Just Say No: Taking The Zero Waste Challenge

This is a guest blog post by Hydaway ambassador Suzanne Hunt. Follow her on Instagram @shixie.

I already consider myself a minimal-waste human on this planet, so I decided to take the Climate Generation zero-waste challenge, which is described as:

“10 Days. March 11-20th. Keep track of your waste! Anything that cannot be recycled or composted is put in a Mason jar. We will try to live up to the hashtag #CGwastewatchers by making deliberate choices about our consumption.” (If you’ve not heard of Climate Generation, it’s an initiative begun by my fellow Minnesotan, Will Steger.)

The five pillars of zero waste are:

REFUSE – Refusing will eliminate the most of your trash. Learn to say no to disposable items.

REDUCE – the amount of waste you generate.

REUSE – or repurpose the non-recyclable items you end up with.

RECYCLE – everything that your waste hauler will take.

ROT – or compost – the ultimate re-use.

 

I want to give special attention to the first R, “REFUSE”

My fellow Dumpster-divers and I were recycling, reusing, and rotting before it was “cool,” but this step has really upped my game.  On a recent shopping trip to my favorite national chain grocery store during this challenge, I stood at the entrance, my reusable shopping and produce bags in hand, and stared at all the non-recyclable packaging through a new lens. Almost all the items that I regularly stock up on were needlessly packaged in non-recyclable plastic, which required a new way of thinking about what I’d purchase to eat this week: I looked for dry goods in paper boxes instead of plastic containers, soups and sauces in recyclable metal and plastic containers, and bulk fruits and vegetables instead of plastic containers (or worse yet, plastic sleeves). It took about half again as long as usual to thoughtfully select items that resulted in little to no waste, and I had to pass on some of my favorite items because of their wasteful packaging, but in the end I was satisfied that a minimal amount of waste would be generated by my choices. However, when I got home and started opening the paper boxes, I was dismayed to find that most of their contents were sealed inside those metallic-looking nonrecyclable plastic bags.

And here’s a reason to ALWAYS carry your Hydaway bottle with you: on the second day of this challenge, I asked for a to-go cup for my soda at a local restaurant. (I was mighty pleased with myself because I had already refused a straw when I ordered.) The server brought me a Styrofoam container, into which I poured the soda, then placed the flimsy plastic cover on the top, and inserted – you guessed it – another straw into that cover without any thought at all. It didn’t dawn on me until I got to the car that a Styrofoam cup was never going to fit into a Mason jar unless I tore it into tiny pieces.

At the end of this challenge, the waste I generated was too much for a Mason jar, but I learned more about myself and my unconscious habits, and I will be definitely be more thoughtful about the shopping choices I make at the point of purchase—not just the grocery store and restaurants, but bookstores, hardware stores, clothing stores, and online as well.

We are all in this together.

Leave a Reply