Log In Sign Up. Stefan Fernandez. Download pdf. Remember me on this computer. Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link. The first R refuse addresses the indirect type, the handouts and marketing materials that creep into our lives. Every bit we accept, or take, creates a demand to make more. In other words, compulsive accepting versus refusing condones and reinforces wasteful practices.
When we passively accept an advertising flyer, a tree is cut down somewhere to make more flyers, and our time is unwisely spent deal- ing with and recycling something that is trivial.
Single-use plastics SUPs : Disposable plastic bags, bottles, cups, lids, straws, and flatware. The intentional thirty-second use of a plastic product endorses toxic industrial processes; supports harmful chemi- cals leaching into our soil, food chain, and bodies; and subsidizes the manufacturing of materials that often do not or cannot get recycled and will never biodegrade. These products are the source of ocean pollution as found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and as seen daily around us, on roadsides, in our cities, and in parks and forests.
Freebies are primarily. Any man- ufactured or plastic product comes with a heavy carbon footprint and associated environmental costs. Their accumulation in the home also leads to clutter, storage, and disposal costs. Junk mail: Countless people transfer junk mail from a mailbox straight into the recycling without a second thought.
But this simple action has collective consequences that sustain the distribution of the billion pieces of junk mail sent each year. Junk mail contributes to deforesta- tion and uses precious energy resources to fabricate. For what? Essen- tially wasting our time and tax dollars. Unfor- tunately, it is impossible to completely eliminate it with the mailing options currently offered by the United States Postal Service.
As you will read in the pages ahead, I went to war against junk mail. I find it mind-boggling that I can block waste from entering my house but not my mailbox. Consumers can change wasteful processes if they let manufacturers and retailers know what they want. Of the 5 R s that we will cover in this chapter, you might find that refus- ing is the most difficult to achieve socially, especially for households with children.
Nobody wants to go against the grain or be rude when some- thing is offered with no ill will. But a little practice and short justifications make it easy for us to decline the politest entreaties. In some cases, we found that proactivity—such as taking our name off mailing lists before junk mail is sent out—works best. Refusing is not aimed at making us feel inadequate in social situations; it is intended to cause us to reflect on our everyday decisions, the indirect consumption in which we partake, and the power that we hold as a collec- tive community.
While the individual act of refusing does not actually make the waste disappear, it creates a demand for alternatives. Refusing is a con- cept based on the power of collectivity: if we all refuse hotel freebies, then they will no longer be offered; if we all refuse receipts, then they will no longer need to be printed.
And as a case in point, if you go into many retail stores e. Give refusing a try. The occa- sions are infinite. A couple of years ago, I was nominated for The Green Awards and the. The event was sponsored by Green Giant, which offered. I chose to bring my son Max and left with a plan to discreetly refuse without offending my generous host the probable swag bags and poten- tial award. Refusing the former was easy, but the following night, when my name echoed on the microphone, I accepted the glass globe, blinded by elation and spotlights no room for discreet refusal here.
He insisted on taking the trophy home anyway. But a couple of months later, as the excitement of winning faded, so did his attachment to the award. And so I did. He has not regretted it one moment, nor have I. The pic- tures taken that night, the memories that we share, and the meaningful. It seems that if you have little in life, you have little to worry about. If you have much, it seems you have much to lose.
Reducing is an immediate aid to our environmental crisis. Reducing also results in a simplified lifestyle that allows you to focus on quality versus quantity and experiences versus stuff.
It encourages ques- tioning the need and use of past, present, and future purchases. The things you own, you own because you need them. Here are three practices we have implemented to actively reduce in our home:.
Evaluate past consumption: Assess the true use and need for everything in the home and let go of the unnecessary through the process of paring down. Challenge yourself to consider letting go of things you always thought you had to have. For example through this process, we found out that we did not need a salad spinner. Through the process, we learn to restrain resource-depleting accumulation and choose repairable quality over disposable quantity.
It fosters collective generosity through sharing resources already consumed and increases used inventory therefore making it easier to buy used. Less means less to worry about, clean, store, repair, or dispose of later. Curb current and future consumption in amount and in size: Restrain- ing shopping activity new or used clearly conserves valuable re- sources.
It saves the resources needed to make new things and makes used items available to others. Areas to consider include: reducing packaging Can I buy in bulk instead? Can I buy a lesser amount maybe in a concentrated form? Is the amount or size fitted to my needs? Decrease activities that support or lead to consumption: Media expo- sure TV, magazines and leisure shopping can offer a great deal of inspiration; however, the targeted marketing that funds the former and the clever merchandising that promotes the latter tend to aim at mak- ing us feel unfit, uncool, and inadequate.
These feelings make it easy to succumb to temptations in order to satisfy perceived needs. Controlling our exposure can have a tremendous effect on not only our consump- tion but also our happiness.
Find satisfaction with what you already have. The practice of refusing is a pretty cut-and-dried matter. Simply say no. Reducing, in contrast, is a much more individual affair. You need to assess your comfort level given the realities of your family life, financial situation, and regional factors.
For instance, eliminating car usage is not possible for most people living in rural or semirural areas, considering the unavailability of public transport. What it stresses, above all, is being aware of current consumption habits and finding ways to reduce unsustainable ones. Among the many benefits that voluntary simplicity has to offer, some unforeseen advantages have emerged. When Scott quit his job to start a sustainable consulting practice in.
While thrift stores such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army can be a convenient way to initially let go, many other outlets exist and are often more appropriate for usable items. Here are some examples:. We could no longer fund the family vacations and get- aways that made life exciting, provided us mental respite from work, and offered a fresh view on our society.
We consoled ourselves by embracing. Downsizing had afforded. But at some point, we realized that these combined benefits allowed for one unexpected bonus: the occasional rental of our home. The first time. But our efforts were well rewarded: renting our home covered our flights and accommodations in France to visit my family and to immerse our kids in their second language. Making our house available. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.
Many people confuse the terms reuse and recycle , but they differ greatly in terms of conservation. Recycling is best defined as reprocessing a product. Reusing, on the other hand, is utilizing the product in its original manufactured form several times to maximize its usage and increase its useful life, therefore saving the resources otherwise lost through the process of recycling. I used to confuse conservation with squirreling away resources, associating Zero Waste with containers cluttering kitchen countertops.
But it does not need to be this way! Reusing can be simple and beautiful. Since refusing and reducing eliminate the unnecessary, abiding by the hierarchy of the 5 R s streamlines reusing. For example, plastic grocery bags can be repurposed for packing as an alternative to bubble wrap or for transporting muddy shoes.
But since they can also easily be refused,. Much the. How many reusable bags do I truly need? Reusing is the tipping point of Zero Waste: it addresses both consump- tion and conservation efforts and offers an ultimate diversion from dis- posal. It can effectively 1 eliminate wasteful consumption, 2 alleviate resource depletion, and 3 extend the useful life of the goods purchased.
Eliminate wasteful consumption: Reusables can eliminate the need for packaging and wasteful single-use products through:.
The practical chapters will focus on these further, but for starters, refer to the Basic Reus- ables Checklist on the next page. Alleviate resource depletion by:. Through borrowing, loaning, trad- ing, bartering, or renting peer to peer, we can maximize usage and even make a profit.
Examples include but are not limited to such items as cars RelayRides. Shopping should always start at these sites. Extend the useful life of necessities through:. Worn-out clothing can be used as rags before going to the landfill. Recycling is an aspirin, alleviating a rather large collective hangover overconsumption. These concerns include the fact that the broad system of recycling not only requires energy to process but also lacks regulations to guide and coordinate the efforts of manufacturers, municipalities, con- sumers, and recyclers.
Recycling currently depends on too many variables. For example, it relies on:. With every purchase, the entire life cycle of a product should be evalu- ated, including recyclability. Plastics are not only toxic to produce, con- sume off-gassing and leaching and recycle, but those that do get recycled generally numbers 1 and 2 degrade in the process, are made into non- recyclable products downcycled , and are therefore destined to end up in the landfill.
These products create confusion among conscientious consumers and those in the recycling industry, and often end up tainting the recycling stream. If the purpose of recycling is to close our waste loops responsibly, then the processes need to be simplified to support this goal.
The great news is that we consumers can greatly allay the concerns associated with recycling by applying the 5 R s in order. By the time we have refused what we do not need, reduced what we do need, and reused what we consume, little needs to be recycled—also simplifying the guesswork around recycling no need to find out whether a disposable cup is recycla- ble or not and decreasing the trips to the hard-to-recycle collection sites.
It does save energy, conserve natural resources, divert materials from landfills, and create a demand for recovered materi- als. Although it is a form of disposal, it provides a guide for making bet- ter purchases, based on the knowledge of what recycles best.
I would love to be able to write here that we have achieved close to Zero. Recycling in our home, but given the purchases that we made before embark- ing on the Zero Waste lifestyle and the current manufacturing practices in place, I have come to terms with the fact that it is not yet feasible just as absolute Zero Waste is not yet feasible. But the experiment made me ask questions and learn a lot about the process.
When we broke a couple of drinking glasses, I had to figure out how best to dispose of them: landfill or recycling? My searches on the Internet did not unanimously answer my questions and leaned toward sending them to the landfill, but I wanted to. For example: incandescent lightbulbs, mirrors, crystal, Pyrex, ceramics and photo paper are not recyclable at my curb. Some products with it are not recyclable, others without are recyclable.
A Zero Waste bathroom or bedroom does not require any. It took visiting two different recycling centers, contacting twenty-one people, and shipping pieces of broken glassware to my glass recycler tracking him down was not easy to find out that my drinking glasses were recyclable after all crystal ones are not, because they melt at a different temperature than most glass.
I am not suggesting that you too put your glass in the bin please first check with your local jurisdiction , but that you realize how complicated the system is, and reflect on the fact that for recycling to be successful, finding answers should be easy.
Until then, recycle when necessary, but look to the other R s first. And that is what I had with my first compost heap. Rotting describes the process of composting, which is simply the recycling of organic materials. At home, composting creates ideal conditions and speeds up the process for kitchen and yard waste to break down; therefore diverting waste from a landfill, where its natural decomposition would otherwise be inhibited and contrib- ute to air and soil contamination.
And considering that a third of house- hold waste is organic, composting makes complete sense in terms of waste reduction. I find composting satisfying. Composting is observable: you can put veggie scraps in a worm bin, witness the worms at work, watch them trans- form organic matter into nutrient-rich material, and use their tangible end product. On the other hand, the out- come of our plastic recycling is not.
When we send away an empty bottle of contact lens solution, does it later become a deck? A bench? A toothbrush? Or landfill? Definitely landfill in the end. I used to picture compost as icky, smelly, messy, complicated, and scientific. I have found that none of these notions proved true. As with recycling, I am not an expert on the subject—far from it. But my family easily embraced it and in terms of Zero Waste, it has made a real difference.
Rotting is a key component of this lifestyle, processing those items that cannot be refused, reduced, reused, or recycled. We choose compostable wooden mate- rials when metal or glass options are not available such as toothbrushes. We started with an open aerobic compost; we then added a worm composting bin; later, we adopted the city compost, letting go of our original open compost. And choosing a composting method can be overwhelming when faced with the multitude of options out there especially for the novice.
There is a system out there waiting to meet your needs. Choosing a compost type is as much a personal choice as it is a functional one. Here is what to take into consideration:. If you live in an apartment, your choices will be narrowed mainly by the particularities of your location. Based on the space that you have available, you might want a system that blends with your decor,. Sheet and trench composting, for example,. But some can also process meat, dairy, and bones, which can be.
Choose your system accordingly. Note that if your system delivers more end product than needed, you can donate it to gardening clubs or friends or post it for free on Craigslist. But if you want to keep the process carefree, some systems make this science optional see.