A practical guide to generating less waste, featuring meaningful and achievable strategies from the blogger behind The Green Garbage Project, a yearlong experiment in living garbage-free.
Trash is a big, dirty problem. The average American tosses out nearly 2,000 pounds of garbage every year that piles up in landfills and threatens our air and water quality. You do your part to reduce, reuse, and recycle, but is it enough?
In The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, Amy Korst shows you how to lead a healthier, happier, and more sustainable life by generating less garbage. Drawing from lessons she learned during a yearlong experiment in zero-waste living, Amy outlines hundreds of easy ideas—from the simple to the radical—for consuming and throwing away less, with low-impact tips on the best ways to:
• Buy eggs from a local farm instead of the grocery store
• Start a worm bin for composting
• Grow your own loofah sponges and mix up eco-friendly cleaning solutions
• Purchase gently used items and donate them when you’re finished
• Shop the bulk aisle and keep reusable bags in your purse or car
• Bring your own containers for take-out or restaurant leftovers
By eliminating unnecessary items in every aspect of your life, these meaningful and achievable strategies will help you save time and money, support local businesses, decrease litter, reduce your toxic exposure, eat well, become more self-sufficient, and preserve the planet for future generations.
So What Exactly Does “Trash Free” Mean?
Trash-free living means different things to different people, as you’ll see throughout this book. For some families, a trash-less life might mean moving from filling a giant, 64-gallon garbage can a week to filling a 32-gallon garbage can once a month. To others, it might mean a small grocery sack of garbage a week. To still others, going trash free means sending absolutely nothing to the landfill at all.
I fall into this last category. For the year of our Green Garbage Project, Adam and I tried to make absolutely no garbage. We came awfully close to our goal—by the end of the year, all our trash fit inside a regular shoebox. Surprisingly, we found that once we had a system in place for purchasing goods and recycling packaging, trash-free living became second nature.
So, whether you’re interested in moderate or extreme trash reduction, whether you want to simply pare down your army of trash cans or try to produce zero garbage in a year, I can show you how to do it. Benefits of a Trash-free Life
Although the obvious benefits of producing no garbage are environmental, they don’t stop there. In addition to reducing your impact on the planet, here are some other benefits of your new zero-waste lifestyle: Your life just got a whole lot simpler:
We all wish we had a little more time in the day. Trash-free living helps streamline many areas of your life, from grocery shopping to cleaning the house. You’ll learn to repurpose everyday products like baking soda and lemon juice to do double duty, in the kitchen and in the cleaning bucket. You’ll spend less time at the store and more time at home with family and friends. You will spend less money and be happier with your purchases:
When I started paying attention to my purchases, I realized I was buying a lot of things I wanted but didn’t need. Going trash-free means becoming much more conscientious about your purchases. You’ll deliberately buy items that can serve dual purposes, and you’ll look for durable goods that last a long time before breaking. You will support local businesses:
Shopping locally benefits the environment, because goods are not trucked all over the country for consumption. Equally important is the impact you can have on your local community when you support family-owned establishments instead of big corporations. Studies show that “three times as much money stays in the local economy when you buy goods and services from locally owned businesses instead of large chain stores,” according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. You will eat healthier:
And if you pair that with some good exercise, you’ll lose weight and feel better. Cutting out garbage means eating more whole foods that don’t come overpackaged in plastic. You’ll shop the periphery of the grocery store and frequent local farmers’ markets, buying good-for-you foods like fruits and veggies and locally sourced meat, dairy, and eggs. You’ll be doing your part to preserve the planet for future generations:
It’s no secret the earth is in trouble. Landfills are overflowing, our water systems are becoming polluted, animal species are becoming endangered and going extinct at an alarming rate, and we are finding toxic chemicals in our food and beauty products. This book will show you how trash is connected to each of these environmental problems and more. Every time you choose sustainable over throwaway, you’re doing your part to eliminate these problems. Your efforts will help beautify natural areas and decrease littering:
Have you ever been hiking in the wilderness or making a sandcastle at the beach, only to have a piece of garbage flutter across your path? Seen someone toss a cigarette butt out the car window? The less garbage we make collectively, the less litter there will be to spoil nature’s beauty. You will reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals and artificial colors and sweeteners:
A garbage-free life means you’ll choose healthier options than the prepackaged, processed foods that line the grocery store shelves. We know food-like substances like Pop-Tarts and Cheetos aren’t good for us—avoiding the garbage is just one more reason to look for healthier alternatives. You’ll become more self-sufficient:
One of the most enjoyable parts of a garbage-free life is learning some skills our culture has all but forgotten. Pretty much anything store-bought can be made at home, if you have the time and interest. This book includes simple recipes for everyday products like English muffins and all-purpose cleaning spray as well as advanced recipes for ricotta cheese and bagels, among others.
For these reasons and more, people across the country—and around the world—are already living trash free. All of us are devoted to the lifestyle because we’ve found it to be easy and rewarding. As with any new experience, Adam and I encountered some pitfalls along the way, but we have learned from our mistakes and are here to offer our stories to help you transition into this wonderful lifestyle more easily.
One thing you’ll discover is that living trash free has its regional variations and challenges, because each part of the country has different programs established for recycling, composting, and bulk food shopping. You’ll discover, too, that each family circumstance presents its own set of unique challenges when working toward a trash-free lifestyle. This book gives you strategies for finding and using the systems established in your area. Whatever your particular circumstances or challenges are, you will find that adopting a zero-waste lifestyle is doable—and infinitely rewarding.
Excerpted from The Zero-Waste Lifestyle by Amy Korst, Foreword by Bill McKibben. Copyright © 2012 by Amy Korst, Foreword by Bill McKibben. Excerpted by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.