Yvonne's story is a great supplement to last week's post ;) And I love your picture, Yvonne! Thanks for sharing with us.
"One Modern Day Woman's Journey Towards Zero Waste
Recently I was introduced to Bea’s blog. Like many others, I poured over every entry, amazed at the lifestyle of this family of four in Northern California. I considered myself “Eco-friendly.” I drove a fuel efficient car, recycled, minimized power usage by turning off lights, took short showers, etc. I thought I was doing my share. Seeing the lifestyle of a nearly Zero Waste Home, however, felt like removing blinders from my eyes. The Johnsons had shown that it was possible in modern day America. If we view the Earth as a biosphere, it becomes easier to see that resources are finite, and this country’s habits are not sustainable. And if we, like the Iroquois, were to consider the impact of our actions on our seventh generation descendants, we would all start living like the Johnsons. So I decided to try.
My first project was my overflowing closet. It was really helpful for me to think of donating my unused items as good for the environment, since it allows others to acquire it and reuse it. I began a daily process of evaluating each article of clothing. If it was weather and occasion appropriate, yet I was still reluctant to wear it, it was donated. It also became easier to see what items I desired, and I would acquire it at the local Goodwill. I discovered that I was able to find clothes that I liked for a fraction of the price of a new item. In this manner I have halved my wardrobe, yet increased the number of wearable things.
I have to admit, the decision to try to achieve Zero Waste was due to eco-conscience, but the drive to continue stemmed from the improvements to my clutter. Once the benefits of Zero Waste was evident in my closet and wallet, it began to build momentum. I expanded my efforts. I began to examine my trash and view each piece of garbage as a problem to be solved. It appealed to my intellect. Doing so has had some significant benefits. I now have healthier eating habits and improved cooking skills because cutting out food packaging meant learning to cook things from scratch and decreasing the amount of preprocessed foods and chemicals. My knowledge in generally “handy” things increased. In order to cut down on the most frequent item in my garbage, soy milk containers, I learned how to make soy milk and do so weekly, immediately cutting our trash output by a third. I found it to be an easy and fast process, negating the need to haul heavy boxes from Costco, and it was more cost effective. I researched and started vermicomposting, reducing both the odors of our kitchen trash and the need to empty it frequently. Installing a dual flush device to decrease the amount of water wasted with each toilet flush led to me learning how toilets work. Each waste problem solved led to an increase in knowledge and capabilities. Shockingly, once I put some habits in place, the Zero Waste lifestyle has been sustainable on a day-to-day basis, leading to choices that are more healthful, efficient, and economically sound. The feeling is ironic, of course, since “sustainability” was the whole point of starting this journey.
I look at my world with different eyes now. Rather than mindlessly buying products made to be discarded, I have made “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” a life philosophy. I ask, “How can this goal be achieved with less waste?” and try to think out of the box, if necessary. It won’t be as convenient as the neatly packaged item on the store shelf, at least not at first. But most things worth doing are hard at first. When we examine Zero Waste in a historical context, it truly is tragic that to really put those four words into effect in modern day America, one must be resourceful. 100 years ago, people wouldn’t have dreamed of one time use products, a cup simply thrown away after taking one drink. To this day still, in some countries, it is a matter of routine that groceries are bought using your own reusable containers, and places don’t have trash service because the people produce no trash that needs to be hauled away. Zero Waste is not a new concept, it is an ancient one that we must re-embrace. I still have a long journey towards Zero Waste, but already I feel so much more productive, knowledgeable, useful, and sustainable. And my house is cleaner.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. -Margaret Mead "