(As an aside, I apologize if this post is coming up twice in your reader or inbox. For some reason, when it was posted, only the draft was posted instead of the whole blog post. This one should be complete *fingers crossed*)
Objective: Zero Waste is a series in which I will be sharing the steps our family has been taking to reduce our environmental footprint. This is part 2 of the series, for part 1, please click here.
The last time, I wrote about how I’d first heard of the concept of zero waste and how it took me a few years (and being exposed to the term anew) to start getting curious about it and actually read a book on the subject. Today, I’ll be discussing the base philosophy behind the idea of zero waste (as presented by Béa Johnson).
I’m sure everyone here has heard of and seen the 3 R’s numerous times in their lives. The symbol of the three circling arrows in omnipresent.
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
For me, this symbol that we know so well doesn’t represent the idea very well. Since the arrows are, for lack of a better description, chasing one another, it makes it seem like each of these actions is of equal importance. But they aren’t. The order in which the R’s are presented is important: Reduce, reuse, recycle. In short, if you have less to begin with and reuse what you do have, the there’ll be less to dispose of in the recycling bin at the end. For me, the 3 R’s are more of a sequential series of actions than a cycle.
Following the 5 R’s
While reducing, reusing and recycling are as good a starting point as any for someone who is interested in going the zero waste route, there are, according to Johnson, two additional steps that can be taken to help guide our choices: refusing and rotting (aka: composting).
At first, I thought that the first two steps (refusing and reusing) were pretty much the same thing. It’s only after reading a bit more that I began to understand the distinction. The way I understand it, is that refusing has to do with not allowing things we don’t need into the house whereas reducing has to do with not being wasteful with the things we do need.
A concrete example of this would be that opting out of mailing lists (the paper kind) would constitute refusing whereas taking a full shower every two days instead of every day is a means of reducing.
And that’s all there is to it really. Next time, I’ll be sharing with you the changes that we have made to reduce the waste we create as a family.
What are your thoughts on the zero-waste philosophy? How do recycling and composting work in your city?