This year I will attempt to reduce my waste as much as possible, to near zero. In brief, this entails eliminating a different source of waste from my lifestyle every month. This means cutting out trash and minimizing recycling and mainly relying on composting for waste disposal by the end of the year. I will attempt to make my own hygiene and cleaning products in the following few months in efforts to eliminate my consumption of unnecessary packaging, as well as eliminating packaged foods, and disposable items, and taking advantage of second-hand items where possible.
I have decided to go zero waste because I care about the planet, but my actions were not reflecting this. The first world is centered around the high consumption of disposable products. It is not setup for zero-waste, but at the same time, it sort of is, you just have to be mindful of the items you consume. There is a tremendous amount of waste that is created by affluent societies. In fact, the average North American produces about 4 pounds (1.7 kg) of trash per day. Much of this waste is plastic, a demon in disguise. In many respects, plastic can be seen as a very useful material in the manufacturing and packaging of various goods, due to its versatility, durability and light weight. In other respects, it is an environmental terrorist, as it is made from oil, a high-carbon fossil fuel, is typically only used one time before it is thrown away, where it then can take hundreds of years to degrade once it reaches a landfill, and while it degrades, it releases toxic chemicals into the soils, oceans and freshwater systems, thus damaging ecosystems and harming those who depend on those ecosystems. The use of plastic in the manufacturing and packaging of goods has become widespread because its benefits have made it a cheap alternative to other resources, despites its unsustainable nature. This has allowed corporations to maximize their profits without any direct consequences. A decision such as this one is therefore deemed “near-sighted” or “short-term” as it does not take the long-term effects into account, destroying the integrity of the system and sacrificing long-term benefits and resource availability for short-term monetary and material gains. These short-term decisions promote economic and material growth and do not promote sustainability because simply because they are too focused on instant gains and neglect and externalize ecological effects and environmental degradation.
Changing and revamping government policies is only one part of the solution. Significant changes at the individual level, and changes in the way that we view the world are also essential to mitigating climate change, environmental destruction and resource depletion. At the individual level, we must switch from an anthropocentric world view (the earth is just a collection of resources there solely for human use) to a more ecocentric world view (we are part of the same environment as all other resources and living things and they must be protected and used responsibly). In the first world, people have fallen victim to consumerism, and are obsessed with the accumulation of trivial material objects to stop them from being bored. A paradigm shift is needed for the continuation of the human race because the current paradigm we live under has put us on the path to our own destruction. In other words, this over-consumptive and materially-driven society is fundamentally altering the Earth System in ways that compromise our own well-being. This is why reducing consumption and waste at the individual level is so important.
After all of that rambling, here is a brief overview of my transition to zero waste this year. I will attempt to eliminate the waste that comes from these following sources by either finding low-waste/waste-free alternatives or by making my own at home with minimal waste:
- January: disposable coffee cups/drink cups, takeout containers and related waste.
- February: packaged foods
- March: Shampoo and soap
- April: toothpaste and tooth brush
- May: Household cleaning products
- June: All forms of transportation that is not public or carpooling
- July: Online shopping
- August: Face wash, new makeup, hair products,
- September: Lip balm
- October: new retail items
- November: facial tissues, paper towels, disposable napkins
- December: other personal hygiene products
This list is by no means exhaustive, and I realize that as I go through the year I will find sources of waste that I missed and will then add it to this list. I’m also open to suggestions of things to add to the list and anyone who wants to tag along. I am also excluding any items that I have already purchased from this; for instance, I have a lot of packaged foods in my apartment already, but rather than letting them waste away I will still consume them, but then not purchase them again, since letting it go bad on purpose would be even more wasteful than just using it and accepting the waste.
Links to be updated as the year progresses (blog posts and videos):
Snapchat: IncedSusPlanet (for frequent updates)