photo by Pink Sherbet Photography
This is the last week of the Spring Greening Series and it’s time to take a look outside our individual worlds and into improving the health of the great wide world we all call home.
Of course the green changes we make in our own homes and families do make an impact on the world at large, but too often it’s easy to have tunnel vision and only see how making the switch to green(er) living impacts us as individuals.
photo by Steve Snodgrass
A big contributor to that tunnel vision is recycling. Now don’t get me wrong, recycling is a good thing. We recycle in our own home–egg cartons, milk jugs, cardboard, plastic containers, glass jars, paper, etc., etc. It’s pretty common place for most households to recycle what waste they can, much of it from food packaging. The problem arises when that’s the only thing we do. Most of us (including myself at times) forget the other two Rs–Reduce and Reuse.
There’s another term out there that you may have heard as well: Zero Waste. And it means exactly what you think–living waste-free. I first came across this philosophy when I read about The Johnson family at Sunset magazine. I couldn’t believe what I was reading–how presumptuous, they must be rich to afford buying groceries the way they do, that’s taking the green thing way too far–these were all thoughts running through my mind as I read about their aspirations to be a zero-waste home, which including taking jars to bring their meat and cheese home, and some serious decluttering.
But you know what? That response was really just a defense of my own family’s attachment to stuff. As a society, we often let ourselves off the hook when it comes to taking care of our planet–especially when we’re already “doing our part” by recycling or taking reusable bags to the grocery store (which we’re really bad about, by the way). Doing just those things hardly makes a dent (and not everything we put in the recycling bin is actually recycled, anyway).
I paid a visit to the The Zero Waste Home blog, and I’m impressed–I want to live without having to take the trash out (ok, so that’s usually my husband’s job)! But most importantly, what I’ve gotten out of this paradigm-shift (there’s one of those fancy terms I learned in college) is the idea that recycling should be seen as a last resort. We need to think more about the lifecycle of the things we bring into our homes, and realize that when we’re throwing stuff “away”, it’s not magically disappearing.
photo by Diana Parkhouse
So what are some ways can we implement the first two Rs–Reduce and Reuse–in our lives to impact the world we live in?
Reduce anything that’s disposable. And I’m not just talking plastic grocery bags or paper napkins. Did you know that the majority of products we buy, from electronics, to clothes, to home decor, to our homes themselves, are purposely built to be replaced? Or in other words, trashed and bought again. That doesn’t make much sense. Why would I want to spend my hard-earned money on something just to have to keep working to buy it over and over again?
Reuse your recyclables instead of buying new things. Ok, you can only use your old milk jugs for so much (we’ve made helmets, shields, shovels, and bunny baskets out of ours), but your recycleables are a great resource for kids’ crafting projects and more. And at the rate my kids like to make things, we’re always looking for ways to save money on craft supplies!
Our consumption habits are the biggest source of pollution in our world–from the manufacturing of the poorly made junk that we have to have, to the packaging it all has to be wrapped up and shipped in, to its eventual death in the ground beneath us. Rethinking our “buy it and toss it” mentality is probably the biggest impact we can have on our environment. We are worth far more than the stuff we own, use, wear, drive, you name it–and so is our Earth!
So what are your thoughts on zero-waste living? How do you reduce and reuse in your own home?