What does "litterless" mean?
To me, it means striving for a zero waste life. Zero waste is an attempt to reduce the amount of trash & recycling I make down to almost nothing. A month's worth of trash can now fit in the palm of my hand; a month's recycling can fit in the crook of my elbow. Sound crazy? I promise, it's not too hard. I compost all of my food scraps, shop for groceries using cotton bags to hold produce and glass jars brought from home to purchase food from the bulk section of the grocery, and make some of my own toiletries and home cleaning products from simple products likewise purchased in bulk. If I can't find something without packaging, I try to do without it or to make sure it's recyclable. That's all there is to it!
Why is zero waste important?
I think it's really critical for several reasons. First of all, trash doesn't decompose in landfills - instead, it sits there more or less unchanged forever, belching out greenhouse gases like methane. That's not great, especially when you think about the fact that when organic matter (anything natural - food, plants, cotton fabric, sticks, and more) is composted (kept out of the landfill and allowed to decompose naturally, with access to oxygen), it forms a rich soil from which we can grow MORE food and plants and cotton and trees. Landfills suck, but zero waste is also important for another reason: because it encourages me to move away from single-use products in favor of long-lasting ones that are used again and again. Think about if I used a plastic spoon and threw it away at the end of breakfast every day for a month. Not only will those 31 plastic spoons sit in the landfill for the next thousand years, but also that's 31 spoons worth of material that needed to be mined, shipped to factories, made into forks, and shipped to me. Makes just washing and reusing a metal spoon seem way easier, right? Reducing my reliance on disposable products reduces my carbon footprint and helps me live more sustainably in every area of my life. I believe that my daily choices matter, and I try to make them as low-impact as possible. If you'd like to read more, I've written more about why zero waste matters and what it can do, here.
Why should I cut down on my recyclables, too?
It comes back to those 31 spoons - let's say they're recyclable. Well, then, sure, they won't sit in a landfill. But that's only half the equation. It doesn't take into account all of the materials and energy needed to produce what is still essentially a single-use, disposable object. Which is why recycling is only part of what's needed to create a sustainable world. I love the way journalist Ed Humes puts it: "Recycling in particular has long served as a balm and a penance - a way of making it okay to waste, the assumption being that if something is recycled, then the energy and materials are not being lost, and our disposable economy of abundance doesn't really seem so wasteful after all."
How do I get started on going zero waste?
Think about what your biggest sources of trash and recycling are. Food scraps? Takeout containers? Toiletry bottles? Start by reducing your trash in the areas where you make the most - no need to worry about the smaller stuff right away. A few great ways to start: setting up composting at your home (even doable for apartment dwellers!), making or purchasing some cotton produce bags to cut down on grocery waste, working on bringing your own water bottle, napkin, and cloth utensils along with you, and saying "no" to items you don't need (the grocery store freebie in a plastic cup, that tempting item in the store window, the plastic straw the waiter sets down at your table). And, I'm here to help - send me an email if you'd like to talk more, or check out a few of my resources: some simple swaps to get you started where to shop package-free, where to compost in your area and while traveling, and how to work towards zero waste in the office, at lunch, in the kitchen, in the bathroom, and more.
How important is it to actually get to "zero"?
Seriously, not important at all. Depending on the resources for package-free shopping and composting in your area, you may be able to get quite close to "zero waste," or you may find yourself still emptying your trash can every week. Making progress toward living more sustainably matters so much more than striving for absolute perfection. The rule of thumb I use for myself is that I try to be as zero waste as possible while still living a happy, healthy life. I've put time into making sure my daily routines are set up to be produce as little trash as possible, but if an unexpected source of trash pops up, I've learned not to stress about it. In all things, I hope my daily mindset will be joyful, optimistic, and forgiving - and this applies to how I do zero waste, too. I've written more about why giving yourself grace on this matters, here.
Even getting close to zero sounds impossible, though.
Baby steps, my friend! It is totally doable, and more and more people are working on going zero waste these days. You don't have to do it overnight (and, you won't!). Try starting small. Set up composting - it's not hard, and you'll watch the size of your trash bag diminish within the first week. You may get hooked on not having to take out the trash. I know I am. A few other easy changes to start with: Try using dishcloths or washcloths for a week in lieu of paper towels. Or, commit to bringing your reusable water bottle with you everywhere for a month and get excited by the thought of how many plastic bottles you're not using. Or, give up takeout for a week or ask your favorite restaurant if they'd be able to fill up a container brought from home. There are tons of ways to try it out, and you don't have to be perfect - so dive in!
Tell me more?
Sure thing! You can check out all of my posts about zero waste, here. I love chatting about all things sustainability and zero waste - send me an email! You can also follow along on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest for more updates and peeks into the daily life of a zero waster. If you want to learn more about trash in the United States, Ed Humes' fantastic and interesting book Garbology is a great read.