Waste management is a problem that every nation in the world is grappling with. In America, an average person throws approximately 4.4 pounds of trash daily.
While federal and local governments have set up measures for waste management, these efforts cannot be enough without everyone else’s participation.
So, if you are passionate about seeing a green world, there is always something you could do in your community to help. If you can’t decide where to begin, this post can give you some ideas.
Skip to What You Need
- 1 What Is Zero Waste?
- 2 8 Zero Waste Hacks to Help You Achieve Zero Waste in Your Community
- 2.1 1. Organize Community Cleanups
- 2.2 2. Start by Example
- 2.3 3. Sensitize Businesses and People Around You
- 2.4 4. Join a Community Garden
- 2.5 5. Get Political
- 2.6 6. Join a Zero-Waste Organization Near You
- 2.7 7. Give to Waste Pickers and Workers
- 2.8 8. Stand With Communities Bearing the Brunt of Poor Waste Management
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
- 4 References
What Is Zero Waste?
There are many definitions for zero waste. But all point to one thing; an approach to waste management that ensures that very little waste goes to landfills or incinerators. It focuses on recycling, composting biodegradable waste, and donating waste that could be used to serve other purposes elsewhere.
Many states have adopted this approach, but achieving zero waste will take more than adopting an approach to include the participation of all parties involved, from manufacturers and local businesses to consumers.
8 Zero Waste Hacks to Help You Achieve Zero Waste in Your Community
1. Organize Community Cleanups
If you live in a neighborhood with a trash problem, you can organize community cleanups. A cleanup can also be an excellent opportunity to sensitize participants about zero waste management. So, you will be making a double impact all at once. Some areas you can consider for cleanup include parks, beaches, streets, and highways.
If there is a river near your neighborhood, you may want to consider cleaning it up too. Water pollution is among the worst forms of pollution because water is essential to life. If the water sources like rivers are polluted, consumption of contaminated water by humans and animals can result in diseases.
The Camp Lejeune water contamination is a classic example of the dangers of contaminated water. The primary contaminant in the water was PCE resulting from poor waste management by a local dry cleaner firm. As a result, service members and their families developed cancers and other ailments.
If you’ve suffered harm as a result of water contamination, you have an opportunity to seek VA disability benefits for damages suffered through the Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012.
2. Start by Example
Talk is cheap, and nobody will pay attention unless your actions communicate what your words say. If you are enthusiastic about a green world, you must start by example. You can start by making small lifestyle changes and sticking by them.
Typical examples include replacing one-time-use water bottles with reusable ones, replacing paper towels with reusable cloth, and carrying a reusable carry bag to the mall to avoid using single-use plastic bags. Also, you can compost all organic wastes such as leftover foods and fruit peels at home.
By living a Zero waste life, you play your part in preventing waste from getting to landfills. Also, setting an example gives you the moral authority to encourage others.
3. Sensitize Businesses and People Around You
The first place to start sensitizing people is in your household. This should not be difficult, especially if you have set an example. After your household, the next target group should be your colleagues at work.
Sensitizing people around you doesn’t necessarily mean being pushy, as doing that could offend them. The best approach is to show them the bright side of a zero waste approach to win them over.
After your workplace, the next stop should be talking with businesses about their approach to waste management. For example, grocery stores and supermarkets can contribute a lot to plastic pollution through single-use plastics.
While they may not drop using plastic all at once, you could ask them to encourage customers to use reusable carry bags, which can bear fruits in the long run.
4. Join a Community Garden
According to government statistics, 30 to 40 percent of the American food supply goes to waste. One reason for this wastage is that not many Americans understand what it takes to grow food.
Growing your food can help you appreciate what it takes to grow food and potentially change your perspective on food wastage. While growing food in your space may not be an option if you live in a big city, you can always find a gardening community close to you and offer a helping hand.
Besides helping you appreciate food production, joining a gardening community can help broaden your circle’s influence by taking the opportunity to sensitize members of the gardening community about zero waste.
5. Get Political
The most effective way of creating policy changes is by changing the system. For example, President Trump believed that climate change was a hoax and thus wasn’t keen on environmental issues. The Biden Administration has always maintained an environmental approach to almost everything from road construction and limiting America’s dependence on fossil fuels.
The same applies to other elective posts. If you have a choice between individuals looking to protect the environment in your state and those that don’t, voting in those with whom you share values can make a difference. You can also go the extra mile to convince others to vote them in too.
Besides voting, there are other ways of engaging local governments in conversations about zero waste. The most effective way is to attend open forums organized by local governments and articulate your arguments there.
You could also share your ideas on your local government’s websites and share ideas with anyone that will be willing to listen. You may be surprised at how much of an effect talking about Zero waste can help change perspectives.
This video by Lauren Singer / TEDxTeen is a great example:
6. Join a Zero-Waste Organization Near You
There is a high chance you are not the only zero waste enthusiast in your neighborhood. There could be other people that share the same sentiments about the environment and waste management as you, and joining hands can be an excellent way of amplifying your efforts.
The simplest way of locating like-minded people is by looking up waste organizations near you on the internet. One such group is GAIA which has a presence in almost all major cities in America. If there isn’t one yet, you can create one from the group of people you have won over.
However, joining an established one is best because they are more likely to have the resources needed to make a difference, such as educational materials and financial capability to create an impact.
7. Give to Waste Pickers and Workers
While you may want to participate in all zero waste activities like collecting trash from your local park or the highways, some circumstances, such as work, could force you to stay away. But you can help boost the efforts of those doing it by donating to organizations that help clear trash from your community.
All across the globe, waste pickers are some of the most underpaid workers, and no wonder they may not feel motivated enough to do their best. So, besides donating, you can consider tipping garbage pickers in your neighborhood to boost their morale.
You can go a step further to advocate for better pay for them. You may be surprised at how much you can achieve in bettering their lives if you unite equally-minded individuals to champion their rights. Other than helping ensure they get equal pay, these workers will know that there are people that appreciate what they do.
8. Stand With Communities Bearing the Brunt of Poor Waste Management
It could be that your local garbage collection department is doing a great job in your neighborhood by ensuring that all trash is carried away in trucks. But you may have never thought about where this trash goes after it’s collected.
Unfortunately, much of this waste goes to landfill and incinerators. But this is not the saddest part of it all. The sad part is that these landfills are usually located near poor communities that are less responsible for the waste but suffer the most consequences. According to waste management experts, 85% of all incinerators are situated near low-income communities and communities with high concentrations of people of color.
While the poor may not have much of a voice, you can help organize marches and protests against local governments dumping trash near poor neighborhoods, forcing the government to rethink its approach to waste management. When waste management becomes costlier, governments start paying attention.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is zero waste possible?
The answer is yes and no. Technically you cannot have zero waste in a literal sense. However, it is possible to keep waste to a minimum with good will and policies geared towards achieving it. Read the full guide for tips on how to help your community achieve zero-waste.
What barriers are common barriers to zero waste?
The most significant obstacle to zero waste is ignorance of the impacts of poor waste management on the environment and the planet. While state governments have put up measures to help better waste management, ignorant people still blatantly ignore the measures. Read the full guide to learn more about the impacts of waste and how to achieve zero-waste in your community.
How many cities have a zero-waste approach?
With all the good sides of zero waste, you would think all states are on board, but that's not the case. Only several states have enacted zero waste policies. These states include California, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Vermont, Oregon, and Washington.
Which country has the best zero waste success story?
Germany is arguably the world leader in waste management. With its introduction of a recycling scheme, Germany has reduced its waste by over 1 million tons per year. Read the full guide to learn more about how to achieve zero-waste in your community.
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