As humans each person produces 4.1 pounds of trash per day, adding to the 254 million tons of trash already in the American landfills, according to the EPA. There is a new type of lifestyle focused on living waste free, also known as zero waste. This means reducing the negative impact you have on the environment by not creating any trash. Waste can be defined as any item that can’t be reused, recycled, or composted, and instead is sent to landfills. When I first heard about this lifestyle it intrigued me. I care about the environment, but as one person I feel like I can’t do much. The people who live this lifestyle tend to be older and have the resources to be able to compost and afford to go to waste free stores. As a teenager I feel like there’s not much I can do to make a difference. However I have researched some things as teenagers that we can do to help reduce the amount of waste we produce.
- When eating out, don’t use straws:
When you’re at a restaurant, it can be tempting to use the plastic straws that come with your drinks. By not using the straws you keep non recyclable plastic out of the trash. It seems like a minor thing to do, but reducing any waste helps. According the National Geographic, 91% of plastic isn’t recycled.
- Take your own reusable containers to restaurants:
Instead of asking for the styrofoam to-go containers opt for your own reusable containers for when you go out to eat. Your food will stay fresher and it keeps styrofoam out of the landfills. Styrofoam takes up about 30% of the waste in landfills, according to Livestrong.com.
- When buying lunch, grab only what you need:
When going through the lunch line grab only what you’ll eat. You can always go and get more food if you’re still hungry. Too often unused napkins and condiment packets will go into the trash, creating unnecessary waste.
- Stop using disposable utensils and dishware:
When my family has a big gathering we tend to pull out the plastic silverware and paper plates, by the end of the night our trash can will be filled to the brim with the discarded plates. By using reusable plates people will feel more obligated to reuse their plates when they go back for seconds.
- Buy a reusable water bottle:
According to banthebottle.net, America used about 50 million plastic bottles last year. Spending a little extra money on a good reusable water bottle will help you not purchase plastic water bottles. It’s easy to have on you all the time and there are plenty of places to refill your water bottle. Drinking lots of water helps keep your skin clear, muscle energized, and prevent headaches.
- Use reusable bags when going shopping:
In America, we have a large consumer economy. According to the EPA, we use more than 380 million plastic bags and wraps each year. With all of the different places we shop we accumulate lots of plastic bags. By purchasing reusable bags, we reduce the amount of plastic bags that end up in the ocean. According to SEE Turtles, sea turtles mistake plastics and other garbage as jellyfish, which is part of their food source. When they consume this waste, it can lead to death.
- Learn to mend and not discard:
Instead of throwing out clothes with holes in them, sew them up. If you don’t know how to mend clothes, do a little research. There are a bunch of videos on the internet to help you learn. If you decide not to keep your mended clothes, donate them to local shelters or clothing drives. You can even try to make a buck or two off them. There are a few apps where you can post pictures of your clothes and sell them, such as Depop or Let Go. You can even have a garage sale. According to The Balance more than 15 million tons of used textile waste is in landfills. By donating or selling your clothes it keeps the clothes out of landfills.
With these small tips and practices we can slowly start to reduce the amount of waste we produce. It makes me feel better that I’m trying to do the little things that can end up making a big difference. By slowly implementing these practices into your daily life, you too will help with the change.
Story by Darci Simmons, Graphic by Vinny Nelson