Adopting a Zero Waste Lifestyle

“Zero Waste” is an intimidating goal. Really? ZERO? And since it feels so impossible, I suspect that the term alone practically grants permission for most of us to give up before even trying. But the zero waste initiative doesn’t actually mean that you create absolutely no refuse, but rather, that you are aligning your consumptive habits with the goal of leaving the tiniest waste footprint.

Kathryn Kellogg - Going Zero Waste

Kathryn Kellogg – Going Zero Waste

Blogger Kathryn Kellogg has a refreshing blog called Going Zero Waste that relieves some of the pressure, making a zero-waste goal a viable possibility. Yes, Kathryn is in her 20’s. Yes, she lives in Northern California (Berkeley). And yes, she fit all of her landfill-bound garbage in a mason jar last year. But – take a deep breath – most of her lifestyle habits are more attainable than you might think. As an Organic Living article reports, “She doesn’t forage all her own berries, live off-grid, or spend hours making coconut oil from scratch. She has an office job, and a car, and she eats out all of the time.”

Kellogg's waste from the last 6 months

Kellogg’s waste from the last 6 months

It’s really about limiting your consumption to items and materials that have a responsible solution. Note: “limiting” is the operative word here. Studies are revealing that the “Three R’s” (reduce, reuse, recycle) might be encouraging consumption rather than curbing it. It seems that we are more comfortable with the consumer waste that we create when we believe it all can be recycled. It’s important to remember that recycling uses energy and resources. Making mindful decisions on how to reduce disposables in general is ultimately what the goal should be.

Kellogg wouldn’t characterize her zero waste habits as sacrificial in any way. “I always say the zero waste lifestyle is two ticks to the left. I do everything exactly the same as everyone else, just slightly adjusted.” In other words, being mindful of choices that are creating waste with no solution other than ending up in a landfill. Recycling & upcycling play a big role, but precycling is really at the heart of it. Precycling simply means not creating waste to begin with. For instance, not taking a plastic grocery bag at check out while supplying a reusable bag is precycling. Nearly every Going Zero Waste post offers tips and methods of precycling, but be sure to read her recent post as we glide into the Holidays: Zero Waste Guide to Receiving Gifts!

 Kathryn’s Tips for Everyday, Zero Waste Living Habits

 Shop Smarter

Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 8.15.37 PMBuy as much as possible from the farmers’ market, insuring a minimal carbon footprint for your food. Bring your own reusable bags, jars & containers. Supplying your own compostable bags and buying dry goods from bulk dispensers assures that you will not create packaging waste. Even at the deli counter, Kellogg suggests, “there’s no harm in asking them to pop your block of cheddar into a glass container instead of the standard plastic baggie.” And when shopping in the grocery store opt for glass, aluminum or paper (all recyclable) food packaging. Kathryn admits to not “having a house full of processed food that lasts for months, I cook from scratch, which actually simplifies things. When you buy food that goes bad quicker, you only purchase what you need.”

Compost Everything

Compostable food scraps

Compostable food scraps

More and more compost solutions are available these days. If you have a yard, a scrap pile or compost tumbler is easy to create. A garage or temperate outdoor space is hospitable for a worm compost bin. Most urban areas have scrap deposit sites, like the local farmers’ market or community garden. These organic scrap collections are not headed to  “industrial” compost sites, which are the types that pick up from restaurants and include proteins. Community organic scrap collections are generally for “greens & browns” only. This is where shopping mindfully and purchasing only what you will consume comes into play. Eliminating leftovers should be part of the plan. Oh, and Kathryn even carries compostable, flushable doggie-doo bags in order to collect and flush her pup’s poop down the toilet!

Bring Your Own Plate

This tip applies to take-out more than sitting down in a restaurant obviously. Kellogg actually brings a bowl when picking up doughnuts on the weekends. The taco-trucks are happy to place her order on her personal plate or container. She reports that for over a year and a half of bringing her own containers for take-away, she’s only been refused twice.

Stock up on Dish Towels

Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 8.58.12 PMPaper towels and napkins are a waste. Not to mention, a burden on our forests. Yes, they can be composted, but not if there is chemical & plastics in the design. Getting in the habit of using cloth towels and napkins for cleaning, wrapping sandwiches, and even considering a handkerchief for a runny nose, is a win for the environment.

Learn to DIY

Kellogg offers a great selection of DIY recipes on her site. Making her own soaps & shampoos is quick and easy, as well as cleaning products. But she admits that some items aren’t worth the effort – as with homemade mayo “…because it takes too much time and it goes bad too quickly. Plus, I can buy it in glass, which is 100 percent recyclable.”

It’s Not About Being Perfect

This one is equally important! – and Kathryn summarizes it best: “I’m just a human doing by best to make this world a little less wasteful, so don’t be discouraged if anyone tells you you’re not doing enough. EVERY. BIT. MATTERS.”

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About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have.

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  1. Nice interview! I’ve used three or four of Going Zero Waste’s recipes recently; she has a very user-friendly site.

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