How much trash do you produce in a week? How much does that add up to in a whole year? On average, every person in the U.S. creates one million pound of materials per person a year. Americans make up five percent of the world’s population, but the generate about 30 percent of the world’s garbage – and all that trash has to go somewhere.
But is there any other way to live? Well, of course there is. People who live off-grid are already quite often well-adjusted to not having a truck come by every week to empty their dumpster bin – but one person decided to take this as far as she could go…and has lived the last two years producing only one mason jar’s worth of trash.
Does that sound impossible? How does she do it? Is it possible for YOU to drastically reduce how much waste you produce? Read below the break to find out!
My name is Lauren. I’m a 23-year-old girl living in NYC and I don’t make trash. For real. No garbage bin, no landfill. Nada.
I know what you are thinking. This girl must be a total hippie. Or a liar. Or she’s not real. But I assure you, I am none of those things. Well, except for real.
I didn’t always live what some call a “zero waste” life, but I started making a shift about three years ago.
Quitting plastic meant learning to make all of my packaged products myself.
This included everything from toothpaste to cleaning products, all things I had no clue how to make and had to learn by doing a lot of online research. One day I stumbled across a blog called Zero Waste Home. It followed the life of Bea Johnson, wife and mother of two children who all live a zero-waste life in California.
By that point I had already eliminated almost all plastic from my life. I thought, “If a family of four can live a zero-waste lifestyle, I, as a (then) 21-year-old single girl in NYC, certainly can.” So I took the leap.
First, I stopped buying packaged products and began bringing my own bags and jars to fill with bulk products at the supermarket. I stopped buying new clothing, and shopped only secondhand. I continued making all of my own personal care and cleaning products. I downsized significantly by selling, donating, or giving away superfluous things in my life, such as all but one of my six identical spatulas, 10 pairs of jeans that I hadn’t worn since high school, and a trillion decorative items that had no significance to me at all.
Most importantly, I started planning potentially wasteful situations; I began saying “NO” to things like straws in my cocktails at a bars, to plastic or paper bags at stores, and to receipts.
Here are just a few of the ways life has improved since I went trash free:
1. I save money.
I now make a grocery list when I go shopping, which means being prepared and not grabbing expensive items impulsively. Additionally, buying food in bulk means not paying a premium for packaging. When it comes to my wardrobe, I don’t purchase new clothing; I shop secondhand and get my clothes at a heavily discounted price.
2. I eat better.
Since I purchase unpackaged foods, my unhealthy choices are really limited. Instead, I eat a lot of organic fruits and vegetables, bulk whole grains and legumes, as well as a lot of seasonal, local food, since farmers markets offer amazing unpackaged produce.
3. I’m happier.
Before I adopted my zero-waste lifestyle, I would find myself scrambling to the supermarket before it closed, because I didn’t shop properly, ordering in takeout because I didn’t have food, always going to the pharmacy to get this scrub and that cream, and cleaning constantly because I had so much stuff.
Now, my typical week involves one trip to the store to buy all of the ingredients I need. This trip isn’t just for food, but also for cleaning and beauty products, since all of the things I use now can be made with simple, everyday ingredients.