Minimalism + Frugality + Zero Waste Part 3

Good afternoon! Today I am finishing this three part blog series on "Minimalism + Frugality + Zero Waste." If you missed Part 1 click here and if you missed Part 2 click here. Today we are going to discuss the topic of "Zero Waste." 

So what is Zero Waste? I was first introduced to this concept by Lauren Singer over at Trash is for Tossers.  I saw a youtube video where Lauren was interviewed about her Zero Waste lifestyle in which she fits all of her annual trash into a pint size mason jar! I was intrigued by this concept and began to become more aware of the trash I produce. Obviously it is not possible to be completely free of all waste and trash. The concept of Zero Waste is about reducing your overall carbon footprint, essentially doing your part to be aware of how much trash you produce and trying to decrease it. No one is perfect; this is not about perfection. It's about doing your part, rather than being oblivious or ignorant (like me!). 

Let me back up a bit to share my first true realization about waste and recycling. Now, I have vague memories of being taught the concepts in environmentalism throughout school and I grew up in a household that recycled. It was never something I actively thought about and I am sure I was VERY inconsistent with recycling as a kid. When I moved out on my own, it honestly did not even cross my mind. I don't even think my first apartment really had recycling and from there, I was just completely ignorant in how to incorporate that into my life. Fast forward to when I started to date Tyler. He grew up knowing EXACTLY how to recycle and its importance because his mom is an environmental consultant (not sure if that is her exact title-sorry mommy sweetums!)! So when he moved in he was flabbergasted that I did not consistently recycle. He straightened me up right away!

My biggest deterrent was the perceived work it all was. I had flashbacks of separating cardboard from newspaper from aluminum and I did not want to figure out how to sort it. Plus I didn't want to make a a trip to the garage every time I needed to recycle something. I also just didn't know what could be recycled and what couldn't. I was a total noob and I found all of it super daunting. Tyler really helped me by making it all EASY. He put a can in the kitchen, then a larger one just outside the laundry room in the garage and then his chore was the empty it into the big bin every week. He also taught me what could be recycled, what needed to be rinsed out, and what could be reused. Once we got chickens and starting composting (again something I knew NOTHING about until Tyler) we noticed our garbage bin slowly had less and less in it. 

This is where we have been over the past 6 years and honestly, I would say we are doing better than the vast majority of the US. It is not fitting-a-year's-worth-of-waste-into-a-mason-jar-good but you know, decent. After being exposed to this video though, I started to think "where can I reduce even more?" I then started to notice all of my bathroom toiletries come in plastic that I do not even regularly recycle (oops!) or even the dang toilet paper roll! I started to consider how I could replace some of those regularly used items (shampoo, conditioner, lotion, chapstick) by making them myself. 

From there, googling and pinning DIY recipes, I started to find other sites like "Going Zero Waste" and "Zero Waste Nerd" and "Be Zero". I started to learn more about how to reduce my trash as well as consumption of resources, how recycling may not always be the solution, and how I still have a lot I can do to improve. 

So why is this important? How can one person make a difference? 

What if I told you the average American makes 4.4 lbs of garbage per day? Can you imagine what would happen if each person made less? There would be less in landfills, less on the street, less in fields and forests, less in our water supply, less in the ocean! There are some really terrifying pictures and videos online (uh like the Olympics that just occurred in Brazil... *shudder* so disgusting!) that I will not share here but feel free to google. What is sad is that we are all responsible. We need to stop treating this world like it is a wait station on our way to Mars. 

So what are the 5 R's?
1. Refuse. Above all this is the biggest (and hardest) one of all. So many things are one-time use only, non-recyclable or not reusable, and it just ends up in the landfill. As an example, refuse straws at restaurants.
2. Reduce. If you must use said item, reduce how MUCH you use. For example, reduce your water consumption to only what you need. I take 3-5 minute showers tops and then I shave outside of the shower. I only run the shower long enough to get clean then I am out (such a difference from when I was a teenager!)!
3. Reuse. Reuse items again and again until you can't use it anymore. This ties into minimalism and frugality nicely. Only use what you need and use it for as long as possible. Example: the average American wears an article of clothing twice before it either gets lost in their closet, is ruined, or is donated. That's insane! Buy higher quality, ideally second hand, and use it as long as possible. 
4. Reform/Re-purpose. This one is something I think describes Tyler to a T. Have you seen what he can do with license plates? For example, take an old bike, attach a bowl to the seat, and you have yourself a bird feeder!
5. Recycle. See how it's the last resort? If we have less overall to recycle, there is more of a chance it will in fact get recycled rather than ending up in the landfill. Not all items are recycled 100% of the time so a good rule of thumb is to try to follow the first 4 R's whenever possible. 

There is so much more I could say on this topic (and I probably will one day) but for now I am going to wish you all a wonderful rest of your day! 


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