One night as I lay in bed, I wondered to myself: where does nail polish go when we throw it away? Being someone lucky enough to have access to the internet, I never have to wonder anything for long. So I sat up and googled it. Little did I realize the rabbit hole I was about to fall into.
Waste is something I have always hated. Zero Waste guru Bea Johnson, has similar feelings. Her family of four produced only one mason jar of waste a year. The family lives by a tier of five rules: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot. They refuse junk mail, single use plastic items, and freebies. Reduce what they own to boost the second hand market. They reuse things they have and recycle and rot (compost) what they can and the rest lives in that year’s mason jar.
Johnson claims that one of the biggest producers of waste in our homes is food related waste. Food that is tossed into the trash instead of composted, as well as food packaging made of plastic such as plastic bags, single use plastic utensils, coffee cups and travel containers all contribute to landfill. While some of these items might be recyclable, Johnson warns that they are transformed into something that isn’t recyclable; meaning that they will ultimately end up in landfill. In addition to being wasteful, these items are actually dangerous for our health because the plastic can leech into the food we consume. According to Johnson 15% of an items price, covers packaging, which she suggests that we are literally throwing our money away with the trash.
The Johnson family goes to the grocery store fully equipped. They bring a variety of different sized reusable bags, a number of mason jars and glass bottles for liquids. They shop the perimeters of the store, putting the bakers bread in her organic bags, asking butchers, deli clerks, and cheese mongers to put her glass jars on the scale, and zero it before placing her food inside. Her family’s produce goes into mesh bags so that the cashier can easily see what’s inside. For the items that must be purchased with packaging they try to avoid plastic and instead buy items with packaged with glass, paper, metal, wood, or wax paper. In addition they buy as much as they can in bulk or from stores who sell their products in returnable containers. Johnson claims that shopping this way has improved the quality of her family’s diet because it keeps them from buying processed foods.
Johnson’s blog and book have started a movement and inspired many including Lauren Singer founder of Trash is for Tossers and The Simply Co (a zero waste detergent company). Both urge that the movement isn’t radical and that even the smallest steps in the right direction amount to massive contributions to saving our planet.
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