For me, zero waste all started when I spent a semester in Washington. The newspaper I interned for wanted to cover a man named Rob Greenfield. Let’s just call him the guru of all things environmental. He was on a nationwide dumpster-diving adventure, showing Americans how much waste they produce–namely food waste. I walked up to a giddy man who looked like he hadn’t taken a shower in a week, sitting in the middle of a massive pile of food on the National Mall. What kind of crazy guy did my internship just set me up with? Oh man, this was going to be interesting. If you, too, are perplexed by this situation, click here to read my story about the experience.
It was the first time I realized how wasteful America was. Seriously. The fact that I wasn’t petrified when I saw overflowing trash cans all over the place disgusts me to think about. This man was sitting in a pile of trash–or what we think of as trash. But upon a closer look, you realize that it’s actually produce that is perfectly fine, bread that’s only one day past date, and UNOPENED water bottles.
It was my first assignment with the newspaper I wrote for, and it was early on in my semester in Washington. In an effort to be greener, the District had decided to charge for plastic bags. So I bought my own reusable bag from Trader Joe’s. It was a small step, but it was what really got things started for me. Bringing a tote bag with me when I go shopping? Hey, that’s not too hard. Thus began the adventure. Problem is, that was THREE years ago. And I’m just now starting to make more changes.
I’ve always been afraid of commitment when it comes to zero waste. Hey man, that’s a lot of responsibility. Bringing my own jars and produce bags? Forget it. Not diving in that deep.
But I’ve always kept up with people like Lauren Singer and Bea Johnson, the two women who really got this thing going. A few weeks ago, it finally hit me: I have got to stop allowing myself to throw stuff away without even giving a second thought. I’d like my kids to have a great world to grow up in. But if I keep allowing myself to be disillusioned into thinking that recycling is enough, or be tricked by all the greenwashing happening left and right, this world will just keep falling apart. The average American produces over 1600 pounds of trash per year. I don’t know about you, but I am NOT okay with that. It’s time to get serious, y’all. Want to join alongside me and change the world? Stay tuned.