“There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.”
~ Annie Leonard, Founder of Story of Stuff
You have 24 more hours to complete today’s challenge. It is due on 10/5 at 6am PT.
Take a minute to stop and look around. Look at what’s right in front of you, in your hands, and around your space. How much of what you see is created by humans? How much will be obsolete by tomorrow? By next week? By next year?
We tend to think that the lifecycle of our possessions begins when we purchase them and ends when we throw them away, but that can’t be further from the truth. Stuff – “matter,” if we’re being scientific – never really goes away. It may 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.
According to the 2017 Global Waste Management Conference, global waste is estimated to rise to 2.2 billion tons by 2025. In the U.S. alone, the average person produces 4.4 pounds of waste per person per day based on a 2017 report by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Collectively, the U.S. produces around 258 million tons of waste annually – a quantity that would cover Texas, TWICE!
How many electronics do you or your family own? E-waste is often overlooked, even though it has massive repercussions not only on the environment, but on people as well. Up to 90% of the world’s e-waste is illegally dumped or traded, especially in developing Asian and African countries.
Watch this video to learn about about the monumental impact that e-waste has on people from developing countries. Afterwards, check out the photos here for more stories.
E-waste is just one part of the picture. The material that makes up the bulk of the waste stream is plastic. It 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 places, Henderson Island in the South Pacific. In their recent publication Planet or Plastic, National Geographic stated that more than 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste had been generated,” only 9 percent of which was recycled.
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 (food wrappers and containers, bottle and container caps, plastic bags, straws and stirrers, and take out containers) can be easily eliminated from our everyday lives. Forgoing single-use packaging for safe, reusable containers is one of the best places to start. Companies like our partners Klean Kanteen, Chico Bag and U-Konserve offer stainless steel and reusable containers for every daily need 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 shopping guide that provides an example of how we can live with less plastic.
REFUSE. As Plastic Pollution Coalition reminds us, “plastic is a substance the earth cannot digest. Refuse Single Use Plastic.” While you’re at it, challenge 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 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. Plus, living zero waste is WAY MORE more cost effective in the long run! Buying in bulk, exploring DIY, and purchasing direct from farmers are all choices that help to lower your monthly bills and your footprint.
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 video made by our partner Klean Kanteen to get a snapshot of what your challenge will be about!
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.
With all of your new knowledge about waste and its negative impact on people and planet, we need you to use your voice to inform those around you! When the average American throws away 4.4 pounds of trash every day, we know it’s time for a change. How will you use your voice to create change?
Upload a PDF document with a link to your PSA. Be sure to make your video public so we can view it. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.