Since today is the last day of Mass Car-Free Week, my fellow commuter rail travelers got a special peek at my Zero-Waste Challenge trash. We have now sent out invitations to lots of students and employees at Tufts encouraging them to try their own challenge. My colleague, Ann Greaney-Williams (also the Environmental Studies coordinator) is going to do it with her five-year old and her husband. And two other staff from OOS will be starting their challenge week on Monday – so you can join them too.
I did notice another unintended consequence – the Zero-Waste Challenge keeps your dietary indiscretions in full view – no more pretending you didn’t eat that cookie or candy bar. I haven’t decided if this is a good thing yet…
On another note, the other day I was reminded that there was life before disposable tissues and it’s time to re-discover handkerchiefs! With so many awesome designs out there like these by Hank & Cheef, how can you resist buying one for every day of the week? If you don’t want to buy anything you can make your own perfect ones with a sewing machine and a scrap of fabric. Or, if like me, the sewing machine won’t be entering my life soon enough for my next bout of sniffles, check out this awesome blog on how to make simple, adorable, no-sew t-shirt tissues.
Maybe this is the solution to my cat’s insistence on pulling my non-eco-friendly tissues out of my trash bin and chewing them to bits on the floor… (speaking of which – does that count as trash for this week if I used them last week?)
The Eco-Reps started their Zero-Waste Challenge Tuesday night and several of the OOS staff members are participating as well. What does this mean you ask? In a nutshell it means that for an entire week you don’t throw anything in the trash – instead you carry it around with you in a clear plastic bag on the outside of your backpack (shocking, eh? Full rules here) or you recycle or compost it. The idea is that there is no “away” and how different would we act if we actually couldn’t throw anything ‘away’? It’s quite an enlightening experience as you realize how many things have packaging and how hard it is to not generate trash.
As this is the fourth time I’ve done this exercise (it’s always a great reminder about how much you can compost, recycle and reuse – especially after you’ve slipped back into some wasteful habits…*wink wink*), I knew that the hardest thing in the first couple days is to remember not to use the trash can. So… this time I borrowed a social marketing tool and created prompts. I also noticed last time that the most abundant item in my bag was q-tips, so I pledged to do without my morning ear-cleaning ritual (yes, yes, I know you’re not supposed to – but it feels so goood!).
The interesting thing about this exercise is that you realize that there are actually lots of unintended positive consequences that stem from trying to not generate trash. For example, this morning I didn’t have anything obvious in my fridge to bring for lunch, so I figured I’d just buy something. But then I thought of the potential dreaded take-out container – what if it wasn’t recyclable?! So, instead I packed up a lunch of some tomato and kale soup I had been waiting to make taste good (right now, it just tastes healthy) and some brown rice I had cooked a few days ago and stored in the freezer. You can’t really get more healthy a lunch than that can you? So, unintended consequence #1: healthy, home-made food saves money and promotes good eating.
Hannah’s unintended consequence from her first foray into zero-waste challenges was that instead of throwing that extra bit of extra pasta into her pot last night (since the box was almost empty), she left it in the box – cooking only exactly the amount she needed for dinner. Therefore, unintended consequence #2: portion control and perhaps even preventing wasted food (if you, like me, have a tendency to forget about your leftovers…).
We will be posting more tips and discoveries as the week goes on. What about you? Do you think you could ever try the challenge – for one day, one week, one month?? (one of our Eco-Reps did it for 6 weeks when she was in high school!). If you want to join us on our adventure, we would love to hear about your experiences – please comment below!