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An incremental approach to zero waste

 
Posts: 9
Location: Dallas, TX area
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It can be very discouraging to attempt an all-or-nothing approach to zero waste. However, even making a few small steps in that direction can have an impact. A lot of people making small steps potentially makes a greater impact than a few people going completely zero-waste. A lot of resources I've found advocate an all-or-nothing approach. I was brainstorming this afternoon about how a newbie could start making steps toward zero waste, hopefully in ways that aren't so intimidating. Building a Better World takes this approach, but I'm attempting to put it in a more condensed list format along with some of my ideas. I broke the ideas out into categories. The steps are listed from easiest to implement to hardest. Goal was to reduce waste exiting the home or resources being consumed by the home as much as possible.

Human Excrement
-If it's yellow, let it mellow (game changer for me to see this suggestion one time in a blog post; it saves over half of your flushing water without being an inconvenience at all. So many more people could implement this even if the other steps are too intimidating)
-Collect urine in a separate bucket for use in the garden or pee directly in the garden/compost pile
-Compost humanure or use a dry outhouse

Food
-Start a food digester or bokashi bucket. Find a convenient composting process with the goal of no organic matter in the trash.
-Buy food only in reuseable/compostable/recyclable containers
-produce food at home (0 food miles and no transport packaging) (Can be incremental; not an all or nothing)

Transport
-Tune up vehicles for fuel efficiency (because some of us still need a car and this is the least intrusive step)
-Choose efficient routes (minimize taking "special trips" for things)
-Carpool and ride share
-Work from home full/part time
-Take public transport
-Take a walk or ride a bike
All of these can be incremental. I work away from home part-time and consolidate my schedule to make fewer car trips into the office (unfortunately there isn't a convenient carpool or public transport). If I need to go downtown, I ride the train. I have a couple of friends within walking distance if I want to visit.

Clothing
-Repair what you have
-Buy second hand
-Buy natural fabrics (will compost when they wear out; esp important for foundationware like undies and better for you too)
-Buy from organic/sustainable companies

Furnishings
-Repair what you have and clean with non-toxic cleaners (a good cleaning can make something look like new)
-Buy second hand
-When something new is needed, invest in sustainable pieces that can be repaired and up-kept for a long time

Water
-Check for and repair leaks and use water wisely
-Cooking water and washing water goes in the garden (water that is already in a bucket and can go into the garden instead of down the drain)
-Invest in rain barrels and cisterns
-Install simple grey water systems (bucket under the sink)
-Install whole house grey water reclamation system

Misc. Household Goods
-Donate or sell useable items that you don't need anymore (I see too much of this rotting on the curb for bulk waste to clean up when it probably could have been used for something)
-Repair what you have before buying
-Borrow from a friend if you only need the item briefly
-Buy second hand
-Buy from a sustainable company

Electricity
-Turn off appliances when not in use
-Use the smallest appliance to accomplish your goal (toaster oven vs. regular oven) (also goes with Paul's point about heating the person rather than heating the whole room)
-Can this be accomplished without an electric appliance? (solar oven vs. electric oven)
-Store and use your own energy (solar battery cell)

A little background: I'm in Texas so heating is rarely an issue. Most of the time wrapping up in blankets or using a heating pad is plenty. On the other hand, it is in the 90s or higher for a good chunk of the year. Using a smaller appliance to heat our food and napping through the hottest part of the day to conserve energy is very helpful for bringing down our AC electricity use. Our appliances are all electric (not gas) so I don't have insight on that. I'm a baby permie compared to some of you who have been fighting this good fight for a while, so I know there is much to learn. I'm eager to see what other incremental suggestions this community could come up with.
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