*Written by: Emily Post*
If you had told me 2 ½ years ago that I would be making so little trash that I could cancel my trash service, I would have thought you were crazy. I mean, who thinks about their waste enough to even make that statement, let alone speak it out loud to someone? Well, it turns out – after 2 ½ years of research – that I AM that kind of person.
I think about my waste a lot. I even think about other people’s waste. Weird, right? And more importantly, why?
My journey to less waste started by reading Bea Johnson’s book, “The Zero Waste Home.” In it, she pointed out that when you buy stuff in packaging you are essentially paying for it twice: Once when you buy the item in packaging, and again when you discard it using a trash service that you also pay for. For me, that was an eye opener. As a stay-at-home mom, I was always looking for ways for our family to save money. I couldn’t believe that I had been wasting money by throwing things away all these years!
As I delved deeper into the subject, I discovered so many more reasons to reduce my waste. Scientists estimate that by the year 2050, that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea (http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_The_New_Plastics_Economy.pdf), as about 8 million tons of waste are dumped in the oceans yearly (https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/). Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it only photodegrades, which means that plastic only turns into smaller and smaller pieces until it turns into microplastic. Fish then eat the microplastic, then the fish end up on our plates, then WE in turn eat the toxins from the microplastics. I know it may be a bit far-fetched to be worrying about the ocean in landlocked Colorado, but we still eat what comes out of the ocean.
According to Science Advances, only about 9 percent of plastic is recycled. If plastic actually makes it to be recycled (which is now even tougher due to strict guidelines that China has imposed on American recycling), plastic can’t actually be “recycled” in the traditional sense. It can only be downcycled, meaning that a water bottle doesn’t become a water bottle again, it becomes a fleece jacket or a park bench. Eventually all plastics end up in a landfill.
Fortunately, there’s lots you can do to help break the cycle of plastic waste.
The easiest change to make is bring a reusable water bottle with you every day. Wallet, check. Keys, check. Water bottle, check.
Another easy change is to avoid single-use plastics. I like to carry around a folding metal camp spork with me to avoid using single-use utensils when I’m out. I also carry around a cloth napkin and a hanky (which is also another easy change – in fact, it’s the first change that my family made when working on reducing our waste).
My favorite change has been switching to a safety razor instead of disposable razors. It was SO SO SO easy, and it’s not much different from using a disposable razor. The only difference is you don’t need to push as hard when you are shaving since the razor is heavier. Plus, I’m saving money since I don’t need to buy a package of razors every couple months. I bought my safety razor for $60 two years ago, and I estimate that I spent about $60/year on razors before, so now I have $60 extra bucks in my pocket each year. Win/win!
I’ll leave you with one more easy change: Bring your reusable grocery bags and produce bags when grocery shopping (or picking up your CSA veggies from Go Farm!). I’ve read statistics that estimate that the average working life of a plastic bag is about 15 minutes, but it’s life span is much, much longer than that.
Don’t try to make too many changes all at once either; you will get discouraged and quit. I made that mistake when I first started, but finally found my balance after a couple months. Also, remember this awesome quote from Edward Everett Hale,
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Every change you make is SOMETHING. If everyone made one small change, that would add up to huge changes!