ENVIRONMENTAL
INITIATIVE

zero waste

Zero Waste

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

Use your own bags

For all shopping, never use the store’s plastic bags and bring your own reusable bags. Keep them with you or in your car at all times.

Benefits:

One plastic bag takes 1,000 years to degrade. Taking plastic bags out of use means they don't end up in landfills, storm drains or the ocean. They also save companies money and taxpayers money on reduced clean-up costs.
Read More >

Use Less & Reuse Plastic

Place value on thrift and reuse plastic products, containers, bags, etc. as much as possible before recycling or discarding.

Benefits:

Google ways plastic can be repurposed. For example, see www.budgetdumpster.com. Keeping plastic out of landfills reduces health and environment risks. Note, plastics with recycling codes 2, 4 and 5 are safest to reuse for food storage.
Read More >

Recycle

After you have reused, then recycle all materials possible.

Benefits:

Recycling plastic, cardboard, paper, glass and metals, at minimum, keeps waste out of landfills and is a step towards zero waste. Confirm with your municipal waste collectors on what recyclables they will collect.
Read More >

Buy glass, paper or metal not plastic

Whenever possible, buy products in glass, paper or metal/aluminum containers instead of plastic.

Benefits:

Glass, paper and metals are always recyclable, and some plastics are not. Using, reusing and recycling glass works towards zero waste better than plastics.
Read More >

Do NOT buy bottled water!

Do you think bottled water is safe? Think again! The U.S. Federal Government does not require bottled water be safer than tap water. States are left to regulate their own bottled water and 1 in 5 states do not.

Benefits:

Do yourself a favor AND save money: buy a reusable water container and fill it from the tap! The U.S. only recycles about 23% of plastic bottles so millions of plastic bottles continually fill up landfills, streams, lakes and our oceans.
Read More >

Say NO to plastic straws

Do not buy plastics straws and advocate to all restaurant and eating establishments they stop buying plastic straws.

Benefits:

Plastic straws make up 4% of plastic waste by piece in landfills, oceans and coastlines. These smaller plastics are ingested by birds and marine life, which can be ingested by YOU. Ban plastic straws.
Read More >

Say NO to paper towels

Buy and use reusable, washable towels or rags instead.

Benefits:

Eliminating single-use products, like paper towels and paper napkins, saves tons of waste per household every year. Try using washable cloth or rags. Just throw them in with your regular laundry to clean them!
Read More >

Use cloth not disposable diapers

Disposable diapers are costly financially and environmentally. Use cloth diapers to reduce your, and your baby's, carbon footprint while saving money.

Benefits:

Per the EPA, 4.2 billion tons of disposable diapers were discarded in 2017 alone. These diapers take 500 years to decompose and add pathogens and methane gas into the atmosphere from landfills. Opt for a cloth diaper service!
Read More >

Say NO to styrofoam

Buy reusable coolers and cups that are not made of styrofoam. Ask manufacturers to stop packing with styrofoam, and get restaurants and other eating establishments to buy compostable food-use products instead.

Benefits:

Like disposable diapers, styrofoam also takes 500 years to decompose, which clogs our landfills with more waste emitting greenhouse gases contributing to health issues and global warming.
Read More >

Contact your legislators

Contact your local and state government representatives to demand better waste-saving policies and regulations and better building codes.

Benefits:

When government provides policies, regulations and programs to the public, we all win in more choices for sustainability products and reduce our impact on climate change.
Read More >

Beeswax wrap instead of plastic wrap

Beeswax wrap to protect food is a natural, sustainable alternative to single-use, plastic wrap

Benefits:

Reusable for up to a year, beeswax wraps save money from buying plastic wraps and baggies and are biodegradable which means zero waste!
Read More >

Buy and use washable, glass containers

Buy food in glass containers and reusing them instead of buying food in plastic containers.

Benefits:

Non-toxic and 100% recyclable, glass is a better option to your health and diverting from the landfill to reduce on emitting GHG's.
Read More >

Purchase second-hand clothes

First, donate your clothing. Second, purchase second-hand clothing for multiple benefits.

Benefits:

Thrifting not only saves clothing (and household goods) from landfills resulting in less pollution, but it also saves money on having to buy expensive, new clothing.
Read More >

Use rechargeable batteries and charger

Make the initial investment of a battery recharger for long lasting financial, health and environmental benefits.

Benefits:

Battery replacement is expensive over time, not to mention harmful to the air, water and land with the release of metals into the landfills.
Read More >

Extend the life of your device

Do you really need that new mobile phone or computer every two years? Rethink how often you upgrade to protect the environment and your wallet.

Benefits:

These electronic devices take an enormous amount of raw resources from the earth that are not being replenished. Americans are also the biggest e-waste producers. Buy a new battery instead to extend your device's life.
Read More >

Compost

Keep food from landfills and compost your food waste in your hard or in your kitchen composting device.

Benefits:

Food waste in landfills produces methane, the most harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emitted. Protect our environment and climate change effects by composting. Use your compost in your garden as fertilizer to save money. Or sell it!
Read More >

Get involved locally

Join with those like-minded, conscious consumers to spread the word for faster change.

Benefits:

You don't have to go it alone. Finding a Zero Waste local community provides a support system and speeds up the sustainability movement.
Read More >

Present ballot measures

Don't think your local or state regulations are enough for protecting our environment? Present your ballot measure!

Benefits:

Your purchasing dollars speak to all businesses. When you vote with your dollars, you make the change towards a circular economy and zero waste for improved environmental, social and economic health.
Read More >

Not using it? Turn it off!

Use the "15 Minute Rule" for electronics and lighting: if you haven't used it in 15 minutes, turn it off (if not sooner). Turning off lighting and electronics saves energy = reduces greenhouse gas = prolongs the product life = saves money!

Benefits:

Your own ballot measure, like placing a ban on plastic bags or forcing manufacturers to make sustainable-only products, could promote sustainable business practices and increase manufacturing efficiencies in your next election benefiting all for a long time to come.
Read More >

Ask manufacturers and vendors to take products back

These players in the supply chain have no financial responsibility to make or sell sustainable-only products. Why don't they?

Benefits:

Demand they run on a closed-loop system. Manufacturers and vendors who have to take back their own products after use would make better products, right?
Read More >

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.

What are you waiting for?

Measure your Ecological Footprint

Measure your Carbon Footprint

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