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EWC Zero Waste Challenge: All the Gory Details of My Repeated Failures

An Update On My Zero Waste Efforts
This stock photo really spoke to me because I had the privilege of waiting for a small herd of deer to cross my path on the way to work earlier this week. 

If you didn't catch my introduction to this challenge earlier in the week, please read this post before proceeding.

To say this week's Zero Waste efforts did not go well would be an understatement. Even one of my concerted attempts to make life more zero waste resulted in more waste.

Let's start from where I left off:

Monday

I don't work on Mondays, so to some extent I could control my day - and the waste I produced - a little bit better. I made Risotto using arborio rice and mushrooms covered in plastic for lunch, and covered half of my remaining onion with plastic wrap (I know, I know. There's really no excuse for still using plastic wrap, but I always convince myself that it's better than all the water waste that would result from using a storage container. I don't think that's true, probably, but given this article, could it maybe be true?).

Later in the day, I went out to dinner with friends and used a paper napkin.

Today's Waste:
  1. Coffee Filter (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  2. Packaging on virtually all lunch recipe items
  3. Paper napkin
  4. 2-3 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Toilet Paper (but it was post-consumer recycled if that helps)

Tuesday

The dreaded grocery day, which puts a real strain on my efforts to go zero waste. 

But before we get there...I received my pour-over coffee maker with reusable filter Monday, so I was able to go filter-free Tuesday morning and my coffee tasted great, too (I bought this coffee maker if anyone's interested). Bad news is that I ate a granola bar for breakfast and it was covered in plastic. 

On Tuesdays, one of my sweet volunteers brings us bagels from the local bagel shop (shout out to Bodo's!) and my bagel was covered in wax paper. I threw it in the shop's single stream trash can, so who knows what will become of it. At work, I also tend to use a lot of paper towels to wipe off grubby donations and surfaces. 

Because we're lazy (and traffic in C-ville is insane during rush hour), Daniel and I decided to go to the closest grocery store instead of Whole Foods, so it was difficult to totally void packaging. I bought more mini potatoes covered in packaging, plus chopped carrots and a pre-made salad (I factored in a lot of details on the salad, including how much more packaging I would have created if I'd bought a full bottle of dressing and a full bag of cheese to go with my unpackaged romaine). I also got a package of Goldfish, which is technically paper with foil inside, so it might be recyclable. Will have to check before I toss it. 

I also sent a package in a plastic mailer, so there's that.

Today's Waste:
  1. Granola Bar packaging
  2. Bagel Wrapper (?)
  3. Several Paper Towels (half sheets)
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Plastic wrapping on a myriad of produce items from grocery store
  7. Plastic mailer

Wednesday

Wednesday was super busy at work, so I can't remember much else. Oh! I made Red Beans and Rice with sausage for dinner, so that generated some waste. Fortunately, the can is recyclable and the brown rice I use comes in a cardboard container, but the sausage was wrapped in plastic and I covered the leftovers in plastic wrap (I know, I know).

Today's Waste:
  1. Granola Bar
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (used at work)
  3. Toilet Paper
  4. Cotton Ball
  5. Plastic covering Amy's Frozen Lunch
  6. Plastic packaging on Andouille sausage
  7. Plastic Wrap

Thursday

After I wrote my last post on this subject, I had the brilliant idea of purchasing reusable produce bags to make grocery shopping easier. They arrived in a large box surrounded by plastic bubble wrap (which is weird since they're made of mesh), which was sort of a *headdesk* moment for me. Had to throw the bubble wrap away, but at least I may start making progress at the grocery store.

I had leftover beans and rice for lunch, so no additional waste! I ate some tuna for dinner and the can was recyclable (as is the mayo container). 

Daniel and I headed to Trader Joe's for a couple of things and I bought a refrigerated cinnamon roll kit in one of those biscuit cartons that pops when you press on it. Theoretically, the whole thing should have been recyclable because it's cardboard, but there was a big piece of plastic packaging holding the small, plastic-sealed container of frosting inside the tube, so that's another headdesk for the day.

Also, got some packages in the mail. A couple were wrapped in plastic mailers.

Today's Waste:
  1. Banana Peel (compostable, but I didn't compost it)
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  3. Plastic from Cinnamon Rolls
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball
  6. Floss
  7. Plastic mailers

Friday

Our lawn guy gave me free lunch in a styrofoam container (people give me a lot of food at the thrift shop; it's incredible). I made some potato soup for dinner and wrapped my leftover onion in plastic wrap. 

Today's Waste:
  1. Styrofoam Container
  2. 3-4 Paper Towels (half sheets)
  3. Plastic Wrap
  4. Toilet Paper
  5. Cotton Ball

What I've Learned So Far:

Well, that's 32 trash bullet points listed for 5 days. I know I can easily get that number down if I just strategize a little better.
  • I'm not going to quit toilet paper anytime soon, but I think I'll try to seek out post-consumer recycled options for the long term.
  • Gotta find better cotton ball and paper towel options.
  • Do a better job of weighing convenience versus reducing waste for produce and other grocery items.

For what it's worth, my husband already thinks I'm a crunchy hippie and I've barely skimmed the surface of this whole zero waste thing. You have to start somewhere. 

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Check out the triumphs and struggles of other members of the Ethical Writers Coalition on their blogs:



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