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Zero Waste Quandaries

 
gardener
Posts: 967
Location: Ohio, USA
186
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My family have always tried to reduce our trash and we do so by the usual methods listed here. Recently I ran across YouTube videos on zero Waste and thought it interesting, but also seemingly impossible. But, perhaps I just need to learn more.

Just looking at our waste now:

I cut a doggy door. It a piece of old painted wood. I do not think composting old painted wood or burning it for fuel or recycling works. How does one handle these home improvements zero waste style? Just don't do them? That could eventually waste an entire house.

I got some mail-ordered plants. They came in a soft plastic bag. In order to get the biodiversity I want here, I need to ship things in. Otherwise I can rely on only what Home Depot has. Soft plastics aren't recyclable here.

My husband does lots of walking. This means the soles of his shoes wear out, along with the whole thing looking pretty shabby. I tried fixing a pair up, but when it is time to say good bye to things like this in our family, no one wants them. Clothing I often repurpose, but old shoes??

Anyone far along the zero waste path to know how these things don't end up in the trash? Thanks!
 
pollinator
Posts: 1398
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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It is very challenging. I think instead of looking at your household only, it would be better to become active (I should) like getting shops to pack their stuff differently or not at all.
Our local coop has a lot in open bins and you can bring your jars and pay for each paper bag. Now i could become active and get them to do a zero waste challenge until, say in 10 years. That means they would have to talk to their suppliers to change how and if they pack their products. I would allow for everythigng waste which can be chocked in a compost heap (like wood paper etc.)
Somethign like this saves probably more waste than a single household trying to go waste free.
 
Amit Enventres
gardener
Posts: 967
Location: Ohio, USA
186
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Yes, one star fish thrown back to the sea doesn't do a whole lot if that's all that happens, but one star fish thrown in sea by someone saying "hey everyone! Look how awesome this is!" Does bring awareness to the feasibility of solving the problems.

Much of my conversation about us doing our weird sustainable stuff with friends and family involve breaking down barriers in habit, perspective, and normalizing it. A perfect example: 6 years ago when we were going to have child #1, I told the parental crowd we were going to use cloth diapers. They were sure that was a stupid idea. Their friends thought so too. To the point they would help us buy anything for the baby except that and they also bought us regular diapers, despite us not needing them. We got calls waiting for the moment of failure of our cloth diaper system. It of course never came and they saw how well it worked. Now the parental crowd and all their friends tell all the others of my generation interested in having kids about how cloth diapers are a cool viable option, rather than the disposables. So, my simple self controlled defiance changed the perspective for 10+ people, this doesn't include my own advocating and others who saw us around town.

This is how I roll and have been called "the silent rebel" because of it. Some people are good at advocating and steering larger masses via force. Maybe some day I'll get into that. I just find it unfair to enforce my moral standards on others when I can't even keep up to them myself. Instead I have great empathy for the person who does no things to save the planet. That's where society steers us and unless you get shown the truth and a way to handle the truth, I feel it's easy to get stuck in the Matrix. I try to give people a path forward that they can incorporate without huge effort by me pleasantly sharing and normalizing.

So, back to the original topic. People say they are doing zero waste, only getting like a small container of waste in 3 years, and I want to know- really?? I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, because I could just be dumb, so I'd like it explained by item. Starting with the items I see in my trash that I think: well, there's no way to avoid that. I'd like someone to open my mind as to how I can go zero waste. Thanks!

 
pollinator
Posts: 486
Location: San Diego, California
91
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I know that you want to go ZERO waste, and not minimal waste, but the main thing with not having waste is finding another use for EVERYTHING that comes through your door - if you're using it, or it's serving a purpose, it isn't waste!

Wood from the dog door? Look up a video on woodworking and - BOOM - now you've got a birdhouse.  Cardboard boxes from shipping? Lay it down over bare garden area - BOOM - you just placed biodegradable mulch/weed barrier (it's not pretty, but it's effective - you can lay traditional mulch over it too).  


The plastics can be harder to think of simple uses, but for any material, don't just think about what it is, but examine it's properties - certain plastics can be: waterproof, transparent, colored, rigid, stretchable, compressible, strength in tear resistance. find a project that needs any of these characteristics, and use it for that purpose.

Abiding by these tenets may not get you to ZERO waste, but they will help you make the best use of your waste to suit your needs (and save you some money too)
 
Dustin Rhodes
pollinator
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Location: San Diego, California
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I am not committed to Zero Waste, but am committed to doing the above when the materials suit my needs.  My family is not as radical as I am implementing extreme life changes, so I'm moving slowly so as to not turn them off to Permaculture early/permanently.

The latest idea I will be implementing with my family is diverting all safe paper waste to my compost - used napkins, tissues, paper towels, cardboard, wrappings (nothing with dyes, chemical cleaners, or plasticized coatings).
Saves the landfill, makes trash runs less frequent, and provides needed "browns"(in proper ratio to "greens, of course) to my compost.
 
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Hello all,  I am new to this forum as of today.   My issue is that I work in a prison and metal and glass containers are not allowed to be brought in as they can be made into weapons by the inmates.  I am trying to go plastic free, but I am unable to think of anything that I could use at work to heat my lunch in (we only have a microwave).  Is there some type of large bowl, perhaps wood or something else, that can be heated in a microwave and is large enough to heat up a large bowl of oatmeal, soup, etc.  And it would need to have a lid also for transporting.  Thank you.
 
gardener
Posts: 3202
Location: Central Oklahoma (zone 7a)
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Sarah, a gourd bottle with a cork would do for transport, but might be hard to clean, and I’m not sure how it would hold up in the micro. The wooden bowl might do for that, if you can carry both.
 
pollinator
Posts: 185
Location: South Central PA
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To the original OP, I think there are some things that if you don't change your lifestyle, you have to accept might be waste. So (for example) the soft plastic bags that the plants you ordered came in, since you cannot recycle them, if you can settle for reusing them as trash bags for the few things that you do end up discarding, at least they won't be a "single-use" plastic. The piece of old wood that was cut for a doggie door, if the wood was not covered with lead paint, I would suggest leaving it outside to decompose. Shoes are pretty easy, depending on the construction. Most towns  (at least near me) still have cobblers, and they can resole shoes (they will have to discard the old sole), but normally for under $10-20 your shoes have a new life. Also, birkenstocks are easy to have resoled, and the cork is degradable.

To Sarah N., I know you are against using plastics, but what about a soup-style thermos, it would keep your food warm without needing additional microwaving. It would still have plastic involved, but since there is no direct heating in it, might not leach into your food. There are many that are all plastic, but we have a soup thermos that is mostly stainless, bit of plastic and works great, (all contact areas w/food are stainless) but I'm not sure that your work would allow it, even though I can't for the life of me think of a way it could be used as a weapon.
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