4 Years of Trash in a Mason Jar: Redefining Our Waste Legacy

Every other day I carry a large bag of trash down to the dumpster of our building. Each time I do, the weight and volume of the bag astounds me. There are two of us- we don’t eat frozen foods, we buy some things in bulk, and tap water is our drink of choice. So where does it all come from?

Recently, I read an article about the legacy each one of us will leave behind. If you are an average American, you produce 4.3 pounds of trash a day, or a staggering 1,570 pounds of trash a year. Long after you leave the Earth, and your children and their children pass away, and any other impressions you have made on this world are long gone, you trash will still be polluting the planet. The approximately 124,000 pounds of trash you produced in your lifetime will be sitting in landfills, contaminating the oceans, and being used by birds to make their nests.

34564_Keurig_Buried_in_K_Cups_FP_WideWho? What? How? Why? Well, the first two are easy. It’s all of us, and it’s trash we are making- lots of it. The “how” just takes some reflection. Everything we buy is packaged. More often than not, the packages are put into packages. Even worse, we live in a disposable society. We want convenience, and we want it now. Think about K-cups for a second. In 2010, Keurig sold enough K-cups to circle the planet almost 11 times. K-cups and bottled water, two inventions for problems that didn’t exist in the first place. Paper napkins, plastic silverware, paper plates, drinks in plastic bottles, the list goes on.

Yesterday, I read a story about an inspiring and eco-conscious zero waste advocate named Laura Singer. Through dedication to the cause, Laura lives a zero waste lifestyle and can put her trash from the last four years into a single ball jar. Yes, the featured image of this article is Laura’s four year trash stash. Laura began her zero waste journey long ago reading Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring‘ and studying environmental science in college. The seed was planted.

Laura starts every day brushing her teeth with a compostable bamboo toothbrush and homemade toothpaste. She buys bulk, goes to farmers markets, and shops for clothing at second-hand stores. Laura’s minimalist zero waste lifestyle has given her an arsenal of tips for the rest of us that can be found in her blog Trash is for Tossers- trashisfortossers.com.

Zero-Waste-Bulk-FoodLaura’s website has an awesome page called “Zero Waste Alternatives: The Ultimate List“. Let’s face it, zero waste is tough for even the hardiest environmentalist, but there are alternatives to many of our wasteful habits that are not only easy, but also lead to a healthier lifestyle also. Buying loose bulk from the local health food store is a great place for most of us to start reducing our waste, and Laura’s ultimate list brings up the question of, “Why the heck am I buying all these disposable products?”

Another great question to ask is, “What can I make for myself?” Whether bathroom products or food, if you aren’t buying fresh or organic, chances are that the product you are buying contains carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and other nasties in the form of pesticides, fragrances, colorings, additives, preservatives. So, why not get DIY and save money, live healthier and join Laura Singer in improving that footprint of yours? I know I am going to try!