I just turned 25 years old. 25 years, 300 months, 9,125 days. I can measure my life a lot of ways. By my happiness, my successes, my friends, my family… but it wasn’t until 4 years ago that I started to measure my life by something else, by my trash, or really, by the trash that I wasn’t producing.
Four years ago I decided to completely stop making trash. I live a Zero Waste lifestyle and it has been four years since I have sent any garbage to a landfill. In fact, all of the waste that I have produced can fit inside of a 16oz mason jar, a process which I document on my blog, Trash is for Tossers.
The average American produces approximately 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day. By the time you reach 25 years old that means that you are expected to produce 40,150 pounds of waste. FORTY THOUSAND POUNDS OF TRASH. That is about seven asian elephants or 320 me’s!
I started living this lifestyle because I really cared about the environment: I studied environmental science, considered myself to be an activist, and was constantly talking about environmental issues, but I realized that while I deeply cared for environmental preservation, I didn’t do anything in my day to day life that aligned with that. I was still totally wasteful, used toxic conventional beauty and cleaning products, and made a lot of trash. When I stumbled across a blog that discussed a woman and her family that didn’t make any trash at all, I felt like for the first time in my life I understood how to channel my love for sustainability into something actionable, by changing the way I lived my everyday life to reflect sustainability, and that is why I went trash free.
For anyone who wants to decrease their environmental impact I understand how it can seem daunting, overwhelming, or even impossible. I promise it isn’t. Going zero waste, or even just lessening your impact, requires lots of teeny baby steps that over time add up and result in a much lower trash output, or even zero waste! To start, I have three steps that I like to recommend:
Step 1: Look at your garbage. It might sound weird but you can’t know how to decrease your trash if you don’t know what your trash is. So check it out, see what you have, what you’re throwing away, and focus on how you can solve those problems. For me it was food packing and food waste and so I learned how to shop in bulk and compost.
Step 2: Pick at the low hanging fruit. This means making little one time changes in your everyday life to prevent waste. Those are bringing a reusable bag to the store as opposed to taking a paper or plastic bag, bringing a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic, bringing your own cup to the coffee shop instead of a disposable one, packing your lunch instead of getting takeout.
Step 3: DIY! Make products yourself. There are some really simple and easy recipes on my blog, such as toothpaste, that make transitioning away from plastic packaged, expensive, and chemical laden products really simple.
The hardest part about making any change is starting, so do one little thing that seems really easy to you whether it is using a reusable bag, making your own toothpaste, or shopping at the farmers market. I like to celebrate the little wins because when you combine all of the little victories, you find yourself having accomplished something huge. So if you’re interested in lessening your impact, just start. You might not think one person making baby changes can make a difference, but in just four years living in alignment with my values, I have prevented over 6,400 pounds of trash from making its way into a landfill. We all have the power to make a difference, all we have to do is something.