In America, 258 million tons of waste are generated in a single year.
Most of us never think twice about tossing something into the trash. We’re quick to ball it up and throw it away where its out of sight, out of mind – mindlessly contributing to our environmental footprint. The Zero Waste Challenge will bring awareness to just how much you contribute to our landfills on a weekly basis and spark ideas for reducing your impact on our environment.
Taking The Zero Waste Challenge
The Zero Waste Challenge is an eye-opening, week-long challenge that everyone should take. Not only to learn how much waste we produce, but also, where the majority of our trash comes from and how we can replace unnecessary items for sustainable alternatives.
To take the challenge:
- Grab a vessel/container (I used an old plastic bag during my challenge) that you have laying around – something that will be easy to carry with you
- Make a commitment to stuff all of your trash into that vessel for 1 whole week
- Whatever waste you do not actually recycle, compost or otherwise legitimately divert from the trash can goes into the vessel/container
By forcing you to think before you toss, and then carry around all of your garbage for 1 week, the Zero Waste Challenge builds a concrete awareness around just how much waste you produce.
Wether you take the Zero Waste Challenge or begin another initiative to help cultivate awareness around your environmental footprint, don’t forget the 1 thing everyone can do to protect the planet.
What I learned from the Zero Waste Challenge
During my week of the Zero Waste Challenge, I only generated 2.1 ounces of garbage. This is considerably less than the average here in America, which is 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day.
While I generated less waste than the average bear, I had to be continuously mindful about what I was buying and using in order to keep my waste to a bare minimum.
However, if I’m being honest, how I lived during my week of the Zero Waste Challenge is not how I live every week. This has forced me to look for ways to make my Zero Waste strategies more sustainable for everyday life.
In the mean time, I learned a lot about being mindful of how much waste I generate, where most of my waste is coming from and how I can make improvements to reduce my impact:
1. Being mindful of your waste
During the challenge, I discovered that I had a bad habit of tossing certain things into the trash without even thinking about it (out of sight, out of mind), unconsciously contributing waste to our environment.
There was more than one time when I threw something in the garbage can and then quickly realized, “I’m doing the Zero Waste Challenge”, so I had to dig it back out and stuff it in my bag.
This taught me to be mindful of my waste habits and to think about what it was I was tossing into the garbage can.
2. Think ahead. What will create waste in the future?
When you’re taking the challenge, you really don’t want to be carrying around a ton of garbage with you everywhere you go. As a result, this forces you to think about what your buying or using and if your going to have to throw it away later in the week.
Pretty much, if it was going to go in the garbage later in the week, I didn’t buy it.
This was tough because food packaging was by far the largest contributor to my waste collection. In order to keep my waste to a minimum, I had to forgo the prepackaged food, and instead, shop in the produce and bulk sections like a boss.
3. Finding Alternatives
Being mindful of unconscious waste habits and thinking ahead before buying items that will turn into trash is a great start, but it isn’t enough to reduce out environmental footprint.
We have to find sustainable alternatives.
Most of the time, after giving it only a little bit of thought, I realized there was a viable solution to replace what I was throwing out with something that would be more sustainable, recyclable or reusable.
Here’s a list of my largest waste contributors and my choices for sustainable alternatives:
- Food waste → I started composting
- Produce stickers and twist ties → Shopping at a farmers market (they don’t use either)
- Fabric softener sheets for laundry → Dryer balls and essential oils
- Food Packaging → Mason jars and the bulk section
- Disposable Wooden Chopsticks → Reusable Ceramic Chopsticks
When it’s all said and done, this Zero Waste Challenge is only a week long. Just about anyone can make some sacrifices for one week to reduce their waste. The real challenge is finding strategies to reduce our waste long-term.
Nevertheless, taking the Zero Waste Challenge has created a much needed awareness around how much waste I produce, while sparking ideas for how to reduce my impact going forward.
Are you ready to take the challenge?