Transitioning to zero waste lifestyle beneficial

More stories from Ellen Garrett

Think about how much trash you make in a day. All the plastic bags, tissues, plastic water bottles and the packaging on your food. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency the average American makes 4.5 pounds of trash per day. That adds up to 254 million tons of trash in a year. Not only do we make all this trash and plastic waste, according to, we only recycle 1-2 percent of it annually.

This is a huge problem. According to there are over 13,000 active and inactive landfills in the US. Landfills are one of the largest man made sources of methane, directly creating horrible air pollution and hurting our atmosphere.

These thousands of landfills not only cause bad smells, air pollution, and groundwater pollution, it also affects biodiversity. According to the Romanian Ministry of Environment and Forests, even the development of landfills causes the loss of approximately 60 to 600 species per acre. This means that we have caused the downfall of at least seven billion species, all because we are desensitized to the amount of trash that we actually produce and how it stacks up.

We not only over fill the three thousand active landfills, but is also beginning to fill our oceans. According to National Geographic there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean. This causes loss of biodiversity because fish and other marine animals are unable to occupy the space it takes up, it also allows fish, seabirds, turtles, and all other marine animals to eat, get stuck in, and die from this trash.

The big pieces of trash are not the only problems. According to, because plastic does not biodegrade, it breaks up into microscopic pieces which are then eaten by filter feeders and birds which eventually fills their stomachs and starves them. Approximately 70 species of marine species are in danger of extinction because of plastic waste.

Going zero waste could work to completely stop this cycle that we are currently contributing to. Going zero waste is a lifestyle choice that hundreds have made that includes making little to no trash, recycling, and composting. Composting is a way to break down food scraps, leaves, some kinds of paper and cardboard, and turn them back into soil. This can be done from the safety of your own home, either outside in your backyard or inside in tubs with the use of worms to break it down faster.

People who go zero waste also avoid food and other products with packaging. Some who are more devoted make their own beauty products and toiletries, but others just buy from bulk stores or buy things in glass or recyclable packaging. Going zero waste can be a big time and life consuming effort, but for some, it fits into their lifestyle easily.

Even if the commitment of a zero waste lifestyle is not suitable to your living situation, there are many ways that you can lessen your trash everyday. If your family does not already, you can begin to recycle, and pay attention to things that you throw in the trash that could actually be thrown into the recycling. You can begin to compost, either inside or outside. While grocery shopping, you can not only buy and use reusable bags, but you can look for food with less or no packaging, or shop locally at farmers markets or health food stores that already have little to no packaging on their food.

Perhaps the easiest thing to do to lessen your waste is to invest in a reusable water bottle. The school even has convenient bottle fillers that can help you cut down on the amount of plastic bottles you throw into landfills. If you are really dedicated to lessening your waste, but still love to eat fast food or takeout, you can request that they either not give you utensils or extra napkins, or ask if they could put it directly into your reusable Tupperware, or at least bring your refillable bottle to use. They often give discounts on drinks because the packaging is what costs them the most.

Even if you do not believe that any of these alternatives are feasible to you, at least take some time to notice how much trash you are really producing every day.