Zero waste as a concept
Zero waste is about more than materials and technology, said Jean Cacicedo, a textile artist, teacher, and lecturer. It’s about a shift in consciousness. We can all learn to question what we need, added
Christine Liu, an IT analyst driving sustainability at Cisco and founder of Packageless, and “learn to refuse.” Being aware of how our consumption affects the planet and where things are ending up can help us become more conscious and intentional about what we do consume
The good news? Humans are adaptable. So Carter Hallock, founder of Rethink Green, which creates valuable products from waste carpet, is hopeful that we may see a generational shift in thinking about our consumption and our waste.
Leading by example
Another method is to show people the difference they can make by changing their behaviors. This works at her office, said Christine. For example, she let people there know that if every employee stopped using disposable cups for a year, they’d save a whole tree.
Of course, even the best-intentioned of us encounter difficulties when trying to do the right thing. None of us would know how to drive, said James W. Kao, founder of electronics recycler GreenCitizen, if driving required as much knowledge as we need to recycle correctly!
That’s true even for a motivated group like the audience at our event.
What we can each do now
We also need action at the policy level. As an example, a local grocery bag policy changed the behavior of Beth’s dad. She never thought he’d carry a reusable bag — but he did it to avoid paying the extra 10 cents.
Bags again serve as a good example. We can simply avoid using bags for our produce, or use reusable bags. When using compostable bags, be sure to look for a compost certification. We can let stores know that bringing reusable containers for bulk items is important to us. Beth emphasized that talking with our dollars isn’t enough, unless we let companies know why we’re buying or not buying items.
Clothing is another area where we can make a difference. We could fill 1500 MUNI buses a year with the clothes people throw out, said Jean. We can do more in this area than reduce our consumption. It’s also important to know what to buy. Bamboo, for example, is not really a natural fabric, and its production creates toxic byproducts. Instead, we can choose organic cotton or hemp.
Zero waste and recycling life hacks
But we didn’t have all day, so Lisa Ann rounded out the morning by asking the panelists to share a life hack for recycling or living a zero-waste life. Her own is to take one of those very thin paper towels you find in public bathrooms and fold it a few times — you’ll find that it’s enough to dry your hands!
The panelists’ life hacks:
- James: Just buy less!
- Janelle: Save the used paper towel for later use to wipe off your desk. Cut up those little air bags that come with packaging, and use them for storing things.
- Christine: Buy less! (Do you detect a theme here?) And connect with others who are also trying — like the Zero Waste Heroes Facebook group and the Zero Waste Bloggers Network.
- Carter: Keep the people around you happy.
- Beth: Check out her book, Plastic Free, and Bea Johnson’s new app, Bulk. To choose your wine by cork type, try Corkwatch, which will tell you which wines use a natural cork.
- Jean: Less is more — have fun with that.
What will you do to reduce waste in your life? Share your ideas and life hacks in the comments section below!