Welcome to the beginning of my Zero Waste Lifestyle Challenge…2015…US Virgin Islands.
So I’m headed to St.Thomas for a few months. My partner and I lived there last year for 6 months and although it is undeniably a tropical paradise, there was one thing that was practically unbearable for us…total lack of recycling! You could bring aluminum cans to the Montessori school, but that was it. This is utterly ridiculous to us as we spend lots of time on another little island–NYC!– where recycling in mandatory. (This makes sense because an island will clearly fill up with trash in no time and be ruined and uninhabitable). We did our best to reduce and reuse but we still felt guilty in the end. So when we decided to return, we gave our selves a zero waste challenge for our stay. We have been brainstorming and reading up as we prepare for this journey, and I will be blogging our progress along the way. So wish me luck and sign up to receive my new blog posts via email so we can be on this journey together!
Before I go into specifics about our plans, let’s go though two steps to help us as we all begin.
Step one: Assess your situation.
Take a literal look around your home and then go inside for some meditation on the subject.
Does your life/home feel cluttered?
How many bags of trash do you put out on the curb every week/month?
Do you recycle and how much? (And if not, NOW’S THE TIME! Google if you’re confused about how to in your area)
How much control do you feel you have in your or your family’s eating habits (food shopping and preparation etc.)?
Step Two: TAKE ACTION. Begin by using the common recycling mantra, just amped up a bit.
This is a list and it is in ORDER. You must start with one and work down!
Many of us think the first step is recycling what we have, but truly the first key to helping out Mother Earth, simplifying our life, and heading toward zero waste, is to REFUSE things in the first place!
***Remember: Every time we accept/buy something–from straws at restaurants to products at a store–we are voting. Yes I want more straws! Yes, I support your business! I want you to make more of these! I approve of how your run your business & I want to give you more of my money!
(This is why I quit eating a McDonald’s back in 2005. I thought, I have given you plenty of my money. And I don’t approve of the food you are selling.)
Now all of us are going to be a different levels of our thinking about this subject, so here are some ideas to implement REFUSING in your life! Pick and choose as you please:
~Bring your own reusable mug for coffee/tea to cafes or drive through
~Bring a reusable cup for that free iced tea to-go we all love so much here in the south!!
~Pack a tupperware in your bag or car for restaurant leftovers.
~Always have your reusable bags accessible for any kind of shopping–not just groceries!
~Just say no to: straws at restaurants, pamphlets being handed out, free gifts that you know you don’t really want or can’t really use, a shopping trip when there’s nothing you need, technological upgrades that aren’t necessary, food that is wrapped in excessive packaging, packaging that can’t be recycled, or packaging at all! i.e. hit up the farmer’s market with your own bags or stick to fruits and veggies–stay away from processed packaged goods at the grocery store.
Basically, bring more mindfulness to everything you accept or buy–everything you will take into your home. Ask yourself, what will the life of that object be when it leaves you?
This reminds me of Whole Foods Market. There, trash cans read
Forever in a Landfill
What you cannot refuse, you should REDUCE. If it can’t be avoided. If it is, in fact, needed, then get it, but do it mindfully and drastically reduce it.
If you couldn’t refuse it and you did reduce it, can you now REUSE it? This could apply to a jar your food came in, or to clothes you purchased. When the hem comes out of your pants, can you repair them or turn them into capris or shorts?
Now here we are, all the way down at our fourth step, RECYCLE. That means four other tactics should have been tried before we get to this more familiar step. (Avoid things like Styrofoam package that is not recyclable.) Think of it more like a last resort. What we really want to do is to keep valuable resources from being used to create things in the first place!
Last, but not least, is ROT. This is, of course, about composting. There are so many options available for this so don’t be daunted. The fact is that, when we throw away food with our regular trash–in a plastic bag–we are not allowing the natural decomposing process to occur because oxygen cannot be present. So instead of food rotting and eventually turning back into some amazing soil, it can’t break down and creates dangerous Methane gas in the landfills. This Methane gas is what eventually goes into our air and atmosphere and destroys our Ozone Layer. Which then gives us no protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays and adds to the process of global warming. NOT GOOD! And all you have to do to make a change is not put your food in the plastic garbage bag. You can buy a small, ceramic composting pot that would sit on your countertop or under your sink. You could go larger to a 5 gallon bucket on your porch that you would add to and give it a shake or a roll daily. There are giant compost tumblers that you can easily turn with a handle and there are ways to add friendly earth worms to help you do the job. If you are a gardener, this will save you so much, because your uneaten food will turn into nutrient rich soil. Give it a go!
Stay Tuned for our packing preparation for the move.
Sababa (It’s All Good),
PS. Recommended reading Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson and her online blog of the same name