Zero Waste is a recent movement to improve the consumer culture away from overconsumption, which is destructive to the earth, and towards sustainable consumption which is harmonious with it.
The Center for the New American Dream conducted a 2015 survey of Americans noting that 91% admitted that Americans are very wasteful. The good news: not many of us need convincing that we have a waste problem.
The book The Story of Stuff quotes McDonough and Braungart’s Cradle to Cradle that the earth is abundant, where “waste equals food” in nature. Most of our manufactured products contain many toxic ingredients that are not designed to recycle and become “food.” The Story of Stuff also explains how we acquire most of our stuff thinking it will make us happy, but then we find out that we are not really any happier, or at least that the happiness wears off quickly.
The ‘Three R’s’ show us that Reduce is best, Reuse is second, and Recycle is third. For a great recycling website, visit: https://www.recyclebycity.com/houston/guide. Zero Waste is all about Reducing BY Reusing, so we don’t have to recycle or waste as much.
Zero Waste is a goal or a guideline to get ourselves more in balance pointing to less (but higher quality) consumption rather than more (of lower quality) consumption. The approach is to target one’s consumption to non-toxic and reusable items and minimize disposable items unless they are compostable. Zero Waste embraces composting of bio-material (including food), but also focuses on upstream reduction of waste — especially packaging.
It’s Just a Habit
- These are the disposable items that Zero-Wasters are determined to stop accepting:
- Styrofoam, paper and plastic cups
- Bottled water (did you know we only recycle 80% of water bottles?)
- Bleached paper towels and napkins
- Plastic forks, knives and spoons
- Disposable plates
- Plastic take-home containers
- Plastic and paper bags
- Plastic straws
- Paper tissues
- Disposable pens
The solution is to bring your own. Start with the items that mean the most to you.
Reusable Items to Bring with You
- Glass or stainless steel water bottle (You may want to minimize plastic components and containers, since most plastic items contain hormone disrupter plasticizers)
- Ceramic or stainless steel double-wall coffee travel mug
- Cloth towel or napkin
- Fork, knife and spoon from home; spork; or camping cutlery
- Reusable shopping bags
- Tiffin box or glass jars for lunch, food leftovers, etc.
- Reusable produce and bulk food bags
- Glass or stainless steel straws (with a handy pipe cleaner brush)
- Cloth handkerchief
- Fountain pen and refillable ink