“Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.” Additionally, “Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use: . . . Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. . . .Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”Zero Waste Definition – Zero Waste International Alliance
During the COVID lockdown, people who had never touched a sewing machine, began making their own clothes for the first time. Those who were sewists went back to their sewing machines. Fashioning new fashions from old clothing or designing clothing from sustainable fabrics has, for many, become a highly creative and challenging artform. Sewing is part of a movement born of creativity and conscious consumption. Likewise, many DIY ways of living sustainably have become part of the zero-waste movement in changing old ways of doing everyday things to sustainably better ways of doing those very same things. We need to be creative by going outside of our habitual comfort zones.
The main areas to progressively “. . .avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. . .” is the ultimate goal to reduce greenhouse gas and the sequestration of carbon. The components of zero-waste can be broken down into several categories: Fashion (clothing and general textiles); Food; Landfill Waste (Household/Office/Industrial etc.); Urban Landscape /Farming; Transportation; and Energy.
As we make choices as conscientious consumers of goods and services for the betterment of our global community, as stewards of the Earth, we can positively impact the way goods and services are produced and one way is adopting a Circular Economy approach to consumerism, more about this below.
The following information is far from complete, but it does offer starting points. If you have started, check out some of the links for more ideas. If you have not started or know little about carbon foot-printing — read on. Please consider the listed categories and factor them into your own research in living an earth conscious, sustainable lifestyle.
This is an area where we can all start making sustainable choices in our clothing and home décor shopping habits. Fashion covers not only the clothing we wear but the textiles we use to decorate our homes from bed linens and towels to carpeting. As conscientious consumers, the more we buy clothing and home textiles made from sustainable material, we can change manufacturing choices now in place. Read the labels, thirty of the most sustainable textiles are listed here: https://www.sustainablejungle.com/sustainable-fashion/sustainable-fabrics/
One of CCGKC’s partners is The Sewing Labs, a community oriented non-profit, whose mission states: The Sewing Labs: is an inclusive and welcoming community teaching the legacy of sewing for employment, entrepreneurship, and enrichment (https://thesewinglabs.community). They teach new sewists the use of remnant and scrap fabrics and sustainable textiles that would otherwise wind up in landfills. This group has worked to help many at-risk individuals by teaching sewing, and supporting the individuals in their endeavor to enrich their personal lives and their communities.
More on-line data for Fashion/Textiles: The Guardian Online, 28 Sept 2021: Sew it yourself! Inside the zero-waste, zero-sweatshop fashion revolution Great article on how sustainability is changing the fashion industry.
Green Dreamer: Website and Podcasts. This site reviews various manufacturers who are producing sustainable textiles and more. While some of the products are pricey, the more we purchase sustainable products, the faster the cost can be driven down to be affordable to the masses. What is Sustainable Fashion? (An Introduction and 3 Steps for Getting Started) — GREEN DREAMER
What we eat does impact climate change and it is mostly in the use of farming techniques that have become antiquated and unsustainable. The excessive use of pesticides has caused havoc in the natural order of farming as well as human health, affecting the size of our carbon footprint as well (note: in the food industry , beef has the largest negative impact on carbon emissions).
The harm created by chemicals has influenced the growth in the number of organic farms over the last three decades. When we eat clean, organic foods, our bodies greatly benefit from the increased nutrients and the absence of toxic chemicals. It stands to reason that what we eat can be beneficial, not only to ourselves but to the environment as our carbon foot prints shrink. Again OUR consumer choices impact the market; as we change and choose to eat healthy, the market will change with us. Again, read labels, the fewer the ingredients, the closer the food is to clean eating.
The following chart from The Visual Capitalist Online, explains it best. The data was compiled from Our World in Data, which is full of data from around the globe that you never knew you wanted to know.
Recycling can only do so much. Recycling has become a dinosaur in the fight against trash pollution as we watch marine life dying from toxic plastic proliferation. In disposing of Waste, every household, here in the USA, can and should be doing better. Refuse to buy anything in sold in plastic, which can lead to manufacturers rethinking their product delivery. Demand changes with your dollars and buy sustainable products in sustainable packaging such as powder detergent in paper boxing, or as many have done, move to DIY solutions.
A viable solution, which can be found in the European markets, is to move to a Circular Economy. It is the antithesis to the throwaway economy. (See, National Geographic Online Here’s how a ‘circular economy’ could save the world) The following short YouTube video offers an explanation of what it means to have a “Circular Economy.” You may recognize this as how things “used” to be — the refrigerators that lasted 40+ years, the telephones in our homes as children that were still used by our parents when we hit our 30s and beyond. What a Circular Economy looks like: Explaining the Circular Economy and How Society Can Re-think Progress | Animated Video Essay (See also: What If We Don’t Buy Products and We Buy Service? Circular Economy Explained | at https://youtu.be/Cd_isKtGaf8).
URBAN LANDSCAPES / HOME FORESTS:
Like sewing, COVID gave many people the opportunity to become urban farmers. The front yard farm became a fashionable yet practical tool to raise produce that we experienced as shortages during the shutdown. The number of urban growers increased, as did neighborhood farms giving the communities the access to fresh produce that was lacking in the grocery stores. As a result, home composting grew as well. All great first steps into living sustainably. To take this movement even further, environmental groups began encouraging the Home Forest movement. Both farming and home forests make a huge impact on sequestering carbon. And it is super easy to: Plant trees, shrubs, and native plants that help the soil and reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. More on Tiny Forests can be found here: https://ideas.ted.com/how-to-grow-your-own-tiny-forest/
If you drive a gas or propane car, is the vehicle healthy and in good working order? Keep it well maintained to help keep the air clean. If you are in the market for a new car, check into an EV, see; US News Online, https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/best-electric-cars. The prices have come down and even if a bit higher, the maintenance costs are almost non-existent compared to a car running on fossil fuels. Additionally, there is no CO2 emission.
Other alternatives; become a bicyclist and ride to work while you get some exercise. If you live close to your job, walking, self-transportation, is another alternative to using a fossil fuel driven vehicle. And there is always public transportation.
From KCATA, Mass transit in Kansas City Metropolitan area: The Environment | About KCATA. According to the KCATA website, A single person who switches from a 20-mile commuting alone by car to existing public transportation, can reduce their annual CO2 emissions by 20 pounds per day, or more than 48,000 pounds in a year. That is equal to 10% reduction in all greenhouse gases produced by a typical two-adult, two-car household. (See also: Environmental Benefits of Public Transit | The Environment | About KCATA )
Energy efficiency and sustainability is on the forefront of everyone’s minds with the changes in our climate. Human induced global warming, as defined by the United Nations, will only cause more extreme weather if we do not get control of the very human things causing the warming and severe weather trends that we are now experiencing, “Human-induced climate change is already affecting many weather and climate extremes in every region across the globe. Scientists are also observing changes across the whole of Earth’s climate system; in the atmosphere, in the oceans, ice floes, and on land.” See IPCC report: ‘Code red’ for human driven global heating, warns UN chief
Again, the answer lies in fossil fuels. We need to eliminate our dependency on them. There are so many alternatives in the form of wind, geo-thermal and solar energy. As the nation continues to increase the use of alternative energy sources, while drawing down the use of oil, gas and coal; we can make some simple changes in our daily habits and use of power sources in our own homes.
Turn off the lights that are not in use; replace incandescent and fluorescent lights with LED bulbs; add or reduce the temperature on your thermostats according to the season; use weather stripping on windows and doors. These are simple and rather inexpensive changes that do not require experts to install.
Professional changes include installation of solar panels; installation of high-efficiency windows and doors; on demand hot water units and many more. This is far from a complete list. Take a look at This Old House Online Solar Power & Other Renewable Energy For Your Home, for more information.
GENERAL INFORMATION on NET-ZERO LIVING
The Zero Waste International Alliance: Zero Waste International Alliance – Creating a World Without Waste
- initiates and facilitates research and information sharing for the promotion of Zero Waste
- builds capacity to effectively implement Zero Waste
- sets standards for evaluating the achievement of Zero Waste
The Sustainable Jungle: This site is packed with ideas for every aspect of life. From daily living rituals to gift giving. The site offers reviews and suggestions on numerous products that meet the requirements of sustainability. The site is not a retail/wholesale house so it is free from products pushing; https://www.sustainablejungle.com/sustainable-living/ The site has a great explanation for Living Sustainably here; What is Sustainable Living?
The Nature Conservancy offers a carbon footprint calculator to see how you are doing in reducing your own personal carbon footprint. What is a carbon footprint? | Carbon Footprint Calculator This can be a great educational tool to use in your home as a family activity or a class project for students to learn about their own carbon footprint while generating dialogue on ways to reduce it.
Keep an eye on our latest partner at CCGKC, LivZero.
“LivZero is committed to addressing the historic and systemic barriers that prevent frontline communities from being in the decision-making process by validating their lived experience and incorporating their knowledge in long-term climate solutions through participatory action research. . . . In our blog Field Notes, we reflect on ways to better understand the severity of the climate crisis by examining it with a social justice lens and by brainstorming wholesome approaches to better understand and address how it disproportionately impacts frontline communities.From the LivZero website at https://www.livzero.com.
And last but far from least, our partners at Greenability Magazine offers an array of common sense advice on Living Green — Living Sustainably: Visit the monthly online magazine at https://greenabilitymagazine.com