The Hardships of Transitioning to a Zero Waste Lifestyle

Aloha!

I’m always consciously thinking of ways that I can help save the environment. I’ve been contemplating composting, ways to reduce plastic use, gardening, etc. I’m still mostly on the research phase because of 1. lack of resources 2. limited space and time (emphasis on SPACE living in a small apartment). While doing my research on the Internet, I came across the “zero waste movement” or “zero waste lifestyle”. After watching several videos about it on YouTube, I felt more aware of the amount of garbage I produce every year! I know what happens to food waste in landfills, which is why I’ve been trying to think of ways to compost at a small apartment. However, I never really thought of the “other waste” I was producing and how I can minimize them.

After watching several zero waste movement/lifestyle videos, specifically by Bea Johnson and Laura Singer, I found so many aspects of my life that could be improved to minimize trash. Despite the abundance of great tips and ideas, I found many of the advocates of the movement recommend purchasing a certain items i.e. containers for the most part. The amount of things I think I need to live this lifestyle was so overwhelming!  It then dawned on me that consumption does not break the cycle but continues it. Not to mention a potential for an unplanned shopping spree!
Wasn’t this lifestyle supposed to help me save money? What about people who are on a strict budget and can’t afford to change everything in their lives in one go? Of course there were a handful of people who strongly emphasized the 3 Rs: reuse, reduce/refuse and recycle.

These dilemmas made the transition to zero waste extremely difficult. I felt lost and overwhelmed. I learned a lot from zero waste advocates, but there are certain things that I wish I knew about transitioning to zero waste, or let’s be honest, to at least 10% waste.

  1. RECYCLE
    One of my motivations for trying to follow this type of lifestyle, which if not very “zero” waste yet, at least minimal, is to help save the environment. I know it’s such a cliche beauty pageant answer, but I love this Earth we live in and I want to share it to many generations to come. Through recycling trash is actually recyclable, we are decreasing the amount of waste that goes into landfills.In the area where I live, we do not have any recycling protocols in place despite there being one by the county of Honolulu. Apparently, now every apartment complex has this type of waste management in place! Which means that if people really want to recycle, then they will have to go to a nearby recycling center or a redemption center (list can be found here). Today, I’m proud to say that we successfully went to a redemption center and brought out plastic and paper trash! It was sort of an awkward place because of many reasons that I don’t feel going in to much detail about, but at least we were able to sort through our trash for the week and bring it there to be recycled. I honestly am not 100% sure if all was recyclable, but then again, this is another learning curve (How-tos of recycling in Honolulu can be found here).
  2. REUSE
    Instead of buying new, it’s always a good idea to use what you already have at hand. For instance, I’ve been wanting a container for home made salad dressing. Instead of buying a mason jars for storage, I found that I can use an empty bottle of ponzu (a Japanese condiment). It’s also the perfect container for a salad dressing because its design lets only small amounts of liquids out of the spout! This week I’ve actually accumulated 3 containers that are from items we bought.
  3. REFUSE
    This bit is really difficult because in order to achieve this you need to already have something reusable and durable at hand. I think of this as making an investment. You need to have something ready before you can actually say “no” to plastic bags, plastic utensils; you name it. Ironically, refusing means buying at times. For example, in order to refuse paper cups at a coffee joint you need to bring your own tumbler/container in which you can have the coffee. If you already have this alternative at hand then you won’t have to buy anything, but if you don’t then you end up consuming. Preparation is key to consistently refusing to create more trash. Whenever I do buy something, I make sure that the material being used is biodegradable or at least good for the environment and for my health. For instance, when I bought fabric to make tote bags and reusable produce bags I made sure to check that the material is made of 100% cotton.

Ever since I started consciously tracking my trash, I noticed that the contents of our trash can has decreased in size. Normally our trash bag would be bursting with garbage by day 2, but right now it seems to be only 1/3 full. Most of the trash is sadly food scraps, which I hope to cut out in the future by composting. If you have any composting tips for small apartments/spaces, please let me know!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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