Last week I did an experiment. I collected all the waste I produced during one day. The result you can see in the image above. The following day I pledged to live trash free. This is how it went.
During my normal day I produced trash from the wrappings of my lunch and dinner. There is also the price tag of a top I had bought a week earlier and a small plastic bag I used to transport my tooth brush and tooth paste for a visit at the dentist. Finally, there are the packaging of a tea bag and of a post-workout protein bar. This does not seem much, but projected over a week, month or year, I am generating mountains of trash, wasting resources and energy in the process.
What followed was a day without trash. I pledged to not create waste for one day via the organization Live Zero Waste which helps people to live trash free. The day happened to be a holiday in Sweden, which was good in some aspects. For example, luckily, I was far away from the paper coffee mugs and tempting, wrapped lunch sandwiches sold by the university cafeteria.
In the morning, my only challenge was that I could not empty my milk carton to put milk into my coffee. So, I had it black and saved the milk for the day after. This option I would not have had if I had pledged for a week, month or year (which you can do also). But it still gave me an idea about how much trash I create from the packagings of milk, juices, cereals and so on.
In the afternoon, I was invited to a barbecue lunch with friends. I took my own camping plate, mug and cutlery with me to make sure I would not produce any waste from paper plates or plastic cutlery. The next problem was to find a small gift I could take for my friends who invited me. Normally, I love to buy chocolate for these occasions, but that would have meant indirecly creating waste from the packaging. I panicked for a while and eventually picked some maybell flowers that were blooming in the forrest behind our house and made a nice gift.
Then there was rugby practice in the evening. After splintering a bone in my left ring finger last year, I keep it taped during practice with sports tape. According to Live Zero Waste you are allowed to take medicine during your pledge despite of the packaging (and, yes, you are also allowed to use toilet paper). I decided that this applied for the tape too. Nevertheless, I realized that I must have created mountains of trash from tape during the past year. Finally, I had to switch my usual protein bar for a banana as a post-workout snack.
Now, why would you do all this? Living trash free is obviously quite a challenge.
The answer is climate change and the environment. For every kilogram of waste we throw away, seven more are created during the manufacturing process. Production, transport and packaging of everything we buy consumes resources, energy and produces carbon dioxide. When it comes to climate change, we sometimes tend to focus only on the impact of our travelling by car and plane. But the truth is that everything we buy from chocolate bar to car also has a great impact on climate change and the environment.
Waste is a representation of this impact. It also shows that besides taking the bike or the bus to work, there is much more every single one of us can do to fight climate change and protect the environment. Therefore, waste is also a representation of the choices we personally make to fight climate change and pollution. These issues are not only about what governments decide, but also about the personal choices everyone of us makes.
The good thing is that everyone can choose to create no or less waste. Basically, this means two things. 1) Buying less new stuff which I imagine is very hard for most of us including myself. 2) Avoiding packaged everyday items like food or toiletteries which makes life more challenging.
Everyone has to make their own decisions on if and how they want to reduce their waste. I can highly recommend to pledge one waste free day with Live Zero Waste to figure that out. The day has shown me very vividly which changes I can personally make for a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. It is really easy to pledge here and you will get mentors to help you.
This is what my waste free day has taught me. I have learned that homemade gifts or activity gifts are more environmentally friendly than bought ones. My goal is now to learn how to make my own chocolates to give away. Another change I want to make is to generally switch my post-workout protein bars for bananas and other fruit. Next, I am planning look into getting a reusable splint for my finger that I can use during rugby practice instead of tape. Finally, I also have decided to more often bring my own home-made lunch to work and to always take my own cup down to the cafeteria to get coffee. You can find even more tips by Live Zero Waste here. Good luck with you own challenge!