“”Above all, we should question the consumer ethic, which uses up non-renewable resources, creates inequality and injustice, generates pollution, destroys other species and upsets the balance of nature. Waste itself is a human concept; everything in nature is eventually used. If human beings carry on in their present ways, they will one day be recycled along with the dinosaurs.”
~ Peter Marshall, English Philosopher, Historian, Passionate Ecologist
You have 48 hours to complete today’s challenge. It is due on 10/5 at 6am PT.
Stuff is all around us. It makes up our world. Mostly, we surround ourselves with items that serve a purpose — school supplies, toiletries, clothing, furniture, electronics, food, etc. As soon as those things are used up, we throw them out. And that’s the end of that.
But unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. Far from it. Stuff — matter, in scientific terms — never truly goes away. It might decompose and turn into something else, but more likely than not your stuff is destined to sit in landfills or waterways, polluting our atmosphere and our planet.
It’s not just you. The average person produces about 1.95 kg or 4.4 pounds of waste per day. Collectively, the United States produces around 254 million tons of waste annually – a quantity that could cover Texas, TWICE! According to the World Bank, the global population will produce over two billion tons of waste annually by 2100, putting the need to combat such waste at “the heart of sustainable development.” Trash is already finding its way to the most isolated and untouched corners of our world. Just recently 38 million pieces of plastic were found on one of the world’s most remote islands, Henderson Island, which is part of the South Pacific Pitcairn group.
Waste has become a negative byproduct of our daily lives, but it doesn’t have to be! According to 5 Gyres’s Plastic Ban List, the top six sources of plastic pollution are all caused by people and largely consumer driven, they include: food wrappers and containers, bottle and container caps, plastic bags, straws and stirrers, and take out containers. By taking only what we can eat and switching to reusables, we send far less to landfill. Simple solutions to waste are readily available, so luckily changing your behavior can be painless. Forgoing single-use packaging for safe, reusable containers is one of the best places to start. Companies like Klean Kanteen and U-Konserve offer stainless steel reusable containers that make it easy to transition to a zero waste lifestyle.
So, where can you start reducing your waste consumption?
Yes, Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. You’ve heard these words since you were a kid, and they’re truer than ever today. But here are a few more important “R’s” to throw into the mix:
RETHINK. Think hard about what you can do differently to cut down on waste. Today’s non-profit partner, 5 Gyres, shares simple but illuminating information about reducing plastic pollution through exploration, education, and action.
REFUSE. Refuse all single-use items and disposables that you can live without. While you’re at it, ask your friends, family and school to do the same.
ROT. Make it your business to keep food waste and other biodegradable materials out of landfills by creating rich compost to feed nearby plants. Encourage your friends, schools, and communities to start composting if they haven’t already.
It may sound difficult, but we’re here to tell you that a zero waste lifestyle is possible. And one piece of the lifestyle that often gets glossed over: living zero waste is much more cost effective in the long run! Buying in bulk, exploring DIY, and buying direct from farmers are all choices that help to lower your monthly bills.
For more specific ideas and tips, check out Lauren Singer’s blog Trash is for Tossers.
Think about the full lifecycle of a single-use product. How was it created? How did it end up in your hands? How will you dispose of it? The answers to these questions all have serious implications for the health of people and planet. In fact, every piece of plastic ever created still exists in one form or another.
Upload your responses in a PDF document. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Since landfills are hidden from view, it’s easy to overlook just how much waste we produce and how it negatively impacts our shared planet. Check out this visual of consumerism in the U.S. to see how mindless consumption can add up.
Do you ever wonder how much waste you actually produce? Well, you’re about to find out!
Upload a PDF document with your photos and responses. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Polystyrene and expanded polystyrene foam — better known as Styrofoam — is one of the most harmful forms of waste on the planet. It is rarely recyclable, and, like all plastic, it takes hundreds of years to decompose. It’s one of the most common forms of litter on our beaches, and is known to cause cancer in animals. It is literally everywhere; in our coffee cups, take-out containers, straws, cutlery, and more. For this challenge we’re asking you to join the #foamfree campaign that is working to ban polystyrene across the nation!
Upload a PDF document with the responses that you posted on the #foamfree page to Steps 1, 2, and 3. Include a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.
Extra Credit due on October 21 @ 6am PT. Up to 150 points awarded for outstanding work.
Based on what you’ve learned in the previous challenges, it’s time to take #foamfree to the next step. Individual actions definitely add up, but if you can enlist the support of your entire campus community, the impact could be enormous! Commit to eliminating polystyrene by developing a campaign and acting as a catalyst for change on your campus.
Upload a PDF document with your photos and responses. Include a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.