Here at GLC we are presenting you with a challenge.
For one day, create no waste.
For 16-18 waking hours (we’re allowing for various REM cycles) we challenge you to not use anything that leaves behind landfill-bound trash.
According to the University of Colorado Boulder’s Environmental Center , (UCB is ranked #1 University on the Sierra Club’s Green Ranking) each person produces 4.4 pounds of waste per day. That’s 30.8 lbs per week and 1601.6 lbs per year. If you were to reduce your waste to 0 for just one day a week, you would be saving yourself 228.8 pounds of unrecyclable waste.
I find that the majority of my waste comes from food (I tend to work mainly online, so paper waste at work doesn’t really become an issue, or maybe I just eat more than the average human.) On monday, for example, I went out for some soup, and all I wanted was soup, but I found myself the unwilling and not-so-proud owner of: two packs of crackers, two plastic spoons, three napkins, a paper bag, a plastic bag …and some soup. [Rest assured, I promptly returned everything but the soup.]
So, I challenged myself- do I really need the aluminium foil my sandwich comes wrapped in at lunch? All I do is carry it back to the bench I sit on and then recycle it. I could just as easily hand over tupperware, or a plate even, to the man making my sandwich at the Italian deli and have him put it on that. He doesn’t mind, in fact, not using packaging saves him money.
So that’s what I did. After I had my cereal at home, and tea in my mug at work, I went out for egg salad sandwich (unexciting, I know, but I was in an egg-salad sandwich kind of a mood, it doesn’t come around often so when it does I take advantage of it) which I asked Paolo to put into my sandwich shaped tupperware (grazie Paolo!) and then bought myself a diet coke in one of those re-usable big-gulp style plastic cups that I already owned, (which no one actually ever re-uses) and hey presto- no waste! You can just as easily ask for soups and salads in tupperware, honestly, no one minds. [Sidenote: if you're eating in, I'd just go with their silverware ...]
Rather like the incentives at food shops with 5c discounts for re-usable bags, I’d like to see incentives for reusable food containers, and I think forums like university campuses, with strapped-for-cash cause-inspired students, might be just the place to launch such a project. And no, I’m not condoning the toxic chemicals that go in to making plastic tupperware, just the implementation of re-usable containers.
Since I can’t get home for dinner tonight though, the situation gets dicey- luckily a) there’s a farmer’s market on the way home, and b) the frozen yoghurt place I treat like dinner has been totally cool with my asking them to put my yoghurt in tupperware (or in a cone! then you don’t even have to wash it!) since their styrofoam containers make my skin crawl.
(As a leniency, I’ve decided that compost does not count as waste- my tea leaves, that apple core, if they can go into a composting bin/facility then I don’t count them as defeating my purpose.)
Yes, this takes some forethought, but leaving a tupperware box in your desk or throwing it into your bag at the beginning of the day isn’t a huge task, and you’ll be amazed to see how much more mindful you are of everyone else’s waste when you are creating none at all.
18 hours: you can do it.