Introduction to Waste Reduction

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“You are ‘of’.  You are ‘with’.  You’ve become the river.  You’ve become the sky.  You’ve become the forest.”  ~ Pavini Moray

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There has been a recent push in the zeitgeist of social issues to eliminate plastic use.  I won’t dive into all the details, but essentially – we first created plastic to replace other materials (ivory, yikes! timber! metal!) and it revolutionized the world – plastic has many benefits and we wouldn’t have some of the great modern inventions without it.  But we are now drowning in plastic.  It is killing us and choking out wildlife.  Marine wildlife get entangled in plastic, wounded by plastic, and starve to death because their stomach is full of plastic.  According to the Guardian, up to 90% of seabirds have plastic in their guts. If you would like to read more about this problem, this is a great primer on the plastic problem and its implications on wildlife.

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Plastic in our Oceans:

Let’s get this out of the way before we talk about single-use plastic: the MAJORITY of plastic in the ocean comes from commercial fishing nets.  It doesn’t matter if you replace 1 billion plastic straws with metal straws, if you eat fish, you are contributing to the biggest polluter of the ocean.  A recent study of the “great Pacific garbage patch”, an area of plastic accumulation in the north Pacific, estimated that it contained 42,000 tons of megaplastics, of which 86% was fishing nets.  It all comes back to fish consumption.  Outside of eliminating your fish consumption, you can reduce plastic waste through careful planning, which we will go into later.

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How Do We Fix It?:

In general, I have come to understand that we can’t buy ourselves out of the problems we are in.  We caused planetary harm from buying things.  Instead, we must look to relationship, stewardship, and community as the antidote to a commodified world.  Re-kindling the human connection to place, understanding our own intuition, slowing down, aligning with the earth.  We must find a way back into the web of life.  We all have a responsibility to our earth and to those humans and animals around us.  By focusing on this responsibility, we can act in accordance with our value system.

Veganism and zero-waste go hand in hand.  Much like reducing meat and dairy consumption, choosing a low-waste lifestyle aims to preserve and hopefully restore what is left of our drained and exhausted planet.  Zero waste focuses on minimizing household trash as a way to reduce one’s own environmental footprint.  The underlying theme is not perfection, but endeavor.  There is no one-size-fits-all solution, no right or wrong.  Each and every one of us is different!  We come in different shapes and sizes, might face different challenges, responsibilities, have different medical conditions, resources, and access to a different infrastructure.  We also have different personalities and different things we are good and bad at.

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In the next few weeks, I’m going to highlight the ways we can reduce plastic in our lives.  I have asked several friends to share their sustainability choices with you – look forward to that!  These friends live in different cities, have different lives, different jobs, and they approach sustainability in different ways!  I’m so excited to share their tips and stories with you.  But first, I’m going to start out by sharing my own foray into reducing waste – flaws, missteps, concerns and all!  

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More Resources: 

Here are some great documentaries about the issue, if you really want to torture yourself learn more about this issue:

    • A Plastic Ocean – A documentary by Netflix that investigates plastic pollution environmental impact
    • Plastic Paradise – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – documentary talking about a large island in the Pacific that has become an enormous garbage dump 
    • Straw – A short documentary that reviews the history of drinking straws and addresses the present-day issues
    • Bag It – A documentary that focuses on the world’s overuse of plastic bags and other plastic items

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