Shelter Challenge: Have a Zero Waste Week

The author of the hugely successful UK blog My Zero Waste challenges people to join a waste-free week away from home.

I recycle so much trash it’s embarrassing. To show you the state of my bins would be to out me as a hard-pressed consumer whose attempts at not producing waste are at most futile.

Prior to encountering the Greens – a.k.a. Rachelle Strauss, her husband Richard, their seven year-old daughter and black-and-white kitty cat, who’s now deceased, I felt rather confident with my waste management skills. Overall, I’d give myself a seven out of ten. Until I saw this:

It was enough to make me shrivel. That, my friends, is what Rachelle, author of the hugely successful UK green blog My Zero Waste, was sending to the dump one month last winter.

A combination of albatross and sea turtle horror stories, plus a “traumatic” family vacation evacuation blamed on “strange weather” led them to embark on their zero waste experiment, which they now sustain as a way of life.

Let’s take a bottle of milk as an example. Silica-sand is formed into glass and then made into a bottle, which is filled with milk and sold to the consumer. A responsible consumer would toss that bottle into a recycling bin. A Zero Waste consumer would return the bottle to the original distributor to be washed, refilled, and sold to someone else. The only “waste” produced would be the water the bottled is washed with, but even that can serve its purpose.

Zero-wasting (or even nominally wasting), is all rather simple, and doable, particularly from the comfort of your own home. Controlling outside waste, however, is the real challenge. Like, I never remember to say no to straws while out and about, because they remind me of Shirley Temples. I would never drink a Shirley Temple now, of course, because of the “empty calorie” factor. Instead, I’m producing “empty waste.”

In their fourth annual Zero Waste Week, Strauss and friends are focusing on “Reducing waste away from home.” You can join them from September 5th to the 11th by participating in small, but impactful, acts of waste reduction. For example, use your own travel mug. Bring fruit peelings and cores accumulated on the road to compost at home. Avoid straws and disposable cutlery when eating out.

Also, chime in your efforts on My Zero Waste. Sign up for the Facebook event. Even tweet with the hashtag #nzww.

It might seem small or self-evident until we consider the milk bottle again. After it’s washed, refilled and resold, imagine if the consumer on the other end was a zero-waster like you. Now, that would be a veritable flash mob – one worth boasting about.


Images: ruminatrix; John Wardell

K. Emily Bond

K. Emily Bond is the Shelter Editor at EcoSalon and currently resides in southern Spain, reporting on trends in art, design, sustainable living and lifestyle.