Zero Waste: Small Steps toward BIG Impact

“By accepting responsibility, we take effective steps toward our goal: an inclusive human society on a habitable planet, a society that works for all humans and for all nonhumans. By accepting responsibility, we move closer to creating a world that works for all.” – Sharif M. Abdullah

Accepting responsibility.

Olivia Grove – Project Green Challenge 2016 Contestant 

When it comes to our trash, we often feel relieved once we dispose of our paper coffee cups, our plastic bagel wrap, and our newspapers on a daily basis. It soon becomes out of sight, out of mind for many of us. However, I believe it’s time to start accepting responsibility for the trash we create on a daily basis. It’s time to be mindful of everything we throw away. The average person in the United States generates over 4 pounds of trash every day and about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year ( Brands like ©Klean Kanteen can help to reduce single-use items such as coffee cups, water bottles, to-go containers, and even growlers! They were the first company to introduce stainless steel, BPA-free water bottles in 2004, and they are a certified B Corporation.

Co-Brand Growlers from Klean

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Over the last year, I have started to transition to a zero waste lifestyle. I did countless hours of research, browsing through DIY recipes, product alternatives, and stories from other people across the country who are simplifying their life and creating less waste. I soon began making my own deodorant, toothpaste, laundry soap, and cleaning products. I found myself feeling better physically, my house felt cleaner, and my bathroom stockpile (makeup, lotions, etc.) was reduced down from several cabinets to a single drawer!


(This green goop is actually my deodorant! It’s made from green clay, coconut oil, arrowroot powder, and essential oils. I’m almost out, need to make more! Link to recipe: )

I started taking more and more steps toward this lifestyle. I got a worm composting bin that eats my fruit and veggie scraps. Did you know? We generate 21.5 million tons of food waste each year. If we composted that food, it would reduce the same amount of greenhouse gas as taking 2 million cars off the road! ( I started riding my bike everywhere. I buy as much as I possibly can from bulk bins with my mason jars. My main food source is fresh fruits and veggies bought without packaging. My toilet paper is recycled. I cut out single-use items completely. This lifestyle makes me happy! I feel like I’m making a difference every day, and that’s ultimately what I want. I find happiness in the simple way that I consume and live, and encourage others to do so too! Lauren Singer from has been a huge inspiration for me. She lives her life in a way that is meaningful to her by creating zero waste (three year’s worth of trash in a mason jar!) and inspires thousands to try to do the same. What a rad gal!

Lauren Singer can fit all the trash she's produced in three years into a jam jar. At TEDxTeen, she explains what has inspired her mission to produce as little trash as possible -- or no trash at al...:

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One of the biggest lessons I learned (and am still working on) is to take responsibility for every piece of trash that comes into my life. I think it’s important to do so on this journey to zero waste. I have learned so much about myself on this path to simplifying my life and producing less waste. There are four “deeper” ways in which I can live this lifestyle:

  1. Refusing single-use straws at restaurants. I will need to start asking for beverages without straws as soon as the server comes to the table. Sometimes it’s common practice to give tables straws with their drinks.
  2. Making my own taco seasoning! I purchase the packets of taco seasoning that often have a waxy coating on the inside, making them non-recyclable.
  3. Make my own bread. I usually buy bread from the store in the plastic wrap, and I think baking my own bread every week would save me money and I will use less plastic!
  4. Filling up growlers instead of buying beer in single bottles. This is a waste-free way to drink that will reduce my glass waste and save me money!


Experience from Day 3: Zero Waste – Greener Challenge


For Day 3 of Project Green Challenge, I carried all of my trash that I produced yesterday in a mason jar. I collected dry trash in one mason, and food scraps in another. After separating all of my trash, I found that most of trash is compostable food scraps, which I will feed to my composting worms at the end of today! My non-recyclable, non-compostable trash consisted of tin foil that I used to roast veggies, a taco seasoning packet, plastic packaging on an olive oil bottle, and a plastic bagel bag. I will be reusing my bagel bag to wrap sandwiches, fruit and vegetables, and leftovers in my fridge! As I traveled around with my waste jar yesterday, I got a lot of positive comments from people I talked to. A cashier at a store I went to said, “Physically holding my trash throughout my day will probably make me think much more about the trash I produce every day.” A fellow classmate asked, “Do you think you’ll fill the whole jar today?” The TA for my geography class said, “I probably make six of those mason jars full every day, sometimes more,” to which I wholeheartedly suggested he carry his trash around for 24 hours to see just how much he produces.

Doing this challenge made me realize that there are still several small things that I need to start making myself or stop using. I’m going to start making my own taco seasoning. I usually buy the packets of seasoning, but they are non-recyclable and non-compostable because of the waxy coating on the inside! It’s all too easy to make a giant jar of taco seasoning instead of buying small packets at a time. I am also going to try to start buying bagels in a bag that I can bring myself. My roommates and I eat a lot of bagels, but we far too often have excess plastic bagel bags to reuse. I am also going to start categorizing my trash every week to see exactly what I am producing and try to think of ways I can avoid producing waste!

I am not sponsored by any of the linked affiliates, they are purely for educational use