Let’s Talk Waste

There are quite a bit of changes that I need to make in my life if I want to move forward in becoming zero waste. The biggest thing I need to change is probably the whole point in what I’m doing and it’s about changing the about of waste I produce. Before I moved into a dorm, I never really saw how much I actually threw away.

According to the EPA, Americans generated 254 million tons of waste for the entire year of 2013. That equals to around 4.40 pounds of waste per person per day. Only a quarter of that waste was composted or recycled.

These statistics don’t seem like much, but they add up. I wanted to see how much waste I produced so I made an experiment with my roommate. My roommate and I documented everything that we threw away for a whole week. This is what we had:

  • 30 Tissues
  • 7 Food wrappers (with food residue)
  • 1 Styrofoam cup (from Chick-fil-A)
  • 1 plastic water bottle
  • 2 plastic/sling wrap
  • 5 plastic wrappers (no food residue)
  • 2 plastic food containers
  • 5 paper pieces
  • 7 food scraps
  • 4 paper wrappers (thin cardboard)
  • 2 plastic/ziplock bags
  • 7 cardboard boxes (from packaging)
  • 8 paper food items (like coffee cups)
  • 1 piece of bubble wrap
  • 1 broken ice pack
  • 10 plastic food items (like spoons)

The total amount of garbage we threw away that week was 93 individual pieces. 93! That’s a lot for just two college students living on campus. Of all of the items thrown away that week, 20% of it could have been recycled, 33% of it could have been composted, and 100% of it could have been replaced with reusable options. Without an easy way to compost or recycle around my university, it is difficult to find ways to reduce the amount of waste without making a sure-hard effort, but what a difference that makes!

Reducing waste is a process. It’s not going to happen over night. But the impact that reducing waste has on the environment is worth all of the work that it takes to research and find new ways to change our lifestyles and habits. This is what I am working on this month and into the new year.

I encourage you to keep me accountable and follow along on my Instagram @abigoeszero as I work to become more sustainable in my college life.

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Honest Update – November ‘18

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Life at college has been so much busier than I thought it was going to be. I entered this semester with lots of goals and expectations. I thought I was going to be able to stick with my goals and easily transition into a more sustainable lifestyle. I didn’t consider that things would be so busy. The great thing about this, though, is that being zero waste isn’t about being perfect. It’s about striving to get better.

Areas I can improve:

Carbon Emissions

My university is about 2 and a half hours from home and I definitely spent a lot of time driving back and forth every other weekend. While I do carpool with my roommate who is also from the same city, that is a lot of carbon from the car. I’m working on making less frequent trips home and always carpooling with friends to the stores and lake.

Eating Sustainably

There is an ecology club at my university that works on making sustainable decisions related to lifestyle and home. But there is also a similar program with the cafeteria that works on making more sustainable food, so there isn’t a lot of beef served in the cafeteria and there are always salads. However, I’ve noticed that there are some things that come in plastic like breads and spinach and many of the curries and soups contain beef. I need to focus more on learning about where my food is sourced and changing my meal plan as needed. Maybe there would be less waste if I bought bulk off-campus instead of eating on-campus.

Impacts At Work

I work at a coffee shop which means that I am associated with a lot of plastic waste. Pretty much everything we sell or make comes from a plastic container. While I cannot do much about changing how we sell as there are health standards we need to follow, I can make a bigger effort in encouraging people to bring their own mug in order to reduce the amount of plastic cups and straws we give away. Plus it would safe the shop money from having to buy those disposables — win-win!

There are quite a bit of changes that I need to make in my life as I strive to become more sustainable and zero waste, but the good thing is that they normally don’t take a lot of work, just a focused mind. These are the things that I am working on and I hope that they can be encouragement to you in your sustainable journey too!

Let’s Talk Travel

I love traveling. It’s one of my favorite things to do! But, with traveling, comes environmental impacts. Traveling from continent to continent can be difficult if you oppose the idea of planes. However, with the rising concern over the environment, many changes have been made to create environmentally-friendly ways of traveling.

Why is it important to consider a greener way of traveling? Laura Newcomer from The Greatist answered this question well in her article, “Everything You Need To Know About Traveling Green.” Her response was as follows:

For starters, the U.S. transportation sector is responsible for about 40 percent of the nation’s fossil-fuel related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions — one of the main gases responsible for climate change. Reducing our collective transportation footprint (aka environmental impact) could significantly lower the amount of CO2 we emit into the atmosphere. … Not only is it possible (and pretty easy) to keep the environment in mind while traveling, but in a lot of cases green travel practices can save us some, uh, green.

Change is possible and it can be easier than you think. With that in mind, I’ve come up with four ways to lessen your own traveling impact while seeing the world that God created for us to see.

1. Use public transportation such as buses and trains.

Buses are by far the best green option for public transportation and are available anywhere. Yes it might take longer to get where you want to go, but you’re rewarding the environment by outputting way less CO2 than you would with planes. For further trips, consider taking the train. Using these public modes of transportation can use three to seven times less gas than flying.

2. If you need to fly, take the most direct route possible.

Planes use the most fuel during take off and landing. When you need to make many stops to get to your final destination, you are using more fuel which creates more CO2. Taking the most direct route possible can come at some expense, though, and this needs to be considered in your travel plans.

3. Travel on planes that are energy-efficient.

Some newer models of planes are designed to use 20 percent less fuel than the older models. If you can, ask the airline about how they are changing to better the environment. Try to travel on the newer models of planes rather than the older ones. But, If you never ask, you’ll never know, and you could end up creating more of a negative impact on the environment than you need to.

4. Fly to airports that are “environmentally sustainable.”

This means that the amount of environmenal negative outputs emitted by flying and other activities in the airport are equal to the amount of environmental positive outputs such as recycling, composting, and reusing as much s possible. This also means that the airport itself will often find ways to incorporate plastic-free or packaging-free components in its stores. You can find a full list of participating airports located in the USA here.

With these four changes in our traveling habits, we can reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere and reduce the amount of fuel used while getting a chance to explore the world that God has given us. But it’s also important to remember that it’s not just about going out there are seeing the world. Traveling green also includes taking a responsibility while you are traveling to use as little plastic as possible. (I’ve talked about plastic before here.)

Looking for more information? Check out these posts from around the web.

Let’s Talk Plastic

plastic

Becoming plastic-free has become more and more popular as we are now understanding the impacts that plastic has on the environment.

Because of societies demand for “fast and easy” products, the amount of single-use products have increased dramatically. Nearly 300 million tons of plastic are produced every year; most of it is single-use and ends up in the oceans. Plastic is cheap and can be useful but at the world’s expense. Here are some stats I found at PlasticOceans.org

  • Packaging is the largest end-use market segment accounting for just over 40% of total plastic usage.
  • Annually approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. More than one million bags are used every minute.
  • A plastic bag has an average “working life” of 15 minutes.
  • Over the last ten years, we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century.
  • According to the Container Recycling Institute, 100.7 billion plastic beverage bottles were sold in the U.S. in 2014, or 315 bottles per person.
  • 57% of those units were plastic water bottles: 57.3 billion sold in 2014. This is up from 3.8 billion plastic water bottles sold in 1996, the earliest year for available data.
  • The process of producing bottled water requires around 6 times as much water per bottle as there is in the container.
  • 14% of all litter comes from beverage containers. When caps and labels are considered, the number is higher.

This weekend I went to the lake with my family. After 50 minutes of walking, this is a picture of what I had picked up.

  • 1 candy wrapper
  • 1 flip flop
  • 2 tampon applicators
  • 3 balloons
  • 1 plastic car cover
  • 1 bucket
  • 1 handle
  • 15 bottle caps
  • 14 straws
  • 1 big piece of bubble wrap
  • 2 bottles
  • and 23 other plastic pieces

This all came from one person picking up plastic from one trip. I even had to tell myself to stop picking up the plastic because I didn’t have another bag with me to carry it all in!

Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet, said the following:

“There is absolutely no logic in wrapping something as fleeting as food in something as indestructible as plastic. Plastic food and drink packaging remains useful for a matter of days yet remains a destructive presence on the Earth for centuries afterwards.”

All of these plastic products can eventually make their way into our food chain when fish and other animals eat the small plastic pieces floating in the ocean. While we may not be sure exactly how these plastic pieces affect our human bodies, we have seen many birds, turtles, and fish alike die of starvation with stomachs full of plastic.

It’s important to reduce the amount of plastic that we use, even if it’s just a couple of things such as plastic straws, plastic bags, or plastic takeaway cups. I am just beginning this process of reducing the amount of plastic that I use. I know that it will take a long time, but it is better to have a slight inconvenience on my part and to reduce the plastic in the oceans than to have an “easy and fast” lifestyle and in part harm the environment.

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Honest Update – May ’18

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It’s May 15th which means we’re about halfway through the month. I wanted to share a little update about how this zero waste project has been going for me. Hint: it’s a bit harder than I thought it was going to be.

As far as my beef consumption, I’ve been doing pretty well for avoiding beef. However, a couple of days ago, I forgot about the diet and ate beef. I think, though, that because it was Mother’s Day, it could be considered a skip day. My mom, being the wonderful person she is, is going to be helping me by keeping me accountable with my diet for this month and the rest of the summer.

As far as my plastic use, I’ve been having a hard time remembering to bring my own silverware for my lunches. My school doesn’t have a cafeteria so we bring our own lunches. I’ve forgotten multiple times to bring  my own silverware from home so I am left with either using plastic single-use utensils or eating with my hands. This is defintely something that I have to work on and, hopefully since school is coming to an end very soon, it’ll become less of a problem.

I’ve also been looking for ways to reduce my plastic use in my home over the summer. There are some birthdays coming up and I’ve been working on finding zero-waste or reusable gift wrap options such as paper bags, boxes, or simply not wrapping the gifts.

I will defintely keep you all updated on how my zero waste project is coming along and how I am striving to improve these areas in my life. If you have any tips for me, please let me know in the comments section!

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The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

Hello everyone! Welcome to my Zero Waste journey!

I’m a college freshman, attending my favorite school with some of my favorite people, including four of my great and closest friends. I’m double majoring in English and Communications and minoring in French.

I have two wonderful crazy sisters and two amazingly patient parents. Most people would describe me as quiet, kind, and the “mother” of the group, always armed with extra food, pens, and hugs whenever needed.

me

I’m also a blogger at HappilyAbi.com where I talk about my Christian life and school life. Blogging there for three years has taught me so much and I’m thankful for every single person who has encouraged me there. (Psst! check out my blog here!)

While college, family, and faith are all things I am passionate about, I wanted to start a blog to specifically talk about my journey to zero waste and a sustainable lifestyle.

This journey all started when I first started taking an Environmental Science class. I knew a little bit about the importance of recycling and healthy living before, but it wasn’t until this class that I finally understood the truth: How we live affects the world and lives of people and animals around us.

I’ve heard many times of people saying “not in my backyard,” but the world is what connects us all together. Your backyard is also someone else’s backyard. There is no place on the earth that doesn’t have a connection to another living being, and I believe that we have a responsibility to caring for one another. Thus, Abi Goes Zero Waste began.

My goal is to become completely Zero Waste by the time I graduate university and to raise awareness as I go along. I know that I have a lot to learn, but I believe that with perseverance and patience, I can change my lifestyle to better help the world around me.

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