The average American generates about 2,072 pounds of trash per year. And in total, America produces 254 million tons of trash per year. We only recycle about a third of that trash. And on a global scale, humanity produces 2.6 trillion pounds of garbage per year. (Titlemax).
Where does all this garbage go? Landfills and the world’s oceans. Many reports estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. (One Green Planet)
Obviously the problem of pollution must ultimately be solved by world governments. But as world governments increasingly fail to do what needs to be done, it is up to us as individuals to try and do our part.
Some people are making an effort to adopt what is called a “zero waste lifestyle” in order to reduce their personal carbon footprint. And some people are so good at it that they only generate one mason jar of garbage per year.
People who adopt a zero waste lifestyle have given up on plastic and other disposable amenities in favor of anything re-usable. Many people are familiar with the practice of using re-usable bags at the grocery store, or bringing a mug to Starbucks instead of getting a disposable cup. But zero waste folk go even further than that, going as far to even do re-usable diapers, re-usable feminine products and re-usable toilet paper. It may sound icky, but it’s not impossible, and doesn’t even have to be unsanitary when done right.
Here are some tips below from One Green Planet:
1) Get rid of disposables in your kitchen.
- Replace paper towels with reusable rags.
- Pack to-go meals with reusable sandwich bags.
- Use Non-Disposable or biodegradable dinnerware.
- Always bring your own shopping bags.
- Earth friendly sponges.
2) Buy in bulk
- Bring mason jars to the grocery store to hold bulk items or foods from the deli counter.
- Consider buying bulk castile soap to use as hand and dish cleaner instead of buying a bunch of little bottles of different cleaners.
3) Eat your leftovers
- Forty percent of all food goes to waste in the U.S.
4) Shop second hand
- Carbon Trust estimates that CO2 emissions associated with clothing account for three percent of global emissions. This number includes out-sourced production, shipping, washing, and drying. Shopping second hand saves good clothing from a landfill and reduces the overall demand for clothing production.
5) Take care of clothes
- Buying fewer items of higher quality will save you money in the long run and make it more likely you will take the time to mend rips and tears instead of throwing it out.
6) Bring your lunch
- Disposable lunches (to-go packaging, plastic utensils, etc) generate 100 pounds of trash per person annually.
7) Go digital
- The average office worker uses two pounds of paper per day! Take notes on your laptop and communicate with your colleague’s via e-mail rather than using paper.
- Unless your office has gone completely paper-less, chances are there are stacks of paper that could be recycled. While reusable water bottles are the BEST option, any plastic water bottles should be recycled as well.
9) Simplify cleaning supplies
- White Vinegar and baking soda are all natural alternatives to dangerous chemical cleaners. They are versatile, effective, and eliminate plastic bottle waste.
10) Make your own cosmetics
- Save money, avoid harsh chemicals, plastic containers, and packaging by making your own cosmetics. Check out Free People’s blog for instructions on how to make your own natural cheek and lip stains, perfume, shampoo, make-up remover, and more. Also be sure to check out OGP’s very own DIY beauty guides right here.
Zero Waste Wikipedia
Zero Waste Reddit
Going Zero Waste
Zero Waste Home
A Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Living (Ps, It Doesn’t Happen Overnight)
10 Ways to Adopt a Zero Waste Lifestyle This Earth Day!
What I learned from adopting a ‘zero waste’ lifestyle (it wasn’t as easy as I thought)