My initial approach to zero waste week made the challenge very easy. For the first few days, I chose my behaviors based on my knowledge of the waste they would produce. I ate fresh produce, avoided foods in ambiguous packaging, made my own coffee, and only used tea bags that came without packaging. This approach was going smoothly until the end of the week, when I decided to clean my room. Cleaning up my room was a difficult reminder that my behaviors during zero waste week were not exactly typical of a normal week.

I noticed that there were recyclables and non-recyclables mixed into my desk side trash can. I had, on occasion, thrown paper products into this trashcan, despite that there was recycling bin no more than 15 steps away. There were a few other items which I was unsure about. Cotton swabs, Q-tips, and the waxy sheets of paper which stickers peel off of. After some research, I found out that cotton balls can be composted, as long as they do not contain any synthetic materials. I couldn’t find the packaging, so I held onto these items in my Ziploc bag.

At this point, my bag still contains a small amount of trash. I’ve taken to using the bag as a sort of limbo space for items which I know can be recycled, but not in the typical “paper, metal, plastic” categories. For instance, I’ve used the bag to hold on to some granola bar wrappers when I didn’t have the chance to teracycle them in the sustainability office.  I’ve found that the bag is a helpful reminder to recycle items that I might otherwise have thrown in the trash.

I’ve noticed that many times, when I do throw away recyclable items, it is for convenience. I always choose to recycle bulkier items, like cardboard and bottles, but I’ve found that I make less of an effort to figure out what to do with smaller, atypical items like  shopping receipts or food wrapping. I’ve found that the challenge has made me incredibly aware of my waste producing behaviors, and has influenced me to correct for those behaviors.


-Sofie Seiden