Imagine being able to claim that you live a zero-waste lifestyle. What does that mean and how hard would it be? Is it really possible? In Amy Korst’s book “The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less,” she gives a blow by blow description of how to come very close to achieving this. In fact, she states, “What if I told you that you could go from an overflowing can perched on the curb each week to making less than five pounds of trash in a year? That taking the trash-free plunge would simplify your life, ease the strain on your pocketbook, and help the planet, all at the same time?”
Recently on a walk I discovered one of my neighbors picking through a huge load of trash left curbside on our street. She had unearthed a set of chef’s knives, among other things. Oh my goodness! It was hard to conceive of throwing those out; they could have been donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or given to friends or coworkers (donating items you no longer use is one way to just say no to the landfill). I’ve worked on paring down my waste stream since I’ve become more conscious of my contributions to the landfill, but I have a long way to go to get to zero. If this seems like an overwhelming idea to you, consider that the most important thing to do is start somewhere and choose something that seems manageable for you. For example, you might start buying food and cleaning products in bulk, purchasing used clothing or composting kitchen waste. Korst’s book is very inspiring with lots more suggestions to help you move in this direction. She has certainly motivated me to regroup and continue to take new measures to reduce my waste. If we all work collectively at this we can make a sizeable impact and stake our claim to living more sustainably.
In “Making Home: Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives to Settle in Place,” Sharon Astyk describes how she and her family arrived at the decision to live in a more sustainable manner: “We came to this project simply – we had little money but a strong desire for a good life for ourselves, for our children and for our extended family. We wanted to eat good food, drink clean water, breathe good air. We wanted a home and a place to call our own, a stable place where our kids could live and thrive. We wanted our children to grow up with family. We wanted elderly family to live well as long as they lived. We wanted relationships with good neighbors and reasonable comfort. We wanted to do as little harm to others as possible and have as happy a life as we could. Someone, we thought, had to model what a life with less that produced more could look like. Why not us?” This family has examined the systems in their lives that provide them with what they need (staying warm/cool, access to food and water, shelter, etc.) and figured out ways to provide for themselves using fewer resources while producing more of what they need on their own and by accessing community resources.
If you would like more inspirational models and other ideas on how to live sustainably, come by and take a look at the display on the 2nd floor of the Columbia Public Library. From January 12 to February 9 we’ll have lots of books on this and related topics including renewable energy resources, energy conservation, nature conservation and climate change.
Zero Waste Encouragement Patrol by Ajay Tallam via Flickr. Used under creative commons license.
Steung Meanchey Garbage Dump by Raphael Surber via Flickr. Used under creative commons license.