In the 1967 movie The Graduate, Dustin Hoffman’s character gets a one-word-description of the future. This word is: Plastics.
Yes, plastic stuff was revolutionary at one time, but not on the day that 23-year-old Laura Singer opened her fridge and saw that most of the things therein were contained in disposable plastics. A self-professed green-girl since the day her Environmental Studies class at New York University inspired Laura to care about the world around her, she felt like a great big hypocrite upon realizing her own waste-producing footprint.
Instead of scoffing and getting mad at the girl who brought disposable plastic everything for lunch each day to class – Laura began taking steps to reduce her own trash levels, which have reached nearly zero in the two years since she began this journey. Here’s how she reduced her trash to nearly zero in two years:
1. She brought her own bags to the supermarkets
Instead of getting a freshly ripped-off-the-rack dozen plastic bags every time she went grocery shopping, Laura brought her own reusable bags with her to the store, which might be one of the easiest ways to get started on reducing trash, because most people have a big reusable bag that would suffice for groceries. If you don’t have a reusable bag in your closet, you can buy them at lots of grocery stores.
2. She bought healthier foods
Laura stopped buying a lot of prepackaged foods, which means her diet immediately became healthier. She bought lots of organic fruits and veggies – and began to visit farmer’s markets more often. As a result, all of the packages that would’ve gone in the trash were non-existent in her shopping world.
3. She shopped at second-hand clothing stores
A great way to recycle clothing is to visit second-hand clothing stores – which is what Laura began doing instead of always running to the mall for the newest off-the-rack fare. Indeed, not only can wearing what has already been in a person’s wardrobe help save money, but buying gently-used or never-worn clothing at second-hand stores can lower the waste involved in clothes producing processes. There are many second-hand and thrift stores like Clothes Mentor where you can buy cheap but cute clothes..
4. She sold off her old clothes
Speaking of Laura buying second-hand clothing, she also reduced her trash levels by getting rid of old clothing and selling parts of her wardrobe that she hadn’t been wearing anyway in recent years.
So go ahead and sell clothes that you don’t wear anymore to thrift stores, so that other people will find joy in them. Clearing up clutter – like the 10 pairs of jeans Laura hadn’t worn since high school – helps benefit our environment because it represents less junk to clean
5. She just said “no” to creature comforts
Normally we don’t think twice about saying yes when grabbing takeout food, and we’re offered a straw, fork or spoon. Laura began to say “no” to these things, even paper receipts that she’d just end up throwing away.
6. She made her own personal care and cleaning products
Laura began reading the Zero Waste Home blog, which taught her to hone her trash-reducing skills, and continue making her own toothpaste and other personal care products as well as cleaning products. To make your own products has many benefits: you reduce waste, you know what’s in your products and you have an oppurtunity to get creative.
She discovered that her life got better
In the end, Laura realized that her life was better as a result of her nearly zero-waste adopted lifestyle. Not only wasn’t there a need to rent a dumpster to clear out the piles of garbage accumulated from wasteful living, Laura also recognized that she began planning her life better. She stopped running out for cosmetic products at the last minute because she always had something to scrub, Laura figured out that planning her grocery store trips for the week and buying in bulk saved her lots of trips to the store and lots of money.
The zero-waste lifestyle might not fit everyone, but tips from Laura’s lifestyle can help get us to think about ways to be less wasteful.
Featured photo credit: Beth Tribe via flickr.com