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Zero Waste Challenge: How to Go Garbage-Free This Month

By Nicole Caldwell

In nature, there is no such thing as waste. In terms of the whole of history, until very recently all organic matter on the planet was consumed by something else, broke down until it became dirt, nourished the soil and plant life, grew into something else, and the whole process repeated itself.

Then people came along who built an economy on the concept of planned obsolescence. We are the only living creatures who make stuff that doesn’t give back to the earth. Too many of the things we make end up in landfills, where they can sit for thousands of years leeching toxins into the soil. A whopping 99% of everything we use ends up in a landfill within six months.

But, it’s possible to live waste-free… or awfully close to it. Here’s how to start.

Put a compost bin in your kitchen.

Much of what we consider waste is actually leftover food, which we put in plastic garbage bags and send to landfills. Organic waste makes up the second-highest component of landfills in the United States. This “trash” is so compacted that oxygen can't reach it so most food scraps never receive the oxygen required for decomposition. All that food just sits there, not nourishing anything, becoming toxic as it absorbs poisons from all the other items surrounding it.

Starting a compost bin is a great way to reduce pressure on landfills while creating healthy soil to grow plants and food in. It’s simple to keep a vermicompost bin (with worms) under a kitchen sink, or a lidded bucket on the counter that you put your food scraps in. When bins become full, you can carry the compost to a tumbler or bin outside to turn into dirt. If you don’t have anywhere to put your compost or don’t have a yard, check with your local community gardens or gardener friends. Most are quite happy to receive compost!