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the best thing for zero waste is to do it imperfectly

 
master steward
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Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
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I disagree, bulletproof role-models are important in waste management.
The average punter is way too proud of their meager environmental efforts.
 
gardener
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Location: SoCal USA
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It seems the key is for everyone to at least try to do something, no matter how perfect/imperfect, so long as they do something other than theorize perfect, or "paralysis through analysis". Then as each person learns more they can implement improvements, aiming for an ideal but accepting every baby step they make.
 
pollinator
Posts: 854
Location: Pac Northwest, east of the Cascades
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I got myself down to 13 bags of trash for 3 yrs of living on my property. https://permies.com/t/107908/ungarbage/waste

Not perfect, but getting there.

As I mentioned on that thread, I wasn't aiming for zero waste. It just became a practical consideration, every time I brought something up to my property I had the knowledge if it can't return to the earth then I have to bring it down.

Which is what people really need to keep in their minds. If you live in a city or suburb, mentally pretend you are on top of a mountain (like me) and have a long bumpy dirt road (like me). Then ask yourself how much of item X will I have to bring back down to throw away?

That sort of mental exercise is what I do because it is my reality, but if you can put yourself in my place mentally you can reduce a lot of waste very quickly.
 
gardener
Posts: 468
Location: Wheaton Labs
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I agree with this. I used to get exhausted thinking about trying to sort everything out and store it and take it to different places to recycle, and angry when family members thoughtlessly brought more crap home (two separate pieces of garlic bread in two separate styrofoam take out containers almost sent me over the edge once), and discouraged when I realized some of it still had to be landfilled, and so I would just give up and throw it all in the trash in despair. Now I don’t freak out if it’s not perfect, which means way more actually gets recycled.
 
Mark Brunnr
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Even more concerning news to reduce and reuse before considering recycle, as we might be on the post-peak recycling decline:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/16/business/local-recycling-costs.html

Summary: China has stopped buying many types of recyclable materials, making it unprofitable for recycling companies in many areas. They can either hike rates up to 400% or stop recycling, and many cities are just stopping it and burying/burning it all with regular trash.
 
Posts: 58
Location: Hawaii
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When I had an apartment and a day job in an office, I was just itching to learn anything I could about what I felt was part of Homestead living, without any yard at all. I got serious about finding out how low garbage I could get.

Before that I was already buying in bulk for the price savings, and recycling as much as possible, but I had never looked at my trash can and asked myself the question of how to keep it from filling up!

Some activities had a lot of bang for the buck. I looked at each item as I put it in the trash (or recycling!) and as I did I asked myself how to keep that from happening again. Some of the biggest impact for me:

Buying produce at the farmers market or otherwise directly from the producer.
Making food from scratch (for instance cookies)
Cloth grocery bags.
Buying dry items such as beans from the bulk bins instead of in cans or boxes.
Buying wet items such as sweet corn in large frozen bags instead of cans.
Not buying packaged drinks at all.
Going "poo-less"
Rags instead of paper towels
Compost pile
Direct re-use of items such as yogurt containers.
(There are surely some I'm forgetting. What are your top ones?)

Getting it down past the biggest ones took a lot of effort! Floss. Medicine. For some items, I never found a solution past "make it yourself." When we got land and our own business and family to raise and health issues we had to focus better. And I have times in my life I am better about these (everything?) than others. I like the idea that you don't have to do it perfectly. I think a little experimentation to see what makes the most personal trash impact is still valuable; can still make a big overall impact. For people who are in a place in their life they can do two things they could perhaps pick two easier but higher impact items.

Now that I have a business, every day I wish I had ten businesses, because it seems so possible... except I am so busy, haha. But I really wish that I could start a bulk food store that specializes in low-packaging. Even buying in bulk at Costco often requires more packaging than I prefer! Buying in giant 1000 lb bags direct from the maker, shipped on a pallet, selling in mason jars or bring- your-own, that would help! And it would be cheaper. And my squirrel-like impulses to store food would be very satisfied. I think my store would be made out of shipping containers to keep out the rats and weather. That's recycling, right? ;) On the other hand, I suppose it wouldn't be very local.
 
gardener
Posts: 922
Location: Ohio, USA
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Baby steps are important for those who can't take big ones without falling. For those who can walk they should,  and those who can run they should,  but no one should have a heart attack.  We just all need to make it to the finish line.

Saying "that's them and I can't/won't " about moving in a DIRECTION is a psychosis usually related to self confidence/value, in my not so humble opinion. And, those who say it usually just keep up with the rest of society. Those who refuse to move despite society moving on are usually small enough in number they don't really matter.

I am in the honest opinion that a family with small kids and a home needing repair/moving in cannot be absolute zero waste. An example: we had to remove the nasty carpet from our house and no one wanted it,  it went to the land fill. Whoever installed that carpet didn't think about zero waste. However,  most people here now (like us) aren't about to reinstall carpet because of this and other environmental factors so even though there is waste, the direction is towards zero waste.

Therefore touting your waste in a mason jar is not an accurate measure of your goodness to the world. But if it's fun for you to try and do it, go for it.

 
Posts: 10
Location: Devon UK
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I am surprised that contributors are arguing about this.
Just have a look at Sir David Attenborough's latest TV program on the BBC, this should be compulsory viewing for all the 'flat-earthers and head-buriers' on the planet. Schools and young people should also include this in environmental education.
I think that the 'non-believers' could also investigate why we are reading headline articles on the BBC entitled "Why is the US so bad at recycling?", (major US cities suspending their recycling programs because they can no longer offload rubbish to China now). Similarly, a program highlighting pollution on the island of Aldabra in the Indian Ocean shows the plastic pollution generated by African countries, the Indian sub-continent and the islands of Indonesia (tortoises eating plastic waste and green turtles unable to lay their eggs on beaches polluted with plastic flotsam). If you don't believe this then watch the programs.
Please do not think that I am pointing the finger at any particular nationalities, these examples quoted are what is being highlighted currently. I am well aware of our own failings on this side of the Pond in the UK and in Europe. Extinction Rebellion have been pretty active in the last few weeks in the UK. Naturally, the silence from politicians and civil servants in Whitehall and Brussels is deafening now. Big Business can stop looking in the other direction as well.
So, I hope that you will forgive this rant, but please stop the arguing & arm-chair pontificating. Start addressing what we as individuals can do now - in the short term, the medium term and the long term. Start formulating one day, one week, one month, one year, 5 year, 10 year, 50 year plans with the politicians (or without them).
Just do it! Or am I just preaching to the converted?
 
Jondo Almondo
Posts: 203
Location: NNSW Australia
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I think we are long overdue for holding the culprits to account, particularly governments, but also individual behaviour and community expectations.
The USA and Australia are the worst per capita emitters.
They should be shunned and sanctioned on the international stage.
They are wealthy countries that could easily afford transition and have a wealth of renewable energy opportunities.

Australia spent all its efforts at Paris and previous emissions forums lobbying for loopholes in the accountancy protocols so that we can transition slower whilst maintaining the image of agreeing to international targets.

I believe these two countries have the intensest degree of entitlement to cars, fuel and cheap meat.
They comprise very large areas of land (where distance is tyranny) and have made efforts to strong-arm other countries to secure cheap fuel.
The price of fuel has been politically tied to a sense of freedom, which is both daft and dangerous.

Since China's changed recycling laws kicked in, Australia's local govts have had to step up their efforts - bin rules are being enforced and monitored, people are having to re-sort their garbage to have it removed, the free previously 6-monthly large-rubbish pick-up service is now only available by appointment, local resource extraction at the tip has been heavily invested in and my local council turned down a water-bottling plant in part because of plastic pollution.

It makes sense to recycle resources locally. We've been filling shipping containers with cardboard to sell for pennies to China.
What a ridiculous use of fossil fuel and half a million kilograms of steel.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish. -Euripides A foolish tiny ad:
Heat your home with the twigs that naturally fall of the trees in your yard
http://woodheat.net
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