Activism

Are Your Recyclables Actually Being Recycled?

Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Those are the 3Rs that have been instilled in us since we were in elementary school. In the last 10 years, it seems like recycling has become more prominent than ever. With a high stress work environment, where people put in about 60-80 hours a week, go to school part-time to continue their studies, the last thing they want to do is come home and cook all of their meals. As a result, more and more people are relying on take-out and quick microwave meals. At the end of their meal, people are more likely to just chuck the empty containers into the recycling bin, without thinking if they will actually be recycled and what they will be turned into.

Did you know that only about 9% of our recyclables are actually recycled into new products? Since going zero waste, I have started to think about where all of the packaging is going when it comes to landfill waste, compost, and recycling. Since China’s ban on accepting the majority of our recyclables, it seems that more people are starting to question where their recyclables are going and if the recyclables are actually be recycled. Items like pizza boxes and other containers that are contaminated and can’t actually be recycled. With the introduction of single stream recycling centers, people just assume that they can recycle any material without thinking about it. If they can’t be recycled, well my recycling center will dispose of it correctly, right? Well, I just found out about 6 months ago that my local area actually burns the majority of our waste because we don’t have enough space in our landfill or dump for it all. Burning of the waste is a very common practice that admit a ton of toxins into our air that increase the amount of pollutants on our planet.

During my research on recycling policies around the United States, I found on the Lansing MI recycling policy page, that every 1,000 tons of recyclables that the city collects has helped save 14,903 trees, 6,404,606 gallons of water, 408,412 gasoline, 2,856 metric tons of greenhouse gases emissions. It is amazing to see that some cities and towns in the United States are transparent about how much of an impact our recycling efforts have been on the planet. When you try to figure out where the recyclables are going/ what they are being turned into, it seems like you get stuck in the depths of the internet with no answers.

What I have been able to figure out is that the majority of glass bottles, metal cans, and scrap metal pieces can be turned back into more glass bottles, metal cans, and metal pieces. What’s hard to figure out is what is all of that plastic being turned into it. Many companies have started to recycle plastic bottles into more plastic bottles. That being said, there isn’t a plastic bottle out there that is made entirely of recycled plastic materials. Same goes for plastic bags, plastic containers, and other pieces of plastic. Most of the time we find a sticker that says it’s made of 25% or 50% post recycled materials. Where is all of the rest of that plastic going?

I am not entirely sure. Once the recyclables are packaged, companies actually have to purchase those recyclables so they can be turned back into new products. According to China, the majority of our recyclables are actually garbage, due to contamination. The United States is working with other companies to see if they will use our recyclables to create new products. In the meantime, it looks like a ton of our recyclables just pile up in the warehouses. Even though your local state will package the recyclables, not many companies are actually purchasing them so they can be created into new products.

Recently, I have found out that a large portion of our glass isn’t actually recycled into more glass, but instead are burned to make charcoal to cover the landfill. I am still researching this issue, for another post. I am not sure which cities and towns do this/ why this has become a popular practice. All of this information has left me in a bit of a pickle. Then I think back to the 3Rs. Despite all of our best efforts to find new countries that will accept our recyclables, we need to change our mindset and figure out how to live without a ton of plastic packaging. We need to figure out what plastic is necessary and what we may be able to actually live without.

As everyone says in the Zero Waste Movement, we cannot rely on recycling as a sole solution to our environmental problem. It is also something that we will not be able to get rid of anytime soon!


Can We Travel Zero Waste?

I have talked about travel a little bit on the blog because it is my favorite hobby. I can’t imagine not traveling around the world. I am currently working on a bucket list of places I want to see in the next five years. Whether it be a 7 hour plane ride to another country, or a short car ride to the next state over. Travel is an essential for my personal growth.

Since becoming Zero Waste, I have begun to feel guilty about all my travels. Especially my most recent trip for a week long vacation in London. Many would tell me that I should just stop traveling. Too many, travel isn’t that important and isn’t something that they are interested in. I personally believe that our planet was built to explore and there are many friends and family members that I would never be able to see if I didn’t travel. What am I supposed to do? In this blog post I am going to answer two main questions. How much is the real cost of travel? What can we do to help “offset” our travel carbon footprint on this planet? I put offset into quotation marks because I believe that we can’t really offset our Co2 emission that is created during our travels. As a result, I hope to inspire more of you to pay attention to your travel carbon footprint and find some alternative ways to book your next travel adventures!

According to an article in the New York Times titled: "Flying Is Bad for the Planet. You Can Help Make It Better" by Tatiana Schlossberg, “the aviation industry accounts for 11 percent of all transportation- related emissions in the United States.” 11 percent may not seem big when you think about the grand scheme of things. That number is only going to increase as the airlines continues to add more flights onto their daily schedule. What are we supposed to do?

Driving seems like the right answer as it is lower impact and doesn’t admit as much co2 into the atmosphere right? For trips from New York to San Francisco, where your averaging about a 7 hour long plane ride, driving will take longer and use more gas. If you are thinking of traveling long distance than flying is definitely the better option. That being said, if you are planning a trip that takes less than an hour to fly too, you may want to drive or take the train. The reason being that it takes more Co2 to take off and land a plane. It’s also important to note that many shorter plane trips are usually not that full and could take less than half the Co2 emission to drive or take the train. Driving or taking the train may cost you more, but your planet will thank you.

What about offsetting your carbon emission? The main issue with “offsetting” your carbon emission is that you aren’t actually getting rid of that pollution that you just admitted into the air. I still recommend that many try and donate as much as they can to organizations who are trying to make our planet a better place for future generations. To say that it will solve your pollution problems during travel is unrealistic and completely false. So, unless you plan on walking everywhere or just staying home, there’s no way around co2 being admitted into the air.

How can we make our trips more eco-friendly and pleasant on our planet. They have energy efficient cars, why not have the same for planes? “The problem is that electric motors can’t produce enough power to get a plane off the ground, so the only alternative to regular kerosene-based aviation fuels are special kinds of biofuels.” Some biofuels can be environmentally problematic as well because it would take a huge chunk of the world’s arable land to grow enough crops to fuel all the world’s planes. Despite the name, it may not seem like the perfect solution to this serious environmental problem. So what is really? How can we make our next vacation more Zero Waste?

The truth is, that you really can’t make your travel completely Zero Waste. I am sorry to burst all of your bubbles. You can make your next vacation a little bit more environmentally friendly. Over the last year and a half I have continued to research and find new ways to help make my vacations a little bit more zero waste. Below is a short guide of some tips and tricks that I continue to follow every time I travel.

  1. Don’t Fly If You Can Take the Train or Car- I know I already mentioned this in the post. I think it’s very important that people recognize that the easiest choice may not be the most environmentally friendly one. Flying takes more carbon emission than driving or the train. Your carbon footprint only increases the shorter the flight is because there are more empty seats and it takes more fuel to take off and land than it does to fly the plane itself. Try to take flights that are sold-out and/or to very far away destinations. If it can take you less than a day by car, than it isn’t long enough to take a plane.

  2. Airline Programs to Help Offset the CO2 Emission- I know that I said you can’t really “offset” your carbon emission. That being said, I do believe that people should donate more. Offsetting is still fairly new, so not many airlines have a program where you can donate to organizations that are trying to make our planet a better place for our future generations. This does require you to spend more money. It also forces you to think about your travels a little bit more and how they may impact the overall planet. More information on offsetting your carbon emission can be found here!

  3. Longer Flights= Longer Vacations- If you are thinking about traveling to somewhere that is over 7 hours away by plane, I highly recommend staying for longer than a week. Make sure that the flight is actually worth it. You wouldn’t take a weekend getaway from New York to Australia. If you are taking some time off of work to travel, see if you can go for a few weeks or even a few months to really make it worth all the co2 emission that you have created during that flight.

  4. More Layovers= More CO2- If you are planning a trip, it may be cheaper to take connecting flights, but it is worse for the planet. Like I said before, it takes more Co2 to take off and land. If you are doing that more than twice, that means you are emitting more co2 than if you had taken one flight straight to your destination. I know that it isn’t always feasible, financially or in distance. Next time you book a trip from New York to California, rethink that layover in Cincinnati and book a direct flight- you will thank yourself and the planet!

  5. Bring Your Own Food- Not only are the plane meals usually filled with nasty ingredients, they don’t usually taste that good. Pack your own or try to eat before you leave depending on the length of the flight. This will help reduce the amount of trash you make on the flight, helping to shorten your carbon footprint that much more during your travels!

  6. Sustainable or Wastefree Airlines!- According to the Green America Today, United and US airways rank worse on a sustainability scale. This scale compared 11 airlines and explained that US Airways throws away about 1 million plastic cups every 6 hours. British Airways was not far behind, in 8th place. That being said, there are many airlines that are trying to be more mindful of their waste. Alaska airlines just recently banned all plastic straws and more airlines are trying to recycle. Do some research before booking your next flight and try to find the most sustainable fight possible that will allow you to feel better about taking your next trip!

  7. Return Freebees- When you fly, you will probably find the cheap plastic headphones, a pillow, and maybe even a blanket on your seat. Once your up in the air, tell one of the flight attendances that you don’t want them and ask them if they can reuse them for the next flight. Those free items don’t last long and aren’t worth the waste. You will be happy that you brought your own headphones, blanket, and pillow onto the flight. If you can find an airline that doesn’t provide those cheap freebies, then cotose to you and write about them in the comments below :)!

  8. Don’t Beat Yourself Up- You can think of a million reasons why you should and shouldn’t travel. You just have to figure out what is more worth it to you. I have heard a ton of zero wasters explain that they have told their family that they can’t come visit them because it is too much co2 for the planet. That may work for them, but I think that my family would kill me if I didn’t actually visit them in person. Skype is amazing, but it doesn’t replace the smells, tastes, and real moments that you get during your travels. I will continue to fly, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t label myself as zero waste. I am doing the best that I can, and I don’t want to beat myself up about the small stuff.

I hope that this article helps bring some stuff into perspective for you and help you realize that you can try your hardest to reduce your carbon emission in all areas of your life, but sometimes you just have to bit the bullet and go on the trip. Hopefully in the next five years or so, someone comes up with a new more efficient way to fly that won't cost an arm and a leg to be able to purchase. We will have to wait and see.

Work Cited and Some Helpful Articles:

https://medium.com/milena-glimbovski/there-is-hardly-one-subject-in-the-zero-waste-scene-which-is-that-controversial-9f1e1f7dbdd4

http://www.theweek.co.uk/96017/best-green-travel-ideas-environmental-sustainable-holidays

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/how-bad-is-air-travel-for-the-environment-51166834/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/apr/06/aviation-q-and-a

https://zerowastehome.com/2010/07/05/less-not-zero-waste-air-trave/

 

Free Zero Waste Staples!!!

According to Instagram- Zero Wasters have to have a ton of mason jars, bamboo bowls and utensils, glass containers, cotton handkerchiefs and napkins, and a bunch of other zero waste products that are really expensive. You don’t have to own anything of these things to actually be zero waste. Zero waste is a mindset and a lifestyle. If all you do is carry around a reusable water bottle or pick up plastic at the beach, you are still just as zero waste as the person who has the perfect instagram zero waste feed. So, why spend money on items that you already own?

When many find the zero waste lifestyle, they want to live the perfect instagram worthy lifestyle. But, they already own a ton of plastic containers, old rags, old produce bags, bowls, plates, utensils, old rags, cloth napkins, and towels. Not to mention that you can reuse many of the old tomato sauce and spice jars. Why get rid of these items just because they don’t fit the “perfect mold”? Even if these items may not be the most Instagram worthy, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful. The first rule of the zero waste lifestyle is not to throw anything away that you can use!

These items are all free and things that you probably have around the house that will help you take the first steps to your zero waste journey!

Old Sauce and Spice Jars

Whenever we go shopping and grab some tomato sauce or spices we usually will chuck the glass jar into the recycling- or worse the garbage. I have decided to clean them up and start storing my bulk items, granola, plant based milks, and even leftovers from restaurants into them. Why toss something away when you technically paid for it to just to end up purchasing mason jars from the store. Save your time, money, and resources and just reuse what you already have! I also give these to other people who are looking for more glass jars but don’t purchase tomato sauce and other items that come in glass jars that often.

Use the Bags that You Are Given at Parties and Events

So many zero waste bloggers talk about these amazing white organic cotton produce bags. Guess what, I don’t own any white organic cotton produce bags. They are expensive and I already own bags that I use on a regular basis. Yes, some of them are plastic, but hey I helping them from ending up in our oceans and the landfill. I may end up purchasing some of those organic cotton bags when my current ones ripe, tear, or just can’t hold anything anymore. For now, I have continued to use what I already own and save my money on more important things!

Plastic Containers

Unless you are just moving out of your parents house and don’t have any plastic containers, I find it hard to believe that people don’t have perfectly good plastic containers that they can hold take out food and leftovers in. Many zero wasters tell their followers to donate their old containers and then replace them with more sustainable options like glass and rubber. The majority of those containers will probably never get purchased from Goodwill, so unless you're dropping them off at a homeless shelter- which many don’t accept plastic containers. I think it’s better to just use those containers until they break and then begin replacing them with more natural alternatives! If you are worried about the plastic chemicals leaching into your food, just heat it up on the stove or oven before eating it.

Old Rags and Towels Make Perfect Natural Alternatives to Paper Towels!

Forget about purchasing organic cotton napkins and handkerchiefs- use what you already own! I have a bunch of old towels and rags that I have specially for cleaning up messes. They work just as well as paper towels and I just chuck them into the laundry to be washed and used again! I am not sure what nutshell invented paper towels and why they are such a large part of our society today. When you stop using them, you release that they aren’t necessary at all. Our grandparents and our parents all grew up using old rags to clean the counter and floor with. If it was good enough for them, it’s good enough for me! I have also turned a few of my old tee shirts into rags to clean messes with so I can give them a new life!

Bring Your Metal Utensils With You Wherever You Go

Many zero waste bloggers, like myself, constantly carry around bamboo utensils that are lightweight and great for travel- especially when you are going on a plane. As your metal utensils may send off a red flag at TSA. If you are going to the office, out to eat, a friends house, or anywhere else where the TSA won't be, take your metal utensils wrapped around a cloth napkin! This will help you reduce your waste whilst on the go, stop you from having to use single use plastic utensils, and better yet, will make you feel better about investing a little extra money on a special meal for yourself. You already own a bunch of metal utensils in your house- so why not take a few with you on the go!

The Main Street Zero Waster

I have just finished the book Main Street Vegan by Victoria Moran. Moran is a long time vegan who has helped coach and educate others about the various ethical and health issues concerning the meat, dairy, and egg industry. The book is filled with amazing chapters and easy recipes such as Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, Vegan Mac and Cheese, and even Chocolate Cake. Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too on a vegan diet. This helps others understand that this “extreme lifestyle” is easy, convenient, and better for us in the long term.

In this article I will be taking many of her main principles to the next level. Both the Zero Waste and Vegan lifestyle are focused on trying to live a compassionate and healthy lifestyle. We cannot live a compassionate zero waste lifestyle while continuing to eat meat, dairy, and eggs that come from factory farms. The reason being that factory farms are detrimental to our environment, the health of animals, and do play are large part in the issue of climate change. We can’t live a compassionate vegan lifestyle while continuing to purchase processed food that come in plastic packaging that will end up hurting millions of animals in our oceans. Unfortunately, Moran doesn’t talk a ton about the zero waste lifestyle and doesn’t refer to the lifestyle when it comes to the issue of plastic packaging.

In one of her chapters Moran does touch on the issue of plastic packaging in our oceans. Especially since millions of sea animals are hurt or killed by the plastic in our oceans. This is very important to understand when it comes to learning about the Vegan lifestyle. Especially since millions of people on Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms continue to advice many of their followers to purchase products that come in disposable packaging that could cause more harm to our animals and planet. However, I don’t believe it should stop with this chapter. I have decided to divide this article into various sections that I hope will inspire and educate more to look at both lifestyles when they are trying to live a healthier and more compassionate lifestyle. That being said, in this article I will be focusing on the zero waste lifestyle. Read The Main Street Vegan, if you want to learn more about how to live a more compassionate vegan lifestyle.

(Side Note: I am not explaining that to be Vegan you must be Zero Waste or vise versa. You can do whatever you want. However, I believe it’s important to research both lifestyles when it comes to living a more compassionate and health lifestyle).

Who Is The Main Street Zero Waster?!

When you Google the term Zero Waste it looks like the lifestyle is only for those who are under 30, single, and live in their own apartment or house that they have 100% control over. That is not the reality for many around the US. It can be tough to live a perfect zero waste lifestyle, especially if you live with others who don’t want to reduce their waste. It can also be a sore spot for people because they believe that their family won't understand or respect their decision. Many people will actually “quite” the zero waste lifestyle because they can’t dedicate enough time to being the perfect zero waste. These are some of the main issues that the majority of people encounter when it comes to living a zero waste life. That being said, I believe that like the vegan lifestyle, the zero waste lifestyle isn’t as complicated as many believe. There are also a ton of sub sections to the lifestyle that many don’t understand or realize when they label themselves zero waste.

Many, like myself, probably came to the lifestyle from women like Bea Johnson or Lauren Singer who have successfully made the term zero waste trendy. But, I want you to think about how our ancestors grew up. Even take some suggestions from your grandparents, who probably still do many of the “trendy” zero waste tricks. When I first started my journey, I took some notes from my grandparents and parents who have been raised on cooking dried beans, making pasta from scratch, and even using vinegar, lemon, and water as their multi-purpose cleaner. It’s important to note that I do live with 3 non-vegans and non-zero wasters. Needless to say, I can’t control everything in my house. I think it’s important for everyone to recognize that I do have control over the choices I make.

I make all my own meals, except when my mom cooks dinner or the rare occasions that I am forced to get take-out. I make my own cleaning products that I use in my room and bathroom. I also use bar soaps to wash my hands, face, and body, essential oils to help cure my acne, scars, and bug bites, and even old rags as tissues. These are all things that I can control and also help reduce the amount of waste that I produce on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. These changes have also helped inspire more people in my life to start looking at their waste with a more critical eye. I would also to point out that I still produce trash and I am okay with that.

I call myself a Main Street Zero Waster because I talk more about the waste I do produce, instead of limiting myself to the waste I don’t produce. I share my “mistakes” and explain how you can be a zero waster, a vegan, and any other label that helps define who you are, even if you live with people who may have different beliefs to you. I believe that this is important for people to recognize when they are first starting their zero waste journey. I will always be a zero waster, even if people bash me for purchasing products in plastic packaging, because it’s impossible for me to be the perfect zero waste.

The Different Subsections of the Zero Waste Lifestyle

Just like the vegan lifestyle. There are many different subsections of the zero waste lifestyle. In the vegan community, there are junk food vegans, raw vegans, high carb low fat vegans, high fat vegans, high protein vegans, paleo vegans, keto vegans, vegans who only eat local food, vegans who don’t believe in having pets, and even vegans who don’t believe we should have children. Within the zero waste movement there are people who label themselves as less waste, low waste, waste free, no waste, and most recently low impact. All of these labels are different and also very similar. It’s interesting to find that people within all these circles have embraced and inspired more to help create less pollution, water waste, and more education around the various environmental issues and how we can help save our planet!

In the zero waste movement, I believe I am a Zero Waster who does the best they can. I will continue to travel, purchase food that has traveled by trains, planes, and ships to come to my local grocery store, drive a car even if it takes a bunch of gas to bring me to and from work, and other areas of my life that people deem to be too wasteful to live a zero waste life. I am doing the best that I can. If I could purchase a hybrid or fully electric car, I would. If I could only purchase my food from local farmers or farmers markets, I would. Just because I don’t have these items, doesn’t make me any less of a zero waster.

Sure, there are many people you will see out there that say if you still purchase items in plastic packaging that you aren’t a zero waster. If you don’t boycott this company then you aren’t zero waste because they still use palm oil in their products. Some people even say if you aren’t vegan than you aren’t zero waste. It’s a crazy world that we live in. However, no one can label you. If you identify as a zero waster, then you are a zero waster. Many people who identify as vegan may accidentally eat meat, dairy, or even eggs if they didn’t know that the item had meat, dairy, or even egg in it. There is no such thing as perfection.

Are we Perfect?

I would like to go back to the theme of Main Street Vegan, which is living a life full of compassion for our planet. Factory farms is the largest contributing factor to climate change and greenhouse gases. By becoming a vegan, many are fighting against various factory farms and explaining how detrimental they are to the animals, our society, and our planet. HOwever, they continue purchase items that come in non-recyclable packaging and could end up in our oceans killing various animals, or in the landfill that takes away a ton of land from our animals. They may even continue to support companies that use palm oil in their ingredients. Palm oil is one of the largest contributing factors to forest fires and deforestation. Just because they are vegan, doesn’t mean they don’t kill any animals on our planet or purchase items that will contributing to the killing of animals. They are doing the best that they can by not eating any of the animals that come from factory farms. Now, I am not demoralizing the vegan movement, but rather humanizing it for many who continue to try and live a “perfect” life. Sorry guys, but it just can’t happen.

Even Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer, two of the main pioneers of the zero waste movement still eat, dairy, meat, eggs, and seafood that could be coming from various factory farms around the United States and the world. Even if they are able to fit their trash into a mason jar, they could still be contributing to factory farming and other aspects of our culture that are detrimental to our environment. However, these aren’t areas that many talk about. When it comes to zero waste, like veganism, people focus on whether or not that they fit within the set guidelines that the media has set up for everyone. Well, how come they are better than me, just because they don’t produce any trash. The truth is that they aren’t.

No matter how difficult it may seem to be, there is no such thing as perfection. Even the people who are deemed to live the most "perfect" lives all over social media have their struggles and issues. To say that all zero wasters live a perfect life of zero trash is completely 100% false. It's also important to note that. no one but your can label yourself as a zero waster. So no one can tell you that you aren’t a zero waster. I love that I am able to continue make more changes within my own life that help reduce my overall footprint. I hope you all decide to read The Main Street Vegan, especially if you want to live a healthier and more compassionate life!

 

 

Why Some People Believe that Recycling is a Waste of Time- The Other side of the Argument

When started my research on the other side of the Recycling Argument, all I found where articles that explained how people were either too lazy to clean the items and recycle properly or misinformed about how to recycle properly. However, I found an opinion piece in the New York times from October 2015, that explained a different story.

In the Reign of Recycling, writer John Tierney explains his reasonings for not recycling and instead throwing everything back in the trash. He starts the article with telling the reader that back in 1996 he wrote a long article for the New York Times Magazine that argued how the process of recycling is actually very wasteful. He goes onto explain that since the modern recycling movement had just begun a few years earlier, many of the defenders explained that it would flourish as the industry matured and the public learned how to recycle properly. Unfortunately, as we can tell from China’s new laws and regulations against the United State’s recycling policies, it looks like the majority of people in the United States do not actually know how to recycle properly. Even then, according to Tierney it looks like the process doesn’t limit the amount of pollution and it actually cost more to recycle than to send items straight into the landfill. These two reasons are among the many that makes people believe that recycling isn’t worth putting effort into.

He then goes onto explain that it is typically more expensive to recycle household waste than it is to send it to the landfill. This is a big statement that he doesn’t back up with any sort of article or citation. Towards the end of the article he does explain that it takes 300 dollars more to recycle something than it does to throw it into the landfill. However, he doesn’t explain if that is per item, per day, per month, or per year. He then goes onto to explain that prices for recycled materials have plummeted because of lower oil prices and reduced demand for them overseas. The slump has forced some recycling companies to shut plants and cancel plans for new technologies.

 

He also explains that politicians set higher and higher goals, when the national rate of recycling has stagnated in recent years. This is a statement that I have read in a few articles about recycling. However, it looks like more popular areas are starting to switch away from focusing on recycling, and taking part in banning plastic bags, straws, and other items that are not cost effective to recycle. He then explains that areas such as the Bronx and Houston, who are lower income, don’t have time to sort the garbage in their spare time. This implies that it takes extra time to recycle- I want to believe that he is alluding to the lack of information for residents, which is something I agree with.

As the article continues, he begins to provide more examples to help back up his big statements at the beginning. However, he also adds a few false claims to help back up his case. When he  explains that as more cities and towns moved beyond the simple paper and metal recycling system to include glass, food waste, assorted plastics, the cost rose sharply. Unfortunately, as we all know you cannot recycle food waste. Yes, you can compost it, but very few cities and towns have begun to start composting. Also, composting and recycling are not the same thing. He even brings in a statement from the Chief Executive Officer of the Waste Management in New York City David P. Steiner, “If you believe recycling is good for the planet and that we need to do more of it, then there’s a crisis to confront….Trying to turn garbage into gold cost a lot more than expected. We need to ask ourselves: What is the goal here?” I don’t know about you, but my goal has always to been to help limit the amount of new plastic that is being created and instead use whatever is being recycled. Yes it may cost more, but it is better for our overall health and the planet.

I will not continue to go paragraph by paragraph to explain everything that is wrong with this article as he continues to use the same ridiculous examples and lack of information as reasons not to recycle. However, I do believe that the main problem when it comes to recycling is that their is a ton of misinformation out there around how to recycle properly. Thus explaining how the majority of our items usually end up in the landfill. This confusion also allows people to believe that they can’t/ shouldn’t recycle.

I am not sure how much it actually cost for us to recycle and how much pollution that recycling may put into our atmosphere. I also do believe that these are still important factors in the recycling discussion, especially since the money is coming from tax payers money. Towards the end of the article he explains that our nation’s fear around the landfills is not realistic as back in 1996, he found an article that explained how all of the trash generated by Americans in the next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. To that I say, why do we have the great garbage patch or garbage island. It’s important to hear all sides when it comes to making your final decisions/stand on a particular issue. However, it’s also important to note when the information may be outdated and no longer true.

The Ever Evolving Debate Around Climate Change!

We hear a bunch about climate change, global warming, and rising sea level; but do you know what these terms actually mean? Do you know where they originated? Do you know the different opinions and sides of this particular conversation? I seriously didn’t until a couple of months ago. After talking with a friend of mine and visiting a class on biodiversity, I realized that there was a ton of information about climate change that I didn’t know about. Now, I do believe that this is an important issue; but it’s important to note that many don’t believe this is an actual issue. To many, including myself, climate change is a problem that will set back our ability to help restore the natural balance in our planet. Leading to an increase in natural disasters, rising sea level, and other issues concerning our planet.

Climate change is a change in global or regional climate patterns. More specifically, it has been a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. The popular belief is that these fossil fuels are man made and a big reason for the increase in hurricanes, wind storms, snow storms. However, many believe that climate change is natural, and there is nothing we should do to help stabilize the global and regional climate patterns because doesn't need to be stabilized. When someone says that Climate Change isn’t real, they are explaining that they don’t believe that these changes in climate patterns are an issue. (Check out more information on both sides at ProandCon.com.) This may be the less popular side of the debate, but many still believe in it.

So, why is it important to show both sides? It’s important because you will probably encounter people who don’t believe that climate change is a result of human activity- namely, the use of fossil fuels and the release of greenhouse gases. No matter how many times you want to yell and scream at them, it’s important to understand that change doesn't come from anger. As yourself, will all of that yelling and screaming actually make them change their mind, or just stress you out? This is especially important if you have a friend, family member, or someone else in your life that you have to be around on a daily basis. Very similar to when talking with people about Zero Waste, take a deep breath and do your research!

Did you know that the term Climate Change goes all the way back to the 1800’s. In 1896 to be specific, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius was the first to suggest that fossil fuel combustion may eventually result in enhanced global warming. Before plastic, factory farms, and oil spills had become daily news, Arrhenius had already known that the use of fossil fuels would cause severe issues for our planet. He and Thomas Chamberlin calculated that human activities could warm the earth by adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. This research was a by-product of research that was being conducted on whether carbon dioxide would explain the causes of the great Ice Ages. However, it has been said that this wasn't verified until 1987.

Unfortunately, after these discoveries, the topic of climate change wasn’t talked about for a long time. It was during this time that many thought that human influences were insignificant compared to natural forces, something that many still believe today. It was also believed that the oceans were great carbon sinks that they would automatically cancel out our pollution. I don’t believe that many feel like this is true anymore, however, people do deny climate change as it is seen as a natural force that we can’t do anything to prevent from occuring. Despite all of our fossil fuels imitation, it was going to occur because that’s what mother nature has planned for us.

In the 1940’s there were developments in infrared spectroscopy that measured long-wave radiation. At the time, it was proven that increasing the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide resulted in more absorption and warm up the planet. It was also discovered that water vapor adsorbed totally different types of radiation than carbon dioxide. In 1955, Gilbert Plass concluded that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere would actually trap the infrared radiation that was getting reflected off the earth’s surface and back out into space. In the 1950’s and early 60’s, Charles Keeling used the most modern technologies to produce concentration curves for atmospheric CO2 in Antarctica and Mauna Loa in Hawaii. These curves have become one of the major icons of global warming. They showed a downward trend of global annual temperature from the 1940’s to the 70’s. At the same time ocean sediment research revealed that there has been no less than 32 cold-warm cycles in the last 2.5 million years. As a result, many began to fear that the development of a new ice age might be near. Many believed that the media and scientists ignored the date of the 50’s and 60’s in favor of global cooling.

keeling_curve200-dcfcf0795da7688b757ef6224b24476134b8186f-s6-c30 (1).jpg

In the 1980’s, it was acknowledged that the climate was warmer than any period since 1880. The greenhouse effect theory was named and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organization. People began to question the theory of an upcoming ice age, especially in the late 80’s when the curves began to increase so steeply that the global warming theory became headline news. Environmental NGO’s started to advocate global environmental protection to prevent further warming. This press gained an interest in the topic of global warming. However, it seems like nothing has really changed.

In the 90’s, many scientists started to question the greenhouse effect theory, because of some uncertainties in the data and model outcomes. Cooling trends were not explained by the global warming data and satellites showed completely different temperatures recorded from the initial ones. The idea began to grow that global warming models had overestimated the warming trend of the past 100 years. Currently, this idea is being widely debated by scientists, politicians, and people all around the world. That is why many don’t believe that Climate Change is an issue. What if you ask them about their thoughts on the amount of trash the produce. Would they like to limit their trash as much as they possibly can? The majority of people would think that this a good idea. Especially since many cities and towns around the United States don’t have curbside garbage or recycling.

By limiting your and others’ trash/consumption, you are not buying into capitalism, which part of what perpetuates the consumption of fossil fuels that negatively impact our planet. If you encounter someone who doesn’t know a ton about Climate Change and are wondering why people don’t believe that this is an issue, you have the research to explain the other side of the debate. You are also able to have a very well-researched debate on this issue that is more than just trying to tell them that we have to save our planet. I am not telling you to agree or believe in their point of view, or to even support it. I believe that by exploring the other side, we are more likely to have constructive conversations with people about these issues and show others that we have explored the two main sides to the argument/debate. In layman's terms, if you listen to the climate deniers/ skeptics, in return they are most likely to listen to you.

I also want to add that this will allow you to become more passionate about the topic of Climate Change. I had no idea that this term began in the 1800’s. As a result, I have continued to do more research on the scientific papers and research that had come out during that time and compare it to the type of research that is coming out today. This has allowed me to continue finding research that supports and possibly contradicts the point of view- which is that Climate Change is an artificial man made issue that has increased the amount of hurricanes, storms, and other natural disasters. This will help me strengthen my argument when it comes to discussing this particular topics with people who don’t have the same opinions and point of view.

Here are a list of websites that will be more helpful in your research on Climate Change and the ever evolving debate.

http://www.climatedebatedaily.com/

https://www.livescience.com/16388-climate-change-debate-man-nature.html

 

My Acne Story- Why I am seeing a Naturopath!

Recently, I have become frustrated with how people hold zero wasters to be the most perfect people on the planet. They must not have any health, mental or physical, because you can solve everything if you just eliminate toxic chemicals, processed foods, and the worse culprit plastic. That isn’t true. Thought, I do feel like my long term health will benefit from the zero waste lifestyle. I am not perfectly healthy. For the past 4 years I have dealt with severe cystic acne, anxiety, gut issues, and allergies. All of these issues make it difficult to refuse plastic packaging. I believe that zero waste doesn’t matter when it comes to your health. That being said, I have never been a believer in antibiotics or medication. I have only taken them when I didn’t feel like I had any other option.

As a result, I have decided to dedicate the next month to blog posts and videos that are all about zeroing in on your health and well-being. I have always taken the researchers approach when it comes to my personal health and well-being. Today’s article is all going to be about the medications that I have taken in the past for my acne. I will have more in-depth article at some point that talk more about the various issues and side effects that go along with these medications.

I have suffered from acne since I was 12 years old and have never found a cure. I have had moments of clarity but, it has always come back. As a result, I have tried a bunch of drug store and prescription topical creams, facial washes, toners, and even oral medications. Yes, I have taken oral medications such as birth control, spironolactone, and tetracycline. None of these medications have worked. I have decided to not go on Accutane because none of the other medications worked and I believe it is too harsh of drug for me to take.

I was given tetracycline because my dermatologist thought that my acne was the result of bad bacteria in my body that was making me break out. Once I took it for several months then I would be cured. Well, not only was I not cured of my acne, but I also became allergic to the medication. My dermatologist actually denied that my symptoms were real. This made my parents and myself so pissed that I stopped seeing that dermatologist and decided to just continue researching and finding more ways to deal with my acne.

I did have clear skin for about a year or two when I was 16 years old. However, when I was in college my acne came back like a horrific skin condition. It covered my entire face from my hairline to my neck, my arms, and even my back. My acne was a big trigger for my anxiety and I tried my best to figure out what exactly was going on in my body. When I was 18 I decided to see a different dermatologist. They put me on birth control, hoping that my hormones would “stabilize” and clear up my acne. This does help many women, but I also believe that I was put on it without receiving any tests to see what exactly was going on with my hormones. I also didn’t know any of the long- term side effects like brain tumors and cancer. I also didn’t know exactly how birth control works- this is something that I will be covering in a separate article.

The birth control pills did seem to help limit some of the big cysts, but it didn’t cure anything. Again, I felt hopeless and a great need for some answers. I became obsessed, constantly researching various products and possible answers for my acne. When I was 20 years old, my dermatologist told me that my acne must be the result of high testosterone and that a harsh medication called spironolactone would help limit my testosterone levels and cure my acne. Well, it did clear up my skin. I was so happy and thought that I had finally said Goodbye to Acne! However, I didn’t want to be on the medication for the rest of my life. I decided to get off of it. Unfortunately, my acne came back. I initially thought that it was due to bad stress and anxiety from being laid off from my job. It has been 8 months since I was laid off, and I still have acne.

I had thought about going back on the medication, but I really wanted to know if I had high testosterone. I wanted to get tests done to figure out what exactly was going on in my body. I also, wanted to see if there were any other natural supplements that would help cure my acne. As a result, I have decided to see a naturopath. I will have a full series on my channel all about my experience with a naturopath and the different answers that I receive from them. I believe that people should do more research on their personal health and be okay with questioning what their doctors want to put them on. I have also decided to stop seeing my dermatologist and have even decided to go off of birth control to see what exactly is going on in my body.

I will also be leaving some more amazing links that I hope will inspire you to do more research and find answers! You have control over your personal health and well-being. If you don’t want to be put on medications that is your choice. I have nothing against any of these medications and believe that people should have the choice to be on these medications. However, I believe that doctors are too quick to prescribe medications, instead of looking into other avenues.

Please comment below any questions or future posts you would like me to write about when it comes to health, nutrition, and diet! I want to help everyone be able to Zero In on their health! 

Why I Have Decided to Stop Donating to Goodwill

I know that I have been creating videos for the majority of this challenge, but as I was thinking about today’s topic, I felt that a blog post would be the best way to explain my issues with Goodwill. In Heidi’s article in this month’s issue of #ZeroWasteStoryTime she explores other organizations and opportunities that you could donate to, instead of just dropping off all of your items at your local Goodwill. She also explains Goodwill’s system and how long your items last until they eventually end up in the landfill.

Now, you can argue that all of our items will eventually end up in the landfill. However, are your items actually going to people in need when you donate to Goodwill? Now, it is great for people who are less fortunate to be able to receive items at a discounted price, but what about those who are living in shelters who can’t afford to go to their local Goodwill for clothes. Shouldn’t we give these items to the people in the shelters and other homeless people who can’t afford the items at even Goodwill prices? With a little bit of research, I have found half a dozen shelters in my area that will take used clothes and shoes that are in good condition. I know that if they believe that my items aren’t good enough for the shelter than it may end up in the landfill. At least these clothing items are going to people who really need them.

The money that Goodwill makes is suppose to go towards the staff members and the organization itself. On their website, Goodwill claims to “meet the needs of all job seekers, including programs for youth, seniors, veterans, and people who disabilities, criminal backgrounds and other specialized needs. In 2016, Goodwill helped more than 313,000 people train for careers in services they needed to be successful- such as English language training, additional education, or access to transportation and child care.” Unfortunately, there have been many claims of underpaying staff members with disabilities and giving more to the higher ups in the foundation. Here is a link to a petition that was created to help bring this issue forward into the media. It is currently closed, but that doesn’t mean the problem has been solved.

As a result, I have decided to stop donating my clothes to Goodwill. Instead, as Heidi explains in her article, I will be bringing my clothes to one of the local shelters in my area. Instead of going towards a mismanaged company and then eventually into the landfill, I hope that I will be able to give my clothes to people who really need them. This is just a small snippet of the issues that I have will Goodwill and their policies, but I hope that this inspires more of you to do your research and like Heidi says, Donate Good Vibes Only!

My Personal Trash Story- Zero Waste or Low Impact

About a year ago when I joined the Zero Waste movement, I focused all of my energy on creating zero trash because that’s what I thought you had to do. As I have talked about before, this made me stressed, aggravated, and full of anxiety. However, over time my family has made me realize that I can’t create Zero Trash. WHAT?! This was soul crushing to me, but also a big wake up call. If I wanted to embark on this lifestyle and movement, then I should do my research and explore ALL aspects of what it means to be an environmental activist.

Recently, Emmi from Sustainably Vegan released a video talking about how discouraging and limiting the term “Zero Waste” can be for many who are trying to reduce their waste. She also explored how a person shouldn’t concentrate on just their trash, but rather EVERYTHING that has to deal with the environment. This includes limiting your water and energy waste, carbon footprint, volunteering, and various other areas that will continue to help us make our planet a better place.

I polled my followers on Instagram and I was excited and shocked to see the amount of people who have decided to label themselves as low waste! However, I was also saddened by the amount of people who felt discouraged by the zero waste movement. I had a talk with Kaycee from @holistichue, once known as TheZeroWasteGirl. She explained how she was constantly receiving negative comments for not being zero waste enough to call her the zero waste girl. This made her feel discouraged and ultimately change her name. During this time she lost a ton of followers. However, she also felt more true to herself. She explained that the followers who did stick around were their because they loved her, not because they were looking for the someone who doesn’t produce any trash. 

This helped me realize that we need to step away from looking at the zero waste lifestyle as perfection and zero trash. The reason being that no one can actually produce zero trash. Better yet, many people who don’t have access to bulk stores, live with non-zero wasters, or who don’t have the financial capabilities to purchase a ton of the “zero waste” items, shouldn’t be pressured to do more than they feel comfortable with. We should also be concentrating on volunteering and advocating more for the environment. 

It’s important to note that if you have been following me for a while, you will know that the first 5 months of my transition I did try the trash jar. At first I got frustrated that I couldn’t start a jar right away. But a few months later, I had decided to try it again to see how much of a impact I was making in the amount of trash I was producing.  FYI I wasn’t able to fit more than a month’s worth of trash into a mason jar. The mason jar didn’t include any of the trash that I accidentally threw into my families trash can. It also didn’t include any of the waste that was created at the grocery store and restaurants I visited, and the amount of gas, water, and pollution I admitted into the air with having 2 part time jobs that forced me to drive everywhere. I am not sure many people take those into consideration when they hold up their fancy trash jar. Take a look at Sabrina from @sustainablesabs and her article on the trash jar! It will allow you to understand that despite how interesting the jar may be, it isn’t the “goal” of the zero waste/ low impact movements. 

Yes, even though I will be labeling myself as a zero waster, I am part of both movements. The zero waste movement is amazing to help encourage more companies to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the production of an item. However, it isn’t exactly ideal for many who want to reduce their waste at home. The low impact movement/ lifestyle allows and encourages people to do the best they can. The word itself is more inclusive for it’s members, and encapsulates many areas that the zero waste movement doesn’t. The zero waste movement has mainly focused on reducing trash; whereas the low impact movement focuses on how to reduce your water and energy consumption/waste, carbon footprint, and helps people want to get more involved in their local community! 

This zero waste/ low impact community has forced me to want to do more. I have a dream to create my own programs, co-ops, campaigns, and so many other big projects that will help make others become environmental activists and do everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint, waste, and help save our planet! Please check out my video below that talks more in-depth about the two movements and the type of content that will be featured on this blog and Youtube channel! 

StrawSleeves Review

Side Note: I have written a blog post about the Plastic Straws and the Ocean, which was featured on Straw Sleeve website HERE!!!

When I started my transition to a zero waste lifestyle, one of my first reusable options that I fell in love with was a metal straw! There is nothing better than drinking your morning smoothie or juice out of a plastic free straw. Currently, I have 5 metal straws and one bamboo one that come with me everywhere. So, why do people use billions and billions of straws everyday? 

Drinking straws is one of the oldest food utensils in the world. It gained popularity in the 1800's, being made out of rye grass. But, the original straw came out over 500 years ago! "In the ruins of the Sumerian cities and tombs, archeologist managed to find straws made from gold and the precious stone lapis lazuli. These expensive 3000 BC artifacts can give us the proof that the more simple designs were used far earlier than that, most probably created from carved wood or natural hollow plants." It is said that they use to drink beer out of their straws. 

 In 1888, American inventor Marvin C. Stone created first model of modern drinking straw. The straw was made out of paper that was wrapped around a pencil and then glued to stay closed. Around the 1950's, when plastic items came into popularity, the plastic straw was born. Now plastic straws are made out of Plastic #7. This plastic isn't usually recyclable. When it is recycled, it can only be turned into plastic furniture, or semi-recycled bags. As a result, plastic straws are usually thrown into the garbage and many times end up in the oceans. Once in the oceans, they can be eaten, stuck in turtles noses, and even stuck in octopuses tentacles. How can we continue to use this item, when it is so dangerous to the rest of our world? 

Many cities and towns have begun to ban plastic straws, bags, and other plastic items that aren’t usually considered recyclable. Guess what?! People didn't even notice that the ban had been put into place. They also didn’t mind the more environmental friendly alternatives, like paper bags, paper straws, reusable cloth bags, and even reusable metal and bamboo straws. In time, I hope that this will help inspire more cities and towns to ban more unnecessary plastic items. Until then, it's important to find companies that are working hard to provide more sustainable options to the masses. 

StrawSleeves, is a small online shop that has started to make big changes in the way of reusable straws, reusable utensil sets, and even reusable bags. All made of out reclaimed cotton, hemp, and denim. I own a reusable utensil set and one of StrawSleeves straws in the carrier case. The carrier case may not seem like a necessity, but it is definitely a nice thing to help keep your utensils and straws organized and clean while in your bag. I keep mine in my bag with me at all times, just in case.

The company is owned by Cheri Newcomb, a women who has dedicated her life to making reusable items more readily available to people who want to reduce the amount of plastic in their life. Their Instagram and Facebook pages are filled with information on their products, healthy recipes, and other resources that help you understand how beneficial living a plastic free life can be to our oceans and the environment.

I personally find these items to also make great Christmas and Birthday gifts for friends and family members who are travel a lot or are looking to help reduce their waste!!!

For more information visit the links below: 

http://www.eatingutensils.net/history-of-other-eating-utensils/drinking-straws-history/

https://www.cnn.com/2018/01/14/world/plastic-straws-ban-campaigns/index.html

https://www.tv3.ie/xpose/article/lifestyle/260549/The-end-of-singleuse-straws-is-nigh-here-are-6-ecofriendly-alternatives

https://earth911.com/home/food-beverage/recycling-mystery-plastic-straws/

 

 

 

 

The Plastic Straw Ban

During the beginning of my transition to a more sustainable and zero waste lifestyle, I tried my hardest to refuse as many straws as possible. Unfortunately, it looks like waiters and waitresses will continue to put straws into people’s drinks, despite how much you try to refuse them. But, what’s the big deal?

Plastic straws have been around since the 1960’s when the TV dinners and plastic dolls, and other items entered into mainstream consumerism. According to This county is on a mission to stop straws sucking the life out of our oceans “it is estimated that by 2050, the weight of all of the plastic in the ocean will be more than the weight of all the fish”. These numbers aren’t widely talked about in mainstream media, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important. The lack of coverage has resulted in people not refusing plastic straws and other useless disposable plastic items. Is there a way that we can get the actual employees and places themselves to stop offering these useless items?

In 2017, restaurant, diner, and cafe owners in Seattle Washington, conducted a little experiment. They got rid of all of the straws in their drinks to see if people noticed that something was missing. Guess what? Only a few people asked for the straws. As a result, the city of Seattle has decided to go through with a ban on plastic straws, with the possibility for more plastic items being banned in the future. This hasn’t officially happened as of yet, but it’s exciting to see more and more places deciding to ban or put a tax on these unnecessary plastic items. Many places are supplying a biodegradable paper straw alternative, but it’s important to note the amount of money that these restaurants, diners, and cafes will save by not constantly purchasing plastic straws.

This ban seems like a small change, but it will result in more people learning to live without these useless plastic items. Hopefully, by 2050 the numbers will explain how much mainstream consumers and business owners are trying to help save our oceans. Many may ask, why don’t we try and stop the companies who are actually manufacturing and selling these items to the restaurants, stores, diners, and cafes? By refusing these items, we as customers are creating less of a demand for them. This will result in more manufactures trying producing these paper straws that can biodegrade in the compost.

If you don’t live in Seattle Washington, or one of the many places that are making strides to pan plastic straws. You can still make a difference by refusing plastic straws when going out to eat. I also highly recommend talking with your local diners, restaurants, and cafes about the dangers that plastic straws have on our oceans and planet. I also highly recommend signing the Last Straw Petition to help encourage more and more places to see the dangers that these useless plastic items have on our planet.

For more information on the plastic ban please visit these websites:

http://blueplanetsociety.org/2017/12/turning-tide-ocean-plastics/

https://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/movement-under-way-to-rid-outer-banks-of-plastic-straws/

https://pebblemag.com/news/plastic-straws-communities-getting-rid-of-waste