Zero waste: Get started in the home

Even a child can understand it, local expert says

The convenience of packaged foods, eating out and throwaway wrapping has desensitized Americans to the incredible amount of trash they create, a zero-waste advocate says.

She’s Leslie Blood, a professor of English and media studies at Fort Lewis College, who is scheduled to present a three-part series about zero waste at Durango Public Library.

The first of the hourlong presentations, “The Zero-Waste Home” will start at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The others follow on Nov. 20 and Dec. 6. The central themes, respectively, will be food, holiday gift-giving and children.

“A lot of trash from food shopping involves packaging,” Blood said Wednesday. “Pre-packaging is convenient, but you pay for it.”

Blood offers tips such as buying in bulk and taking containers from home to avoid accumulating trash.

Even in traditional supermarkets, some butchers will put cuts of meat or cheese in a customer’s own container, she said.

She will discuss ways that meal-planning and composting food scraps can be handled to reduce waste.

“It’s hard to break the waste-producing cycle because a lot of people don’t know where to start,” Blood said.

The website for the city of Ann Arbor, Mich., known for its progressive recycling efforts, touts its reduction in total per capita waste.

Its residents, the website says, each produced 1,021 pounds of waste in 2010, compared with the national average of 1,584 pounds a year in 2009.

Waste measured came from all residences, and about half the commercial sites.

The other commercial sites contract for their own waste collection.

Per capita waste is increasing, the Ann Arbor website data shows. In 1960, per capita generation of waste was 2.7 pounds a day, increasing to 3.3 pounds in 1980 and 4.5 pounds in 2005.

Celebrating holidays can be satisfying without using tons of boxes and wrapping paper that will be thrown away, Blood said.

“Celebrating can feel special in a sustainable fashion,” Blood said. “Decorating and gift-giving can be done sustainably without a lot of trash.”

The third talk will focus on zero-waste kids.

Blood will tell how to get family members into a zero-waste frame of mind. Children catch on, too, the mother of two said.

“My son, Roman, age 6, is 100 percent on board with zero-waste lunches,” Blood said. “He knows if something is not recyclable.”

Roman also knows that instead of a wrapped candy bar, bulk candy is just as satisfying, she said.

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story