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Why zero waste living is no waste

How often do you throw things away throughout the course of a day; five times, 10, maybe 20? 

Lauren Singer, former sustainability manager at the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, recently spoke at a TEDxTeen event about her zero waste life.

Singer said the average American produces approximately 4.4 pounds of trash every day.

Over the course of a year, that amounts to the weight of more than eight full-grown adults, per person. 

Reducing waste may not be on the forefront of your mind, but it is for Jocelynn Rodrigues, a former Calgary resident who adopted a mostly waste-free lifestyle after moving to Vancouver. 

“Once you start to see how much waste you produce, you start to see things from a very different perspective,” said Rodrigues.

For her, reducing waste isn’t necessarily easy, but is certainly something she believes is worth it.

“I like to ask myself ‘what would nature do’?”

Embracing a lifestyle of less trash means making intentional changes to the way she lives her everyday life.

“I do not have a garbage in my home. I make my own shampoo, conditioner, deodorant [and] cleaning products, so that reduces a lot of waste,” said Rodrigues. 

“I also buy in bulk, and I shop at places that allow me to refill things.”

And, while most are avid recyclers, Rodrigues feels there are much better ways to be environmentally conscious than just throwing plastic bottles into blue bins. 

“Recycling should be the last resort,” she said. 

“There are three ‘r’s’ and recycling is only one. Reduce and reuse are key players that are actually infinitely better than recycling.”

Along with these practices, Rodrigues started a communal compost in her apartment building, a “Swap Shelf” where neighbours can share gently-used items, and a “Vancouver Fix-It Collective” in which residents are encouraged to bring in items in need of repair. 

While not all of us can commit to all of these measures, we should all begin to make small changes, for the good of the environment and the good of society moving forward. 

Eithan Hyderman, an electrical apprentice at SAIT, sees value in these efforts.

“I definitely think that when it comes to waste, one person can make a difference,” said Hyderman.

“One day alone can make a difference, let alone a whole lifetime.

“It’s a whole lifestyle change for sure.”

Rodriguez agrees that shifting to a lifestyle of reduced waste takes time and plenty of effort. 

“It’s a process. It can be overwhelming at first, but take it one step at a time,” she said.

“Choose one thing. Maybe you want to bring a container with you when you go eat at a restaurant in case you have leftovers, [or] maybe you will buy some reusable produce bags so you’re not using so much plastic.”

Rodrigues recognizes that change occurs in increments, but believes strongly in the power of an individual to make a difference. 

“Do what you can. There are so many things we do and don’t realize its impact,” said Rodrigues. 

“We are led to believe that we are not as powerful as we are, but the little things do count.”

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