Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for Zero Waste- #AtoZ Challenge

Oh my goodness! It's the final post of the A to Z Challenge! April raced by, and I somehow managed to stick with it. I find the hopeful setting of a goal a good way to wrap up many things in life, so that's what today's blog is: the setting of a goal. 

Z is for Zero Waste.

Zero Waste is pretty much what it sounds like: living a lifestyle that produces no trash. This is a growing movement in a society in which consumerism has reached shocking levels. What with landfills, trash on our beaches, and fish and animals eating plastic and dying, our throw away mentality is damaging the environment and everything in it. While these are all issues to talk about in their own right, I'm not going to do that today. I'm just going to talk about me.

I thought it was finally time I addressed our own waste issue. For a two person household, we produce about 1 bag of trash per week, and that's already with the slight reduction that composting our food scraps provides us. I also reuse glass bottles and jars and their lids,  some plastic items such as take away containers, old ice cream tubs, a few of the sturdier meat trays, etc, and even some of the plastic milk jugs get reused as scoops or self watering plant pots.

So what are were actually throwing away?

Some of the trash is paper products, which I'm ashamed to admit I don't monitor as well I should. Most paper products like tissues, paper towels, news papers and cardboard can be composted, or at very least, used in the garden as weed matting. We get a lot of catalogs for the shops too, but those I am afraid to use in the garden, as I do not know what the inks will do to the soil- they get tossed in the recycle bin instead, as does anything else I have no current use for. I also got ride of a lot of plastic waste by switching from tampons to cloth pads- it was a bit of an adjustment, but I feel good about it- it's better for my body, and I'm no longer spending money on those items, nor am I creating more waste from the packaging.

Some of it is random stuff, like the stickers off of apples (we hate those!), or bones from a roast dinner which got tossed (those should actually be collected and then frozen for later use in bone broth... one more thing to concentrate on, for sure).

Most of it, though, is plastic. Our meat comes wrapped in cling film, on plastic or Styrofoam trays. Cheese is wrapped in plastic, and frozen veg come in plastic bags. Even some fresh veg comes in plastic bags! Carrots for example, are often bagged up, and onions come in a plastic mesh bag, which gets little red bits of plastic everywhere when you cut it open to get the onions out. Potatoes are bagged up in plastic, whether they're prepacked or selected by yours truly. My husband buys bread in bags, and though we recycle them to store other things (meat for the freezer, the block of opened cheese, his work lunches, etc) they still, ultimately, end up in the trash. Even toiletries, like Q-tips, have plastic sticks!

Even as I write this, listing off all the stuff that ends up trashed in this house is rapidly becoming an embarrassing business. Someone who is as interested in permaculture and sustainability as I am should be more careful about her trash output, right?

My goal for the rest of 2016 and onwards is to do my very best to be as zero waste as possible. I will fully admit that this will not be an easy goal to achieve. It will likely be expensive as well, even with my tendency to buy cheap, recycle and reuse

Here are some steps I promise to take in the next few months:

Buy loose fruit and veg. Nothing in plastic bags anymore. I intend to whip up some lightweight produce bags on the sewing machine, so that I can carry things like potatoes (which are dirty) and onions (which we buy a lot of anyway, and which shed their skins) to keep our cloth shopping bags (oh yes, we've been using those for years now) clean.

Make more from scratch. Maybe I can convince my spouse to let me bake him his bread for sandwiches. Perhaps I take the step to make our own treats (like biscuits) or crackers. Little things like that. For instance, I make our own home made mayo, so we have cut out the store bought glass jars, the metal lids, as well as the subpar mayo with questionable ingredients to boot.

Find alternatives. That's going to be the hard part. I could buy milk in glass bottles- it's more expensive though. I could buy meat from local butchers and ask them to place it in containers I brought from home- also expensive (and the stores aren't making it easier- everything is wrapped in plastic these days. They're even phasing out the butchery departments!) On the flip side, I can buy in bulk, which tends to be a little less expensive, but again, there's the bagging issue.

There are things I am interested in doing right now though. For instance, I'm intrigued by the idea of creating waxed cloths to wrap foods in, for the fridge and freezer. I'm also excited to sew up produce bags for us- it'll give me more experience with my new sewing machine. I think it will help to know how previous generations did it too, before the rise of plastic wrapped everything.

Even knowing what I want, though, there is still much for me to think about in the coming months as I get going on my zero waste journey. I want folks to know that every little change might help in the long run, so if you want to join me and start your own zero waste journey, I would love to hear your story.

Thank you for following my blogs on this Challenge, and I hope you hang around and keep reading as I keep writing.

Live. Learn. Love.


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