On October 1st, a group of Ethical Writers and I challenged ourselves to go zero waste for two whole weeks. My experience was both gratifying and frustrating.
You may think 'Zero waste? No way, that's impossible!' Or if you're optimistic to a fault like me, you may think 'easy peasy!' Well, we'd both be wrong. Overall, this challenge showed me that the baby steps that I've taken along the way have amounted to a sizeable impact. My little bubble of control (inside my home and increasingly, at my office) afford me the ability to live almost as sustainably as possible, but that bubble has taken years to construct. The year I bought a reusable bag was not the same year that I began composting my food scraps. My attitude at grocery stores, bodegas and restaurants has turned from helpless to angry to calmly firm over time. This just goes to show that by starting now, by taking that first baby step, you can make a positive impact over a reasonable period of time. And despite the sustainable habits I've developed over the past 7 years having drastically reduced my landfill contributions, this challenge certainly showed me that the bits of waste I still produce are going to be real tough to eliminate. Not impossible, but hard.
Well, I created this blog to document the hard stuff, the actions, reactions & habits that require a little extra attention to improve, and to show myself as well as you that though these things may be tough, they become easier. Attempting to live zero waste, or adopting a vegan lifestyle, or trying to avoid purchasing anything made with slave labor - any of these virtuous endeavors will force one to find as much control over their surroundings as possible. From what we buy at the grocery store and where we eat out to the activities we choose to enjoy and who we choose to enjoy them with, zero waste (or vegan, or slave-labor free) living touches it all.
Good thing I long ago took on the happy role of being that super annoying friend who often dictates or demands what the group will do and where it will eat. A role that also involves gently-but-firmly shaming everyone around me for their habits. Habits like mindlessly eating meat or taking a single use fork or accepting a plastic bag for one f*cking can of soda, that are so easy to perpetuate and are ingrained in our common lifestyles, but that are also reasonably easy to give up. It just takes practice.
We know that waste in landfills is bad. It's gross, it's stupid and it's got to stop for reasons of the environment (landfills leach toxins into groundwater and belch methane into the atmosphere) and reasons of resources (we extract valuable materials from the planet, use them briefly, then toss them in a big stinking pile to slowly - if ever - rot away). We CAN do better than this if we just remember that there is no such thing as 'away.' OK, we'll probably need to remember our reusable bags, too.