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.