April is Zero Waste Month! At least in our home. And since I don’t want to talk about the awful outcome of my perm, I’ll steer toward something more uplifting.
I first read about the notion of zero waste around October of 2012 here. In its most basic sense, it means not purchasing or using anything that produces unnecessary waste. The principles are Refuse (anything wasteful or unnecessary coming into the home), Reduce (consumption, packaging, etc), Reuse (containers etc), Recycle (as a fourth option only after refusing, reducing and reusing), and Rot (any food waste leftover).
Within moments of stumbling on this philisophy, I knew it was something I wanted to try. And then 6 months went by. And then 6 more. And then 6 more. Every time before we grocery shopped, we vowed to try it. But then we (ahem, James?) made excuses for not making it happen. Our neighborhood grocery store sold nothing in bulk. We had great options for fresh produce without packaging but little else. One of our first attempts (complete with lots of packaging) is below. While there were many options for bulk purchase in the metro area, we were reluctant to drive across town to make it happen.
It was April of a year ago that I decided to finally make a concerted effort to try living without producing any garbage. After the initial six months of procrastination, James and I headed out to an organic market, which is now in our current neighborhood. We even ordered bulk reusable shopping bags (and yes, they arrived via a large, fossil fuel-burning delivery truck, probably in an oversized box with unnecessary packaging, but was a start.) I was pleased to find that the bulk bags available at the market were also made of compostable cellulose. And some of the bulk items which came pre-weighed and packaged were also made from a compostable product. Phew! I had almost thought I wasn’t going to eat sweetened dried cranberries for that month.
We were largely successful in that first shopping mission. We ended buying almost all of our produce without packaging, and then purchased only a few items in biodegradable or reusable packaging. We bought yogurt in a recyclable container (Whole Foods has a special collection for them because they aren’t collected by the city but it really is a fair question whether we will save the tubs and transport them for recycling) and our bread unfortunately had a regular plastic bag. However, we were successful in finally buying milk in those lovely old-fashioned returnable bottles. I remember my dad purchasing soda in returnable glass as a child (am I aging myself?). I thought those days were long gone, but it seems glass bottles returned for deposit (at least for dairy products) are inching their way back into stores.
On that fateful day one year ago after our shopping trip, we were feeling incredibly virtuous unpacking the car, when one of our beautiful glass milk jugs became a casualty, right there on the pavement, milk all over James’ pants and shoes and glass all over the ground. I wanted to document it on my phone, but James felt so bad about dropping my milk jug that I didn’t want to rub it in.
James left for a work trip shortly after and I fell off the wagon on my zero waste efforts. Bulk bean preparation for one hardly sounded convenient.
So, here we are one year later, and we are going to try it all over again, this time with a baby. Over the next month I’m going to document what it means to be zero waste and just how feasible it is for our family of four (including Wallie who is quite the consumer of 50 lb. bags of kibble since we haven’t yet explored bulk dog food).
I love the idea of zero waste and the feeling of simplicity that it evokes. However, there seem to be some significant hurdles, namely food preparation. Is anyone else out there following a Zero Waste lifestyle? If you are feeling adventurous, please join us for April!