What is Zero-Waste?

Refuse, Reuse, Recycle

I use the term zero waste often. It is a daily goal in my household, a goal we work for every day.  Everything we purchase has an impact on our environment from our use of materials and natural resources to the emissions created for manufacturing. Then there is the end of life of a product. Will it sit in a landfill for 500 years polluting the ground and air surrounding it, can it be reused many times, or can it be turned into a new product?

Manufacturing, landfills, garbage burning, and hazardous waste contribute enormously to our warming planet. We need to take all our trash and waste seriously. Remember food waste is waste too!

Unfortunately, we have a long way to go to reach a zero-waste future.  Walking through a grocery or drugstore highlights how far we still have to go. Almost everything is packaged in plastic. Plastic that can’t be recycled!  As consumers we can try to purchase products with a minimum of packaging or refuse to purchase them completely. I often call manufacturers like Field Roast, Morningstar and Bob’s Redmill to request they start to use recyclable packaging.  Currently, in the United States only 9 to 10% of our plastic is recycled. We have a long way to go and need to begin to hold producers of plastic responsible so they produce packaging that can be recycled or reused.

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” is how we need to live. Every product we purchase affects our environment; So, before you buy, ask yourself if you really need it? If you do, consider buying gently used instead of new, and look for minimal packaging and shipping.

My county, Hennepin, is creating plans for a zero-waste future:

Hennepin County’s zero-waste vision is a waste management system where all materials are designed to become resources for others to use to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. The key performance measure is diverting 90% or more of all discarded materials from landfills and incinerators.” Hennepin County

Zero waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. The goal is for no trash to be sent to landfills, incinerators or the ocean. Currently, only 9% of plastic is actually recycled. In a zero waste system, material will be reused until the optimum level of consumption.” The definition adopted by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA)

Watch The Story of Stuff and learn more about the zero waste movement.

In the United States 30% of our food is wasted. A huge waste of energy, labor and resources. https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste

This is excellent! https://www.ecowatch.com/how-to-store-produce.html

3 Sustainable Choices

A new year, new habits!

“Small acts when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world!” Greenpeace

The new year has arrived, and we all have the best intentions to have a fresh beginning. With all the uncertainty and discord around us, focusing on something bigger than ourselves helps to rise above all the confusion. Choose to do things that are fun and make you feel better about your place in society.

New goals and new ideas help stimulate new interests and are good for our mental health.  First of all, don’t worry about being perfect, just do something different. No one is perfect, but if everyone does something it adds up to big things for us and our community.

Millions of people around the world have been harmed by storms and our warming world during the past year. With all the harm humans have done to our planet the last hundreds of years, our warming Earth is struggling to find some equilibrium, and we can all lessen our negative impact. By reducing our consumption of the Earth’s resources, we can help our corner of the world and make a big difference. My ideas are to help you think of ways you can make a positive difference and hopefully have fun!

Every day my household works on three big things to reduce our consumption of the Earth’s resources:

Reduce meat consumption

1. Cutting meat consumption and always celebrating meatless Mondays. There are so many meatless options in the frozen food section of grocery stores it can be easy and fun. The hard part is finding meatless options without increasing plastic pollution. Here are some ideas to get you started. Vegan Recipes To Help You Eat Less Meat : Life Kit : NPR  

Quick & Easy Vegetarian Recipes | EatingWell

Vegan Recipes To Help You Eat Less Meat : Life Kit : NPR 

How is plastic in our food affecting our health?

2. Reducing plastic is paramount.  Plastic creates waste and litter, it contributes to climate change, pollutes our water and is harmful to wildlife.  It is concerning how plastic affects our health and what it’s impacts might be for us. We have a lot to learn about how plastic is harming our health. Please reduce your consumption of plastic. Start by using reusable bags, cups and bottles, and then you will slowly learn new ways to reduce plastic in your environment. So much plastic can’t be recycled, but if you must purchase items in plastic, make sure it can be recycled.

Irritable bowel syndrome linked to more microplastics in gut (nypost.com)

end food waste

30 to 40% of food in the USA is wasted!

3. Reduce Food waste.  Food waste is a total waste of water, labor, time and energy. First start with your shopping, don’t buy more than you can use. Buying in bulk is a good way to regulate how much you purchase (bulk can reduce plastic waste also). Second, staying on top of what items are in your refrigerator/freezer is extremely important. Maybe have an “eat first shelf.” I keep a container in my refrigerator to accumulate celery tops and other vegetable scraps for weekly soup making or stir fry.  Finally, turning leftovers into a new meal is one of the best things about cooking. Make it fun and challenging! Wraps and rice bowls are winners!

How to Reduce Food Waste | Sierra Club

Below are many ways you can help our planet and also your soul:

Opinion | 10 New Year’s Resolutions That Are Good for the Soul – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

7 Ways to Make 2022 More Sustainable – Plastic Free Home – Environmental and Zero Waste Blog (theplasticfreehome.com)  

13 sustainable choices for your green life | Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (state.mn.us)  

3 eye-opening, science-based New Year’s resolutions that could help everyone | PBS NewsHour

12 Ways to Live More Sustainably (biologicaldiversity.org)

Holiday Sustainability

“We have the choice to use the gift of our life to make the world a better place–or not to bother” Jane Goodall


Our actions and daily choices speak to the world we want to create. This holiday, we can choose to make friendly choices for our planet. Instead of buying new decorations use what you have and follow these simple steps to make your decorations, gifts, and gatherings more sustainable: Seven tips for an earth-friendly holiday season (worldwildlife.org)

Look at the materials gifts are made from and keep sustainability in mind. Use paper products made from recycled materials and avoid single-use plastics that can’t be recycled. Buying secondhand items like vintage clothes, furniture, and refurbished technology is another great way to gift more sustainably.

Look for cards and wrapping paper made from recycled materials. Avoid foil-backed cards or those with **glitter—which aren’t recyclable.

ban glitter

Glitter is a microplastic!

** Reasons to avoid glitter:

A few facts about glitter will surprise you!

  • Glitter is made of a microplastic known as Mylar, which is hurting ocean life
  • This plastic accounts for 92.4% of the 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean
  • Marine life is mistaking glitter for food, which is damaging their livers
  • Every tiny sparkly bit takes thousands of years to break down

Seven tips for an earth-friendly holiday season (worldwildlife.org)

5 Changes to Make Your Holiday Celebrations More Sustainable (thespruce.com) 

3 Major UK Retailers Are Banning Glitter This Christmas Over Environmental Concerns – EcoWatch

Happy Thanksgiving!

Plan For Leftovers

In my meetings some are wondering what big thing they can do to stop climate change. I think many people doing lots of little things to help our planet amount to a lot! We can all make a difference by buying less and wasting less. Thank you!

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (Source: EPA)

end food waste

Enjoy your leftovers!

Make a plan for your holiday left over food. What do you generally do  with left over food? 40% of the food  in the United States is not eaten, and ends up in our landfills causing an enormous waste of our precious resources. Wasting food is an enormous waste of water, money, time, labor, energy and transportation.  The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has an incredible education campaign to inform the public how much we are wasting.  For example the production of one egg takes 55 gallons of water! Their website is savethefood.com

Not only does wasting food, waste valuable resources and lots of water, but also food in our landfills decomposes creating and giving off methane gas which is a harmful air pollutant contributing to global warming

So let’s get creative and “Save the Food.” One of my favorite cooking activities is to reinvent leftovers into a new lunch or dinner stir fry, soup, tacos, enchiladas, salads, fried rice, quinoa bowls and many other things lend themselves to create special meals of leftover food.

Have a fun holiday, and make a creative difference by reusing, planning, seriously cutting waste, and saving food from the garbage!

The story of a strawberry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WREXBUZBrS8

I am thankful for all the medical workers and teachers who have worked so hard during this pandemic! Thank you

Reuse on America Recycles Day

November 15, is America Recycles Day.  After so many years I am still surprised how hard it is to recycle in the United States. In my travels across America I can go weeks without seeing a recycle bin. In Europe often recycling is front and center, not perfect but it is seems a priority.

I have been surprised to learn this doesn’t always mean the product is recyclable????

Unfortunately it is still very hard to recycle plastic correctly in America. Paper/cardboard, glass and metal cans work well, but plastic, please read on.

Plastic recycling is very challenging. There is very little regulation of plastic in the United States. Plastic producers claim recycling is the answer to their products, but they don’t want any responsibility to pay for recycling or disposal of their products. They often they say their plastic is recyclable, when in fact it might be just one per cent recyclable or not at all.

Why is plastic recycling so hard? First there are those recycle 1-7 numbers. For something to be recycled it first needs to be collected, and then sorted into those  numbers. Next, it needs a market, or someone to buy it. All this makes plastic recycling expensive for communities (tax payers) and it is labor intensive.

 I am fortunate to live in a county (Hennepin) that makes this a priority, and I can’t express my gratitude to them enough!

Both Maine and Oregon have passed legislation to hold producers responsible for recycling and disposing of their products. This is a beginning and it is hopeful that more regulation of plastic could happen. As consumers we also have responsibility, when we purchase plastic we reinforce the idea that this is OK, and more of it is produced. The plastic chemical companies are gearing up to produce more plastic for the future, lets work to hold them accountable! Talk to your elected officials about how plastic producers should be held responsible for what happens to long lived plastics after disposal. Manufacturers also need more integrity in labeling what is in their plastic products.

On America Recycles Day recycle more of your paper/cardboard, glass and tin cans, and recycle plastic bottles and containers, but also begin to REDUCE your PLASTIC consumption.  Always bring your reusable cups/bottles, and bags for a start.

Big new goals on America Recycles Day https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/581578-epa-issues-national-recyling-plan-with-goal-of-50-percent-recycling

Make it a plastic-free day!

buy in bulk

Buying in bulk and refilling your bottles is the next step in reducing plastic.

Reading and watching list:

Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works. – The New York Times (nytimes.com) 

John Oliver Takes on the Plastics Industry – EcoWatch

California Just Passed 5 Mega Laws to Fight the Plastic Crisis – EcoWatch 

Plastics recycling is 90 percent garbage, John Oliver says, but that’s not your fault and there is a fix (yahoo.com) 

Watch Story of the Bottle! – Greenpeace

Virginia Governor Takes Action on Single-Use Plastics – EcoWatchBreak Free From Plastic Pollution Act Receives National Support – Center for Biological Diversity

New November

Climate Month

Thousands of years ago the Celtics celebrated November 1, as the New Year. This year in November the world climate summit is happening in Glascow. As New November converges with the climate summit lets create new positive goals to reduce our use of fossil fuels. Let’s all work together to make a difference for the earth.

Have fun reducing your carbon footprint.

The Actions For Happiness calendar below is about doing something new, perfect for setting new goals. You know what works for you and your household. Maybe you can reduce food waste or reduce the plastic that comes into your home. Maybe try back yard or drop-off composting or bring reusable bags shopping. Each one of us knows something positive we can do to make a impact. Good Luck.

This November we don’t know what will happen in Glascow, Scotland, but each one of us can make a difference. Every action counts. Lets focus our energy on making a healthy world for everyone! If everyone does a little, it adds up to a lot! What are some New November ideas you are excited to try?

Happy New November!

 

The Cost of Bottled Water

We are at the end of World Clean Up Month. As we pick up trash and works to keep our Earth clean, I always wonder, “What can we all do to keep the Earth cleaner and healthier?”

Bring your reusable water container.

reusable containers

My reuseable lunch containers

Today I walked by a car that had it’s back seat full of bottled water, and too often I see people with grocery carts full of bottled water. Why not purchase a large reusable container and fill that at a store? You could save hundreds of plastic bottles from ending in the landfill and live a more sustainable life.

I have confidence in our public water supply. I know where I live it is safe!

What are the costs of bottles water to our environment? A study done in Spain answers this question. Recycling and water in every community is different so we can’t make big generalizations, but in the United States recycling of plastic is only 9 tp 11% which makes bottled water awful for the environment. Also, the production of plastic uses fossil fuels and pollutes our air.

The study found that the environmental toll of bottled water was 1,400 to 3,500 times higher than that of tap water.

Another problem with bottled water is that companies like Nestle take free public water from aquifers to bottle and sell to the public. This is happening on Lake Superior right now (Lake Superior is not for sale). What a racket! Maine has passed a law to make companies responsible for recycling their products instead of the taxpayers. Read about it here Maine Will Make Companies Pay for Recycling. Here’s How It Works. – The New York Times (nytimes.com) 

Read the Spain study here:

What Is the Environmental Cost of Bottled Water? – EcoWatch  

https://www.lakesuperiornotforsale.com/home

https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/blog/2021/9/10/watch-story-of-plastic Watch the excellent documentary, The Story of Plastic.

Make it Plastic Free

The best time to start Plastic Free July was on July 1, but the second best time is today. Become aware of the plastic you use everyday all year! Plastic Free July is a world wide movement to become aware of the amount of plastic we use in our lives. It is about finding alternatives to the tons of plastic the world uses everyday. We are filling our bodies, our oceans, rivers and land with plastic. Plastic that will survive hundreds of years. Reducing our single-use consumption can make a big difference.

Reuse and Refuse plastic!

So what are single use plastics? Single-use plastics are items meant to be trashed after use. Single-use plastics are used for packaging and items such as bottles, wrappers, straws, and bags.

Survey your garbage, what plastic does it contain? Can you recycle any of it? What does it tell you about your choices and purchases? What plastic items do you think you could do without? Is there someway you can have less plastic garbage?

Don’t try to go plastic free to start, it’s close to impossible in the world we are living, but awareness and one item at a time is success!

July is plastic-free month

“Please, No straw!”

What is one plastic item you can give up? Baggies? Produce bags? Bottled water? Plastic straws? Plastic utensils? Styrofoam? For the next two weeks, don’t purchase or use that item. Hopefully, you can live without that product, and then choose another plastic item you can also end using. Keep it simple, don’t try to do too much. Simple steps will lead to more success and less frustration. There is nothing easy reducing plastic in our plastic world. Good luck as you begin a new journey of more sustainable and healthy living.

reuse

Reusable cloth produce bags

Ask me if you need help, I have been on this plastic free journey for years, and constantly learn new ways to reduce plastic. It is rewarding to know you have lightened your plastic footprint. Good luck!

Model a new way forward: “When we use disposable items, we send a message: this is what we want, keep it up, make more of this. When we refuse, and choose reusable, we model another way forward. Our choices can make a difference. Let’s make them count!” PlasticfreeTuesday 

Many ideas to reduce plastic use:

How to Get Rid of Throwaway Culture – YES! Magazine (yesmagazine.org)

Getting started – Plastic Free JulyGetting started – Plastic Free July 

Plastic Free July – Be Part of the Solution   

New Zealand to Ban Most Single-Use Plastics by 2025 – EcoWatch

Here’s What Happens When You Eat From Plastic Containers – EcoWatch 

How Plant-Based Packaging Can Solve the Plastic Crisis – Business and Tech (futureofbusinessandtech.com)  


The Story of Plastic (animated short) – Story of Stuff

Pandemic pollution: Disposable masks, gloves are saving lives but ruining the environment | PBS NewsHour

Seven ways to go plastic free for Plastic Free July – Greenpeace Aotearoa

Norwex Movement  10 ways to be plastic-free

It’s Earth Month

Welcome to spring and the marvelous month of April. Earth Day is on April 22, and Arbor Day is on April 30. What can we all do to make April special? Small actions by many can make a big difference. So how can we all make a daily difference? Whether you have meatless days, pick up litter, leave your car at home, plant for butterflies or go plastic-free, make everyday Earth special.

earth day

Everyday Is Earth Day

By Kelly Roper

Every day is earth day,
Or at least it should be.
We should take steps every day
to save our planet, don’t you agree?

Try walking when it’s practical,
And skip driving a car.
It will help cut down emissions
And raise air quality by far.

Reuse, renew, recycle,
Think of how much you throw away.
Our earth can only hold so much trash,
One day there’ll be the devil to pay.

And when it comes to littering,
It’s not enough to clean up after yourself.
Leave places better than you find them,
And pick up litter left by someone else.

Don’t spray your garden with pesticides,
Protect the birds and the bees.
Choose natural ways of deterring pests,
That won’t carry poisons in the breeze.

These are easy things we all can do,
To protect the earth for future generations.
If we continue to ignore all the warning signs,
We’ll face sad and irreversible ramifications.

Actions for Happiness Calendar for April follows:

milkweed
A monarch butterfly on common milkweed

 

Reading List:

Facts about trees 

Climate Activist Spends More Than Year Picking Up Trash – EcoWatch     

U.S. lawmakers target plastic pollution, producers in new legislation | Reuters

Butterfly: A Life | National Geographic – Bing video

How to Attract Butterflies (joyfulbutterfly.com)

Butterfly Plants: 16 Plants To Turn Your Backyard Into A Butterfly Paradise (bloomingbackyard.com) 

Water: How to Stop Undervaluing a Precious Resource and Be Ready for the Future – EcoWatch