and Johnson heirs have established a zero waste home. Here are some of their suggestions: http://earth911.com/news/2011/04/13/zero-waste-johnson-family/ If you haven’t seen the film, No Impact Man, there is plenty of inspiration in that documentary as well.
What is at stake if we don’t change our ways? The quality of life for every creature on this planet is jeopardized, especially our future generations. It is time to think sustainably NOW.