April 2020: Zero Waste for a Week

Morgan Malget (Editor-in-Chief)


What it's like trying to produce zero waste for one week.


In this day and age, sustainability is a common theme. From individual households to multimillion-dollar corporations, people around the world are working to live a more sustainable and environmentally conscious lifestyle. One way that I have seen people trying to be more sustainable is by reducing the waste they produce. People do this through things like not using single-use plastic and not eating food that comes in packaging. There are even people that live completely zero-waste lifestyles and can keep all of their trash from the past five years in a mason jar. This means they don't buy single-use plastics, things that they can recycle, they don't use paper products and they buy other household products in more eco-friendly packaging like glass or metal.

I felt very inspired by these people's sustainable efforts so I thought I would try to challenge myself by going zero waste for one week. I wish I had the resources to go zero waste forever, but on a college budget, it can be difficult so I thought I would just start by trying one week. Because the people who had been zero waste for five years kept their trash in a mason jar, I decided I would do the same, but with a baby mason jar since I was only doing one week.

Going into the week I was excited and looked forward to what I could learn from this experience. I was slightly nervous because I live in a sorority house where we use paper towels in the kitchen and bathrooms, and I honestly usually use at least 10 paper towels a day. That is an easy fix though by always taking a hand towel with me so I don't use the paper towels. Another thing that made me a little wary was that I loooove to snack. Thinking about not eating chocolate or popcorn for the week was a bit painful. Although there was the difficulty of not using paper towels, I had it slightly easier than most people going zero waste when it came to eating meals. Because I live in a sorority house I really don't prepare any of my meals and I eat from a buffet so I didn't have to worry about buying no-waste groceries.

Going without paper towels, napkins and tissues for the week really wasn't too difficult. I just had to remember to take my hand towel with me. I would say the most challenging parts of the week were when my friends were eating things in front of me that I knew I couldn't have because of the packaging. I was successful in that all of my waste from the week fit in my baby mason jar. My trash included, three q-tips, one paper towel (oops) and a wrapper to a face mask I did during the week. I didn't even realize I was making trash when I did the face mask. I was just thinking of how nice my skin was going to look after!

One of the biggest things I realized about being zero waste is that it almost turns into a diet. Eating foods that don't come in plastic or paper packing really limits your options and forces you to eat more whole foods.

If you've ever wanted to make a more conscious effort to be sustainable, trying zero waste is definitely a good option. You could even start by doing it just three or four days out of the week so that you can ease yourself into it. My suggestions would be to get a reusable water bottle or cup, always take a container with you when you go out to eat to put leftovers in, buy your foods in bulk, bring reusable bags when you go shopping and don't keep paper towels or napkins in your home.

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