The Zero Garbage Challenge and Other Trash Talk at the EcoVillage

Did you know that 99% of what we purchase ends up in a landfill within 6 months …. And the average American throws away more than 4 pounds of garbage a day! Last week, about a dozen people gathered in the Lochlyn House to talk trash and learn how to reduce their household waste stream.

At presentations like this, I often introduce myself, “Hi. I’m Rose and I’ve been living without garbage since January 1st, 2009.”

It all started in the middle of 2008. I had an idea: Would it be possible to go a year without throwing anything away? It seemed like an interesting challenge, so I made one basic rule: I can throw nothing away that will go into a landfill. Recycling, reusing, and composting are all okay.

If I end up with something that cannot be recycled, reused or composted, I have to keep it. The idea was to add a feedback loop that had been missing. I used to just make my garbage disappear by putting it in a bag and setting it on the curb. But now I have a constant feedback of my consumption and production of waste.

During the presentation, I told stories about why I decided to begin (and then continue) the zero garbage challenge I questioned the logic of putting our trash on the curb so it can disappear and become someone else’s responsibility. I talked about the immeasurably huge trash vortex in the pacific ocean. Then we discussed how rich life becomes when we focus less on acquiring things. And about how to transition from compulsive purchases that sometimes generate guilt and shame toward more mindful, thoughtful consumption.

We passed around lots of ideas about non-disposable products and how to change purchasing habits. We shared tips about composting and recycling more effectively, and we discussed ways to involve the whole family.

As with most endeavors, the zero garbage challenge is so much more rewarding in the context of a community. I love hosting these presentations because it keeps my motivation and accountability high – but more than that, I always come away feeling more inspired by the thoughtfulness and wisdom of those around me and the many great ideas that everyone has to share.

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