If you're a New Yorker, you walk by so many bags of piled up garbage a day that, other than scrunching your nose at the unknown smells that waft from the trash heap, you barely notice. But did you know the average American produces 4.3 pounds of waste a day. That's nearly 1,600 pounds a year! Think about all the coffee cups, food wrappers, bottles, grocery bags, and other garbage you throw away, and it adds up fast. Could you cut all that waste down to zero?
Some, like Colin Beavan, also known as No Impact Man (watch his trailer here), made this challenge a year long family experiment, creating a documentary about his struggles and triumphs. Others, like Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, have made this a lifestyle choice - her and her family only produce a quart of trash a year! Her tips? Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, in that order. Read her more specific advice here.
Recently, we caught wind of climate change strategist and NYC blogger Leslie Labruto's weeklong mission to live a 'normal' city life while producing zero waste. And guess what, minus a rubberband and a pink lemonade bottle she did it! Below we recap some of her journey, so you too can be inspired and maybe even take the zero waste challenge.
Day Zero - Leslie took some time to prepare and make some ground rules - namely producing no trash, though products she owned before the week like shampoo were fair game. Toilet paper was also allowed, though only four square per bathroom visit. She armed herself with reusable bags, bottles, bandanas, and other necessities for this waste-free challenge.
Day One - Food Waste. Leslie learned that packing food in reusable containers wasn't the hard part, and often baristas are happy to fill your reusable mugs (she even got a Bring Your Own Mug discount), but disposing of food waste was. Thank goodness for composting. Learn more about how to compost here. Her lessons: 1) There are always waste-free options if you get creative. 2) Plan ahead. 3) You have more support systems than you think.
Day Two - Packaging. It's everywhere, and it's convenient. The solution? Recognize your needs versus your wants and make your own if you can. Leslie received a package that she ordered before this experiment and plans to upcycle it into smaller boxes, and after her online vs. in-store shopping research, she plans to shop more locally.
Day Three - Clothes. We love them and we need them, but how much is too much? Leslie popped into a shop and found a few pieces she liked, but knew she couldn't buy them because of the tags. Then she started thinking of the bigger picture, treating clothing as disposable, which began her exploration of consignment shopping, recycling programs, and more conscious brands. Read on here.
Speaking of conscious brands, here are some of our favorite zero waste pieces so you can reduce your impact when revamping your closet.