We’re trashy, but it’s not because of Paris or Perez Hilton. Americans generate…well, let’s just say we’re full of it.
In 2002, Zero Waste America said, “Waste management in the U.S. is in a state of anarchy with no effective federal plan in place to maximize recycling and minimize waste.” Succinct. There’s no shortage of such cheery information available to the curious eco soul, like the fact that Americans create enough waste to circle the globe six times with full dump trucks each year (with enough left over to get halfway to the moon).
To be fair, that’s an aging statistic – we’ve gotten slightly better, but we still throw away over four pounds of trash per day per person so “slightly” is putting it generously. While cities like San Francisco are zealous about recycling and composting (sometimes a little too zealous), we have managed to create so much waste that it’s actually given the adventure travel genre a fresh direction. Let’s not forget that we’ve festooned the Pacific Ocean with a Texas-sized problem known as the Great Garbage Patch which no kelp bed could ever hope to compete with. As they say, America’s #1!
That’s the bad news in merciful brief (start Googling at your own peril). The good news is that tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogging enable us to take meaningful weekly action together. For example, Meatless Monday is helping even the most stubborn steak-lovers take the road less carnivorous, because everyone can go veg for a day without feeling deprived. Why not trend trashless one day a week, too?
Trashless Tuesday is exactly what it sounds like: a day free of trash. (This means not generating trash to begin with.) Here are a few easy tips to get started today:
1. Put that canvas shopping bag to use.
The less you shop on Tuesdays the easier it will be to avoid generating waste, but if you must hit the store, bring that canvas shopping tote. If you’re anything like me you have a small army of them by now, stashed like sardines in your car trunk or hanging in the kitchen pantry.
2. Don’t buy packaged food.
Not that you’d be tempted by the likes of Lunchables, but look for things that come pre-wrapped courtesy of nature, like bananas, and stay away from packaged groceries. Choose vegetables that don’t need bags like avocados, tomatoes, onions, potatoes and carrots. It can be as easy as choosing loose-leaf over the plastic cartons of California spinach. (Of course I’m not trying to trick you into carrying over Meatless Monday an extra day. I’d never!)
3. Avoid avoiding.
Saving the shopping list for later in the week? There’s no real environmental gain in putting off purchasing the styrofoam-encased flatscreen until…say, Wednesday. Ditto necessities like toothpaste. Avoid simply avoiding shopping – instead, use the opportunity to proactively consider wants vs. needs. (And when buying that toothpaste, choose the one in a stand-up tube that comes without unnecessary additional wrapping or box packaging.) This is a tough one for me.
4. Stop the trash trail in its tracks.
At home, save and reuse or upcycle things that don’t actually need to go in the garbage. As for food waste, get thee to a compost bucket purchase!
5. Psst…follow our tweets.
P.S. Meme me, baby: If you’re into Follow Friday and you’re also into green, don’t miss out on #EcoMonday.