Zero Waste Challenge, The Penultimate Day

  • Gum. So. Much. Gum. I knew this was going to be a problem going into the Challenge – I tend to go through about 4 pieces of gum a day. Most gum wrappers are definitely not compostable, and the internet is divided over whether gum is. I have no idea what my gum is made of – trust me, I tried to read the ingredients and left more mystified than before – so I don’t know how much of it is natural and biodegradable. (Then I start thinking, if it’s not safe to put back into the earth, why am I putting it in me? But it’s an addiction.)
  • Plastic bags - Many plastic bags can be reused or recycled in grocery stores, but then there are those super-thin crinkly ones that you bag your vegetables in at Stop and Shop or Whole Foods or what have you. I try to reuse them but they’re such a low-grade plastic that even washing it feels useless. I HAD a big bag from pretzels in there, but I learned I could Terracycle it! Who knew??
  • Lint. I wish I could have avoided this by hanging my laundry outside – it would have smelled like sunshine! – but such is college. The jury also seems to be out on lint. Tufts Recycles! actually wrote about this issue last year – they would not support composting lint. From the little reading I did online, I think I have to agree with them. If you know for certain that your clothes do not contain synthetic materials, that’s one thing – but most of us, if not all, can’t say that for sure. And any chemicals that end up in your compost will end up in the earth and back in your food or somebody else’s.
  • The plastic wrapper that held my two boxes of soap together.
  • Two hand wipes – I try to avoid these in general (these are the first ones I’ve used in at least a year) because water does the job just fine. Plus, with all the chemicals on them, they’re definitely not going in the compost – so they end up in the trash.

Let’s look at my progression over the week:

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For me, the big idea that comes out of this challenge – and something that has already been a huge part of my life, affecting the decisions I make about what I eat, wear, etc. – is that as individuals and as a culture we aren’t cognizant of nor willing to take responsibility for the consequences of our consumption. And not even just environmental either: Earlier this week we posted a Ted Talk by Van Jones, covering the complexities of the intersections of environmentalism and social justice. When we throw away our trash – or even when we recycle – it leaves our little corner of reality but it goes and pollutes someone else’s backyard or fills someone else’s lungs with fumes.  How about that nice blouse you bought from H&M? Do you know where it was made? Do you know how the people who made it live, or how much they earned? If you wear it three or four times and then throw it out because you get tired of it or it gets too ratty, is that doing any justice to the handiwork and materials that went towards its production and distribution? Or the chocolate in the cookies you just ate – was it produced through slave labor in Cote D’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)?

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