Waste not, that’s hot

What is a basic action plan for achieving a zero-waste lifestyle?

To achieve zero waste, I sold all my possessions, wandered into the forest and stood perfectly still on one leg in a meditative state without food or water. It was an incredible, waste-free time in my life. And it lasted 10 full hours. Then I got hungry and remembered the cute hybrid I saw on my way to the forest and just got a consumer craving. So the Treehugger turned to California Integrated Waste Management Board public information officer Jordan Scott for guidance in embracing the Zero Waste California goal. Scott’s tips are in bold; my commentary is below each tip—you didn’t think I could refrain from offering my forceful opinion on the matter, did you?

1. Use available recycling programs. Scott recommends www.erecycle.org, a resource for electronic-waste facilities in your area that also details what items are accepted. The Treehugger recommends www.sacgreenteam.com, a county recycling Web site with links to recycling facilities in our area.

2. Avoid heavily packaged products and mail. Be mindful of waste when packaging mail—packing peanuts are made of nonrecyclable Styrofoam. The Treehugger encourages you to be mindful in the supermarket. Is that cup of instant noodle soup in a Styrofoam container, encased in a cardboard instruction sheet and sealed with a thin layer of plastic wrap, really worth the wasted resources? Buy food from the bulk bins and bring your reusable canvas grocery bag to avoid paper and plastic.

3. Use compostable materials. Bill Maynard, Community Garden Coordinator for the City of Sacramento, offers a comprehensive list of compostable materials (see “Related stories this week” above for the list). And there are several options for composting at home: The vermicompost “worm bin” allows you to compost indoors; the free-standing outdoor compost drum is great for an urban apartment with no natural yard space; and a compost bin connected to the ground is ideal for a home with a yard.

4. Cut back on the resources you use: Turn off the water while soaping your hands. Turn off unused appliances. Learn to mend and sew your own clothing. Buy local produce that wasn’t petroleum-driven hundreds of miles to your grocery store; water plants with leftover teapot water.

5. Support businesses that use recycled materials.

The CIWMB has set up an online “Recycle Store” connecting people with manufacturers of recycled products. Check it out at www.zerowaste.ca.gov.