Tag Archives: zero waste

Austin, Texas, approves plan to become zero waste by 2040

On December 15, 2011, the city council in Austin, Texas, voted unanimously to approve the Zero Waste by 2040 plan. And now the program is starting to take effect.

Starting with the comprehensive master plan (pdf), the executive summary:

Zero Waste is a design principle that goes beyond recycling to focus first on reducing wastes and reusing products and then recycling and composting the rest. Zero Waste works to redesign the system to mimic natural systems, recognizing that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and everything is a resource for something or someone else. Currently, Austin is estimated to lose over $40 million annually by sending materials that could be recycled or reused to area landfills.

Austin’s Zero Waste system will strive to recover that estimated loss and eliminate waste, or get darn close. This Plan defines success as reducing by 20% the per capita solid waste disposed to landfills by 2012, diverting 75% of waste from landfills and incinerators by 2020, and 90% by 2040.

Then, bringing the children into it with a program called Generation Zero.  Offering educational programs at each grade level:

  • Kindergarten – 2nd grade – classroom composting
  • 3rd – 5th – learning about recycling
  • Middle School – learn about landfills and visit a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)
  • High School – history of trash in America

And, my favorite, offering discounts on the utility bill for reducing your trash. If you throw away more you pay more, allowing greener families to save up to $20/month:

  • 24 gallon bin – $13.35
  • 32 gallon bin – $14.60
  • 64 gallon bin – $19.75
  • 96 gallon bin – $33.50

This is exciting to watch Austin transform itself, starting from a very low recycling rate of 38% and moving all the way to zero waste.

 

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Zero waste college football – Ohio State’s 105,000 seat stadium goes zero waste

Ohio Stadium is the largest stadium in the country to attempt zero waste. With 105,000 seats and a massive tailgating section this is a challenge. Their goal is get near-zero waste with 90% of the trash turned into recycling and compost.

The success has been fast and big with a 61% reduction in trash sent to landfills in 2011, the first year of the program. And an incredibly high season average of 75.3% for recycling and compost for an average of 105,231 people.

The best part is how fast this is all moving. When the program began they weren’t sure what they could do, and labelled zero waste as “pretty impossible”. Now, they are hoping for at least one game in the 2012 season with 90% diversion rate, their standard for zero waste.

An incredible achievement that shows zero waste is possible, can happen fast, and without interrupting all the fun.

Learn more:

 

Zero Waste at Ohio Stadium

 

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Zero Waste: shave with an electric razor or a real blade

I’m willing to sacrifice a clean shave for the good of the planet. I have to if I want to be zero waste. All the options on the market involve disposable razors, the kind you throw-out after a week. It’s a minor thing but every bit counts when you’re trying to be zero waste. At a certain point all you have left to cut-out are the little things.

I’ve considered investing in a straight blade, barbershop style. One that I could sharpen myself and get the closest shave of my life. It sounds manly and tough, like teaching myself about knives will earn a boy scout badge. But I grew up in a peace-loving, near-hippy family and so I’m not used to any sort of weapon.

And my first alternative was already lying around in the bathroom – an electric shaver. I cut my hair with it and decided to try a shave with it. It’s not exactly the closest shave but it does the job. And I collect all the shavings for the compost. They disappear immediately in there, not like an ear of corn which take forever to disintegrate.

The only problem with this method is that it uses electricity, but I’m okay with that. I see the world moving towards all-electricity devices running on renewable energy. And since the power company allows me to pay more for renewable energy, it feels ok.

But I still look forward to earning that man badge and become the first person I know to shave with a real blade.

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Men, have you ever shaved with a real blade?

Ladies, do you have a way to avoid using a disposable razor?

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Zero Waste: coffee grinds for your garden

The key to being zero waste is finding all the little ways to avoid throwing things out. And sometimes that means taking things in too. Which is exactly what I do with coffee grinds. The little bit I create at home gets added to the garden, but it’s never enough. Every month I make a run to Starbucks for a commercial-size bag of coffee grinds. And that allows me to skip buying fertilizer at the store.

The science behind coffee grinds in the garden is pretty simple. It’s a rich source of nitrogen and minor amounts of other soil nutrients – phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and copper. The same items you will find in a bag of fertilizer at the store. But do be careful when adding coffee grinds to plants, as it might interfere with growth. It is best to place in the soil – tilling 6-8 inches deep – before or after planting.

And that’s perfect for me. I can avoid throwing away coffee grinds, avoid buying fertilizer at the store, and take in trash from other places. The local coffee shops throw away their grinds unless someone asks for them. And the baristas love handing them over because it means they don’t have to take out the trash.

It’s just one part of zero waste but it shows how easy it can be. Not to mention money saving – no more fertilizer – and helpful for the community. Can you believe I’m reducing the trash that Starbucks creates?

 

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The first step towards zero waste – reduce the amount of trash cans in your home

Living a zero waste lifestyle isn’t hard if you start simple. And the first step is to get rid of some of the trash cans in your home. Leave a few in the major areas and make sure to leave one for recycling. Soon you will find the majority of your trash to be recyclables and the trash you send to the landfill dropping like the rain.

When I made this change, I found a trash can in each room. Most contained only a few pieces that I had to empty every week. I thought about it and determined that the kitchen and the bathroom were key places to keep a trash can. Everything else was put in storage, or converted into a recycle bin.  The fewer trash cans freed up a little time and allowed me to focus on what I was throwing out.

It happened that I wasn’t recycling enough. I visited the website of my trash company and found their list of approved recyclables. I was recycling only half of what I could and quickly doubled the amount in the recycle bin. It’s amazing how this one step – reducing the trash cans – led me to the easiest and biggest step towards zero waste. I was halfway there.

The next step was a little harder. No big reductions, just making one small change at a time. I noticed my shampoo and conditioner bottles weren’t recyclable, so I switch to a brand that was. The little yogurt cups weren’t recyclable but the big ones were. I began paying attention to each item I was sending to a landfill, and found that each had a recyclable alternative.

And that’s it. The path to zero waste is simple and easy. At first glance it sounds like an extreme lifestyle and impossible to do. But it’s not and everyone I recommend this to is shocked at the simplicity. A little step in the green direction and we all do our part.

 

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More reading on zero waste:

 

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My Manifesto – the Zeitgeist of sustainability

This will be the fifth manifesto I’ve written. And every one of them has had a noble goal and ambitious hopes. I like to shoot for the stars and see where I end up.

My goal is to be the Zeitgeist of sustainability.

Zeitgeist - “the spirit of the times” or “the spirit of the age.”

- the defining spirit of a particular period as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.

I want to create a spirit of sustainability that spreads across this country. An idea that people can believe in and feel proud of. And this goes beyond Republican or Democratic differences. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Texan in a drought or a New Englander in a Prius. We can all agree on sustainability.

But we don’t agree and that’s the problem. There are too many messages out there and each one points in a different direction. Leaving us in a state of confusion, unsure of what to do but wanting to do something.

And I know this is true. I talk to many people and all of them want to do something. They agree with the principles of sustainability, but none of them agree on global warming, climate change, organic, energy, etc.

And they don’t need to. It’s all for the same cause. We just need to keep the focus on sustainability. That is where the Zeitgeist comes into play. A German word that is almost mystical in how it happens – millions of people coming together because they feel the same way about something. It doesn’t happen often, especially without war, but it is happening here.

We just need someone to write about it. To say what everyone is thinking and make it so well known that it becomes the new way to do things.

That is my job and I have spent years studying and learning about sustainability. I’ve been to the White House for discussions and into people’s garbage. Surprisingly, the whole thing breaks down into four topics:

  • Overcoming obesity
  • Living zero waste
  • Strong local economies
  • Clean air

The first one, obesity, is the most important of them all. It is impossible to be healthy and pollute the planet. And that’s the message I want to convey. This isn’t about sacrifice and loss, nor hard choices and spending money. All that is noise pollution and marketing.

The truth is that when you improve your life, you improve the planet. And this blog will teach you how to do so. With all the relevant facts and personal stories – plus the bigger picture to let you know you are affecting the world.

And all you have to do is make your life better.

Don’t wash your hands with hot water – use cold water to save energy and water

More on saving water, from the N.Y. Times:

In its medical literature, the Food and Drug Administration states that hot water comfortable enough for washing hands is not hot enough to kill bacteria, but is more effective than cold water because it removes oils from the hand that can harbor bacteria.

But in a 2005 report in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine…(subjects) were instructed to wash and rinse with soap for 25 seconds using water with temperatures ranging from 40 degrees Fahrenheit to 120 degrees, the various temperatures had “no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction.”

 

How does this save water? There is no need to run the faucet until the hot water comes, avoiding all that wasted water, and by using cold water you save the energy needed to heat the water.

I’ve long thought that washing my hands with soap and cold water does the job. The same for washing dishes. Strange that for most of my life I thought hot water was absolutely necessary. I looked on the CDC and Mayo Clinic websites and found nothing. One says use cold or warm water and the other says nothing at all.

This means that switching over to cold water with soap is a reasonable step if you’re looking to conserve water and energy. Of course, you can still use warm water, but I find I don’t really need it. In the end, my goal is to live a Zero Waste, low-carbon lifestyle and this is one small step in that direction.

 

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The Zero Waste Dog – how to handle the poop

Dogs can be Zero Waste and it’s easier than you think. There are (3) things you need to consider: 1) the type of bag you use, 2) how to dispose of the waste, and 3) adjusting your feeding to minimize waste.

The best doggy bag is a biodegradable one. They are easy to find at pet stores and Amazon offers a wide range from $8-11. It is recommended that you reuse each bag as many times as possible. I place mine on a shelf somewhere out-of-the-way after each use. The following day, it is dried out and easy to use without any odor, touch, or gross problems.

Of course, messes do happen and eventually you will have to throw the bag out. As long as it’s biodegradable, tossing it only contributes a small amount to a landfill, and eventually nothing at all.

Disposing of the waste in a smart way is the single most important thing you can do. According to the EPA, pet waste is very bad on parks, waterways, and in landfills:

Decaying pet waste consumes oxygen and sometimes releases ammonia. Low oxygen levels and ammonia can damage the health of fish and other aquatic life. Pet waste carries bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can threaten the health of humans and wildlife. Pet waste also contains nutrients that promote weed and algae growth (eutrophication). Cloudy and green, Eutrophic water makes swimming and recreation unappealing or even unhealthy.

In response, the EPA and many cities are beginning to ask dog owners to flush waste. It goes down the toilet just like ours.

Last, what you feed your dog impacts what comes out the other end. I’ve discovered that different types of food make waste picking-up easier. The best results I’ve found, come from food I make myself using Dr. Pitcairn’s recipes. I feed her less and she poops less, it’s great!

I’ve tried out these methods for a while now and have it down. I feed my dog just enough food to keep her healthy, and not fat. It keeps her waste minimal which I flush down the toilet. I pick it up in a biodegradable bag that I reuse a few times. That’s how the Zero Waste dog works.

 

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Why we write — What is 1X57 about?

1X57 is a daily publication about sustainability, and all the related topics. The primary subjects are zero waste, farmers markets, and clean energy. Beyond that is an array of fun topics like: do-it-yourself (DIY), crafts, sports, art, and creativity.

We talk about all of them and, of course: reduce, reuse, recycle.

5-6 pieces a day are published. A few are opinion pieces written from an expert point-of-view following research, experiments, and field tests. Comments, criticisms, and queries for help are welcome.

The remaining content is blend of support pieces and fun stories. The support pieces are studies, other experts and their opinions, and facts that support each opinion piece. They are designed to give you a broader perspective while also bringing together the best knowledge available.

The fun stories shake things up and are thrown in purely because they are interesting. Anything from short shorts to amazing surf artwork. It’s a little of the playful with the serious.

These are the topics we are passionate about, and would normally be gabbing to our friends about. This publication is the perfect way to share our obsession and invite you to become our friend. Enjoy!

 

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All about Zero Waste

The week in Zero Waste, starting with:

 

What Does ZeroWaste Mean?

To explain all this let’s start with what Zero Waste means. The concept isn’t about throwing things away, like most think, it’s about sustainability and recycling. We are all consumers and will continue to be, and the goal isn’t to get rid of consumption but to modify it. To create a system where everything we use ends up someplace other than a landfill.

 

Zero Waste: Stopping all that junk mail

Zero Waste: The recycled toothbrush

Zero Waste: The coffee maker

Zero Waste: Moving boxes – Recopack

 

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California pushes its citizens towards Zero Waste – new law asks for 75% reduction

California set a goal of a 50% reduction in 1989. In the last decade, most of the state has achieved that and surpassed it (the current statewide rate is 65%). Now, the government has upped the ante, asking for 75% by 2020.

 

London 2012 Olympics were planned as Zero Waste

Staging a One Planet Olympics in London would help achieve the first sustainable Games. Sustainability has been at the heart of the London 2012 Bid and Masterplan.

 

Why can’t mainstream media cannot write about sustainability?

I am often frustrated by the lack of depth in articles about sustainability. It’s as if all writers and “experts” are recycling the same content. We all feel this impending sense of climactic doom and want to make changes, but then we are fed the same tips we already know. I think I’ve discovered why this is happening.

You can do it, go Zero Waste!