Milwaukee Edition

Zero Waste Lifestyle

Ways to Make Far Less Trash

Elizaveta Galitckaia/Shutterstock.com

In manufacturing, a zero waste policy means designing products so that all resources are used or reused. It’s a concept Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste, embraced for her family a decade ago in Mill Valley, California. “My goal was to simplify our lives,” she says. “We found a zero waste lifestyle isn’t what we expected; it’s better. It’s good for the environment and for our family.”

Johnson reports achieving 40 percent savings in annual household costs. “Voluntary simplicity has also changed our daily routines. Simple living focuses on experiences versus things, and we find we have more free time,” she says. “Our minimalist wardrobes now fit into carry-on bags for travel.”

A Doable Personal Goal

“Don’t expect to reach zero. Go for zero-ish,” counsels Celia Ristow, a freelance writer who blogs at Litterless.com. In 2017, Ristow and two friends, Moira Kelley and Bailey Warren, started a grassroots group called Zero Waste Chicago to raise awareness and connect locals with needed resources to reduce trash.

“We speak at grocery stores, community events, schools, colleges and to employees on their lunch hour. We love how responding readers send suggestions and outlets for reusing items,” says Ristow.

Local efforts can take off when people find like-minded others through using hash tags like #zerowastechicago on Instagram, search for a local blogger or host a mini-meet-up in a grocery that sells in bulk or at a coffee shop that uses ceramic cups or no plastic stirrers. Similar grassroots organizations are active in Colorado and Seattle.

“Zero waste seems difficult to imagine in the U.S. People think change is costly and time-consuming,” Johnson says. “My vocation is to shatter these misconceptions. Follow the 5 R’s: refuse what you don’t need, reduce what you need, reuse, recycle and rot. Refuse single-use plastics and junk mail, reduce the volume of clothing items and sports equipment, buy used, recycle the unwanted and compost (rot) food waste, lint, hair and floor sweepings. It’s not that complicated.”

Due to her experience, Johnson can now store a year’s worth of waste in a pint-sized Mason jar. “Inside is deteriorated foam from headphones, a dental retainer, silicone caulk from the sink, fruit and veggie stickers, clothing labels, plastic mini-bumpers from cabinet corners I replaced with felt and a plastic-coated spike from the dishwasher,” she says. “I’m still amazed when people have a use for something I don’t want or need. Start by saying no to flyers, freebies, party favors, business cards, plastics, excessive packaging and junk mail. Accepting them creates more. Refusing such clutter is the first rule to a less wasteful lifestyle.”

Kathryn Kellogg, the Vallejo, California, author of the Going Zero Waste blog and a content creator for Pela Case, a Canadian eco-friendly smartphone case maker, offers many zero waste swaps. “I use silicone cupcake liners instead of paper, bar soap in lieu of plastic-packaged body wash and make my own lip balm.” She also has alternatives for sponges, plastic wrap, cooking pans and toothbrushes. Consider her 31-day challenge at GoingZeroWaste.com/31-day-video-challenge. She notes, “Since I started working toward zero waste, I have more confidence, am able to speak up about less waste and am mindful when I shop.”  

A World View

In May, Johnson toured 16 countries in 17 days giving presentations. “Surprisingly, we often had to open another room because interest was higher than expected. In Russia, they broadcasted my talk to 17 cities,” she says.

Johnson learned that many countries have no waste collection or recycling programs. Plastic bottles, bags and trash litter many landscapes. “Life in the United States is different. Here, we have bigger houses, need more and create more waste. Elsewhere, grocery shopping is done daily instead of weekly, produce is local, seasonal and sustainable instead of imported,” she observes. “In a way, it’s easier to go zero waste there because they’re using just what they need. Everyone deserves a place to live and life’s necessities. Past that comfort level, it’s excess.”

Johnson sees rapid changes underway in consumer thinking and is hopeful looking forward. “I don’t want to tell others how to live. I just want to share our experiences. The United States’ example has a huge impact worldwide. Zero waste is the necessary lifestyle of the future, and it begins at home.”


Connect with the freelance writer via AveryMack@mindspring.com.

 

Fun Places to Start

roubicko/Shutterstock.com

• With the PaperKarma junk mail app, take a picture to unsubscribe from receiving bulky catalogs, credit card offers and unwanted paper mail.

Nike recycles worn-out sneakers, submitted pre-washed for odor removal, into Nike Grind, a material used to create athletic and playground surfaces and more.

• Students in K-12 schools across the continental U.S. and parts of Canada can collect and repurpose all brands of plastic markers, including dry-erase and highlighters. A minimum of 100 markers and up to 40 pounds is the suggested package. Crayola’s Colorcycle program provides prepaid FedEx shipping labels.

• Rubber bands can be donated to local schools or to the post office for mail carriers’ use.

Donate old cell phones to charities. Because it reduces the need for coltan, an African ore mined in endangered gorilla habitat, zoos in San Diego, Oklahoma City, Oakland and Cincinnati are among those collecting cell phones for recycling.

Listfully.org takes the guesswork out of gift giving. A user can select a date night at a favorite spot, a donation to charity or any item. It’s not limited to a particular store or occasion. Avoid unwanted gifts and the guilt of regifting.

• Use SwoondleSociety.com to swap children’s clothing and keep clothes out of landfills.

The most Earth-conscious option is to reduce, re-use, then recycle or donate to charities.


This article appears in the September 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Amare Mental Wellness Products Now Available in Milwaukee

Amare Global, a new company dedicated to creating a holistic mental wellness platform through products that support healthy gut-brain balance, now has a presence in the Milwaukee area.

Unity Center to Host StoweGood Concert

Unity Center in Milwaukee will host a concert by StoweGood, an award-winning duo from Nashville with a mission of “healing the world through music.”

Class for Nurturing Children During Family Transitions

The Center for Well-Being Lake Country welcomes Family Solutions of Wisconsin, which provides families in transition an alternative way to resolve co-parenting challenges. They will offer the class Honoring Your Children Through Family Transitions from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on November 13.

Simply Earth Opens Brick-and-Mortar Store

After four years of being an e-commerce business, Simply Earth, retailer of essential oils and accessories, will host the grand opening of its first physical location at Bayshore Town Center, in Glendale.

Ananda Healing Collective Embodies Collaboration, Community

After searching deeper and discovering how acupuncture enabled her body to heal from emotional childhood traumas, Aubrey Poglajen made the mind-body healing connection and embarked on a quest to heal others.

Wellness Team Grows at Natural Health Services

Jaide Stover, a certified clinical herbalist, yoga therapist and birth doula, is now accepting clients at Natural Health Services, on Milwaukee’s East Side.

Protecting the Immune System with Biological Dentistry

While modern dentistry can mend problems manifesting in the mouth, it doesn’t consider the mouth-body connection, even though there is substantial evidence showing an intimate relationship between dental health and overall health.

Letter from Publisher

Through awareness, education and action, we can all form healthy habits to protect our most vital, life-sustaining resource: water.

Eco-Packaging Progress Report

Creative new options include carry-out containers made of wood pulp, baked-goods wrapping paper infused with antibacterial spices, and cardboard made of mushroom roots.

Ease Repetitive Strain Injuries

Any movement we do repeatedly, such as typing at a screen or keyboard, can cause muscle strain and injury, but the right kind of exercises can lower our risk and repair damage.

Kristi Nelson on Why Gratefulness Brings Happiness

It’s not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy, counsels the head of the Network for Grateful Living.

Raw Fruit and Veggies Key to Mental Health

Eating raw fruit and vegetables correlated more with psychological well-being in young adults than eating canned, cooked or processed produce.

Add your comment: