Today, as part of the no impact experiment, I was asked to make changes regarding the way I transport myself. This part of the challenge was easy for me because I already walk or take mass transit most of the places I go so I didn't feel a need to change anything. But I find myself still struggling with the whole idea of not creating trash.
Yesterday's New York Times had an article called "Nudging Recycling from Less Waste to None"
which talked about how the zero waste philosophy is moving from the the fringes to mainstream with the simple concept of producing less waste. The article talked about how some communities, restaurants, and schools are composting food waste on a large scale basis and others are reducing the amount of trash they send to a landfill with their recycling efforts. I see these efforts as an attempt to reduce the back end of the waste stream. To figure out the best way to handle trash once you have made it.
But what about the front end of the stream? To not allow trash to enter our lives to begin with? To not only reduce our purchases, but to also avoid disposable cups or napkins and to reduce the packaging food comes in. Given how things are currently being done with the proliferation of disposable items constantly being thrust into your hands through out the day, it is easy to forget that every disposable item you touch needs to end up somewhere and many times that somewhere is a landfill.
Thinking about how to reduce the front end of the stream is where I lack awareness, yet if I placed my focus on making changes in this area, ultimately there would be less of my waste to deal with at the back end of the waste stream. Below is the trash I encountered yesterday and the changes I could have made to reduce it:
1) Instead of using a Starbucks disposable cup and food wrapper, I could have brought my mug or used their real mugs. I could have brought a cloth napkin to place my bakery item on. Starbucks gives you a .10 cent credit for using your own mug and your own insulated mug keeps your coffee warmer longer than their thin paper cups.
2) Instead of picking up the museum brochure, I could have looked at it online ahead of time or used it while at the museum but made sure to give it back at the end of my visit for reuse.
3) Instead of using paper napkins at the restaurant, I could have brought my own cloth napkin.
4) Instead of gum wrappers, I could have passed on the gum purchase.
5) Instead of having a drink from a disposable plastic bottle, I could have brought my own metal reusable water bottle or used a water fountain (if you can find one anymore).
6) Instead of making dinner using items with lots of packaging, I could have looked for ways to buy in bulk to reduce trash.
I pretty much have failed the trash part of the No Impact Experiment so far. I think I tried to reduce my trash on the front side of the waste stream on Sunday and Monday, then got frustrated yesterday and went back to my old ways. Kinda like going on a diet and realizing it isn't much fun. While I do a great job of handling the back end of the waste stream through recycling, I feel determined to change what I bring into the waste stream to begin with.
So much of our country's emphasis is on recycling after we have consumed. There is a concern if we were to reduce consumption, that the economy would be negatively impacted. This is a backwards way of looking at things. To say, "Lets just keep on using up the earth's resources so that our economy will hum along" A sinking ship bails water to stay afloat, we need to bail on the consumption so that the earth can continue to support us.