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The Zero Waste Movement: Combating Climate Change In The New Year

As 2017 approaches, people all across the world have begun making their own New Year’s resolutions. While some set goals to eat healthier or to ditch their fake friends, I set out with my own goal: to live a zero waste lifestyle.

For those who are unaware, living zero waste is living in a way that does not produce trash.

While there are a variety of ways to approach zero waste living, a common method used by those without the ability to grow their own food is to purchase produce at local farmer’s markets or grocery stores and to purchase non-produce items (soap, beans, flour, sugar, etc.) at bulk stores; of course doing so with reusable containers such as jars, cotton drawstring bags, mesh bags, and totes. This lifestyle often includes making items that cannot be purchased package-free such as deodorant, toothpaste, cleaning products, etc.

In some cases, people starting out or with restrictions based on what is accessible to them will purchase items with packaging that can be recycled. Oftentimes, recycling is viewed as a last resort for those living zero waste lifestyles and repurposing containers or composting is valued over throwing items away or sending them to a recycling facility. So how did I find out about this new way of living?

While falling down the rabbit hole that is YouTube, I stumbled upon a TED Talk by zero waste advocate Lauren Singer, entitled “Why I Live A Zero Waste Life“.

I didn’t think much of it at the time and continued to make my way through other TED Talks and videos of that sort. It wasn’t until a few days later when a video popped up on my YouTube home page that I started taking the concept of myself living zero waste seriously.

Over the course of the month of  December, I tore through all the online content I could find, taking note of everything I would need to collect in order to live zero waste and worked out what would and wouldn’t work for me. Over the last month, I’ve decluttered my life and recorded recipes and directions for how I plan to go about composting, packing my lunch, making my own toothpaste, etc. During this planning period, I found the Youtube channels Trash is for Tossers and The Girl Gone Green to be very helpful. All this planning has lead up to this: beginning to live a zero waste lifestyle come midnight on Jan. 1, 2017. My goal is to take living zero waste day by day and to hopefully continue living zero waste long after 2017 comes to a close.

So I know what you might be thinking, this sounds a bit ambitious for a 15-year-old teenager still living at home. However, this isn’t the first time I’ve struck out on my own and done something a bit “out there”. In the past, I’ve received a lot of skeptical comments from my relatives and peers when experimenting with new things. While in some ways others’ negative opinions have been discouraging, I’ve found them to be great motivators. In the long run, these comments have allowed me to try new things and to better myself in multiple aspects of my life. That said, I will be using others’ doubt to help me stick to being zero waste even when temptations for things I cannot make or purchase package-free arise.

I am doing this in response to climate change and as a way to combat global warming, especially knowing that in 21 days, my country will be under Donald Trump’s administration.

Knowing that because I am so young I have very limited say in how things play out in the world, going zero waste is my way of taking control and doing my part to combat what’s to come after Inauguration Day. I hope by writing this post and other posts with tips I developed throughout my journey, I can help others and help the planet.

All in all, I realize that this is a big step for me. It will be a challenging one but I believe that my drive and desire to help the environment will allow me to be successful. My interest in environmental studies, as well as my ability to stick to what I commit to, will play a vital role in this lifestyle change. Knowing that I will have to be more independent and self-aware scares me, as well as knowing that failure is possible. However, I believe that in the end, living zero waste will have a positive outcome on my life and will allow me to learn from the inevitable mistakes I will make along the way.

If you’d like to learn more about living zero waste check out Lauren Singer’s blog, Trash is for Tosser. If you aren’t ready to go all in and live zero waste, check out these 5 tips for how you can do your part to help the planet in 2017.

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Lauren Breach
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Lauren Breach is a junior from Austin, Texas. In her free time, Lauren enjoys leading a social justice discussion group at her school called 'Real Talk', advocating for LGBTQ+ rights, and drinking coffee. When she is not writing, Lauren can be found taking portraits of her friends and listening to The Smiths.

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