Going zero waste in a wasteful world


Staying no waste at school meant packing a lunch from home.

Grace Whitaker '22, Web Editor

From a very young age, I have always been very earth conscious. My family is the type to avoid plastic bags, wash our plastic utensils for a second use and almost religiously shop second-hand. So, when I saw “Staffer Goes No-Waste” on the preplan I jumped at the opportunity to challenge myself, I didn’t think it would be nearly as difficult as it turned out to be.

This week was actually my second time going no-waste. Roughly two years ago I committed to a long-term version of this week and while I wasn’t completely no waste, for about two months I practiced a low-waste lifestyle. From the start of this week, I wanted to fully commit to no waste so I included recyclables and even considered gas usage when determining how much trash I produced.

To start the week, I made a trip to Kroger, but stocking up on food at a mainstream store that doesn’t have a No Waste or even Low Waste priority was really difficult; almost everything except for the fresh raw produce is in some sort of packaging. I also had to make sure to avoid foods with high carbon footprint; taking most meats, and even meat alternatives off the table. Seeing the grocery store with this new perspective made me realize how much extra waste I am producing just by fueling my body. According to a University of Michigan study, food accounts for up to 30 percent of a household’s carbon footprint, this includes packaging as well as food waste where goods were bought but never eaten. Moving forward, I’ve made a push to shop at the local bulk foods store where we bring our own containers to take home produce.

Staying no waste at school wasn’t too big of a challenge. I would bring my own lunch and water bottle and try to avoid anything that could produce trash. On days where I forgot my lunch my only option was to go hungry because shopping no waste at the local lunch spots wasn’t really an opportunity. One of the hardest parts of the week was saying no to people trying to give you things. I had a lot of people offer me little things like candy or a granola bar on a day where I forgot my lunch and turning down their generosity with the kind of pretentious statement of being no waste got old quick.

My week wasn’t perfect, I did slip up a couple times, namely with hall passes and gum wrappers but also and most shockingly with Taco Bell. The craving was so strong I completely forgot about my No Waste challenge, until I was halfway through my Baja blast. I am still proud of my efforts this week though; for the five days I participated, the only trash I produced was 3 hall passes, two gum wrappers, the sticker from an apple and a large Baja blast cup.

This week has helped me see how everything I do produces some sort of waste. Going forward I hope to keep this realization in mind when going about my daily life and try to avoid things that will create excessive waste. It really was a really eye opening experience, especially the first day, to see how much I was going to have to change to successfully complete the week. I urge others to try to go no-waste, even just for one day, to see how much of your life depends on creating trash.