Learn about the intent of zero waste, why it is important, and actionable waste reduction initiatives you can implement at your home or business to reduce your eco and carbon footprints.
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What is Zero Waste?
Waste management are “the activities and actions required to manage waste from its inception to its final disposal.” This process includes the collection, transport, treatment and disposal of solid waste.
The goal of sustainable waste management is to reduce the amount of waste produced so that ultimately there are no waste landfills. After all, when we say, “Throw away”, know that there is no “away”. Our current, linear “take, make, waste” (a.k.a. “cradle to grave”) economy does have an endpoint: the landfill or other locations not designed for disposal, such as lakes, streams, groundwater.
In short, the ultimate goal in sustainable waste is to achieve zero waste.
Why is Zero Waste Important?
The waste collection and disposal process plays a critical role in the health of our environment, society and economy. Landfills emit greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) – methane being the most toxic – that contribute to global warming and climate change.
“Landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.”, per the EPA. Effluent waste and wastewater treatment plants also produce the same gases, as well as nitrous oxide (N2O).
Let’s not forget the indirect greenhouse gas emissions from the energy generation used in our collection to disposal and treatment of waste process. Waste is being shipped further and further away, even to other countries, because of the reduced U.S. areas allowed for landfills and waste disposal.
Additionally, more and more plastic waste, is ending up in our oceans like the growing plastic gyres known as “Garbage Patches”. This is causing marine life to get tangled up in our plastic waste or marine life is ingesting our plastic waste. If fish who ingest plastic waste are caught for consumption, then you are eating that plastic!
Waste disposal areas can have a wide-range of negative social and health impacts to those who live nearby, from irritating noise, smell, smoke and flies to certain types of cancer and birth defects. These impacts undoubtedly result in increased need for medical attention, medical bills and increased insurance rates.
As you can see, when the environment is negatively impacted by waste and the resulting greenhouse gases, it has negative impacts on our society and economy. It’s a viscous cycle that will not end until we reduce, and eventually end, our current linear “take, make, waste” economy and transform into a circular economy, preferably using the “cradle to cradle” approach.
How To Work Towards Zero Waste
Obviously, many benefits exist to reducing and eliminating waste production, from reduced landfills to healthier land and marine life to safer and healthier communities to “green jobs” creation.
The good news is that there are ways you can help now. From little to big methods of change, when implemented individually they will accumulate for major, positive results towards reducing our negative impact on the environment, which will in turn, will reduce negative impacts to our health, well-being, and finances.
People have the most power to make positive change through easy, day-to-day changes. With over 300 million people in the U.S. in 2019 alone, if we all individually were “conscious consumers” it adds to a huge, positive impact.
Your efforts could cause business systems to be redesigned and regulated to shift from a linear economy to a circular economy, and zero waste, that keep’s Earth’s connected systems as the priority, thereby working within the natural laws and systems with no harmful effects to protect the Earth’s biodiversity into order to sustain us.
Day-to-day changes are easy to do. They involve simple, purchase habit changes to advocating for better products, or both.
These can be done in different levels, if you will – from the easiest “low hanging fruit” methods (see lighter-colored boxes below), to more complex or advocate methods (see darker-colored boxes below), that may have long-term health benefits and financial savings. If you want more tips and ideas, check out the Zero Waste Blog posts that are continually added for your convenience.
In any case, I encourage you to review these initiatives, pick some, and take the Zero Waste Challenge below.
Zero Waste Initiatives: How and Why
Take the "Zero Waste Challenge"!
Take the CORR Concepts “Zero Waste Challenge” by doing:
1. Take the pledge to never use plastic bags provided by stores and bring your own bags for all shopping. Get others to take the pledge.
2. Pick at least one more of the Zero Waste Initiatives and implement them into your everyday life. Periodically, go back to remeasure your Ecological and/or Carbon Footprint to see if you’ve lowered your score. Keep adding more Zero Waste Initiatives to your daily life to keep reducing your footprint!
3. Share this webpage to at least one person so that the sustainability message will spread and enrich and benefit us all.