#PlasticFreeJuly – Goals

The Plastic Free July project is a campaign led every year to reduce the use of single-use plastic. Started in Australia, this project now includes thousands of people across the globe. Please click this link to visit their website and join the challenge to make an impact.

I first heard of this campaign a week ago and I knew I needed to act fast. The momentum and support that comes with a campaign or movement like this one make for great accountability. This year I am choosing to ban the Target Four plastics — plastic bags, straws, to-go cups, and water bottles — from my lifestyle this entire month of July.

I anticipate a few challenges for this month; the first being that I am currently traveling with my family. While my mom is very supportive of my zero waste and low-impact journey, the temptation to buy things containing more plastic is higher when I am in the comforts of my family. I’d much rather go with the flow than ask everyone to accommodate my preferences. It’s so much easier to stop by a fast-food restaurant and grab food on the road than it is to make time to pack a lunch or find a sit-down restaurant. Surely planning ahead and communication will be essential.

The other challenge I anticipate is making the adjustments in my work environment. Since my workplace is right across from the mall, I tend to walk over for lunch or order-in on busier days. The food court provides a great variety of food options but not as many options when it comes to the containers. As my vacation time comes to a close, I will need to plan ahead for meals to bring from home.

Goals for this month

  • Bring cloth bags with my everywhere (even if I don’t think I need it)
  • Keep my reusable straws near and ready
  • Plan ahead and anticipate situations where I might need to ask for accommodations, say no, or consider a change in habit
  • Document the journey on my Instagram

Where there are challenges, I see growing opportunities. And where there are new adventures, there are surprises around each corner. I am looking forward to seeing how this Plastic Free July challenges me. Follow along as I document my journey in more detail on my Instagram @abigoeszero.

Honest Update – June 2019

7 months have come and gone, a whole semester of school. While I did enjoy my second semester of college, I did let my goal of zero waste sit on the back burner. For a while I was pretty upset and disappointed with myself that I wasn’t able to keep up my progress during that time. But I did do a lot of reflection. Why was it that I wanted to go zero waste? What exactly did that mean for me? How much should I participate in things that may not be the best environmentally? In the end, I realized those answers may not have to be fully answered to continue my zero waste journey. I cannot put life on pause to work out hard questions. I decided it’s better to start afresh, to give myself grace, and to take things slow. After all, it’s not perfection that I should be chasing, but progress.

Progress, I’ve learned, comes in slow steps, imperfect steps. I like to put my best effort towards everything I do but with limited resources, the best is not always possible. So I swallowed my pride and looked at what I could change now and worked with that. This step consisted of a few metal straws, a zero waste and natural deodorant, a couple of bamboo toothbrushes and biodegradable floss. With these few tools, I feel that I am moving in the right direction and with that I am allowing myself time to be content with that for a while.

There are more things I would like to add to my zero waste lifestyle like keeping cloth bags in my car for shopping days and carpooling or using public transportation to work. But those things will come with time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. The world cannot be healed in a day. The challenge for the perfectionist in me (and perhaps in you as well) is to see the small changes and know that it can be enough for now.

Here’s to a new month, a new perspective, and renewed energy.

My Zero Waste New Year Goals

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I’m always a fan of making lists. Every day consists of a list of things I would love to get done. Not many things are crossed off, but just having options and seeing a bigger picture is always helpful in making a productive day. For me, the new year and my new year goals are no different; they are just things that I would love to make progress in but okay with not fully completing, as long as I started.

This year, I wanted to specifically make a list for my zero waste goals. (You can read some of my other life goals here.) As I mentioned before, becoming zero waste is something that I am aiming for, a process. It’s something that involves time and progress — two of my favorite things. So here are some of my goals as I aim to slowly but surely improve my lifestyle.

1. Be involved in the ecology club (and start composting with them).

It took me a while to figure out that there was an ecology club at my university. But as I searched for ways to compost in and around campus, I emailed multiple people about gardens that I could use. After several attempts at finding someone, I finally found the ecology club through Instagram and received great news that the university has a garden that I could use for composting and growing vegetables! I am very excited to learn all about this and (hopefully) figure out some way of collecting my food scraps from the dorm.

2. Make (and attempt) a sugar wax.

Shaving and waxing have always been somewhat controversial. For me, I prefer shaving but even that can cause my skin to be irritated and itchy. I’ve heard that sugar waxing is better for your skin as it exfoliates as well as removes hair. Since it’s still cold, I’m sure I can at least attempt this once before the summer comes.

3. Find some way to recycle at college.

A while ago, my roommate and I logged everything that we threw away for a week and we found that a great majority of the items could have been recycled. Knowing that, my next challenge is to figure out a way to collect all of that recycling and bring it to a drop-off location. Maybe I could start with keeping a bin by the dorm door.

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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

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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.

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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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