Day 6

Zero Waste

PARTNERS

The Story of Stuff Project
Guayaki
The Story of Stuff Project

OVERVIEW

“There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.” 
— Annie Leonard, Founder, Story of Stuff and Executive Director, Greenpeace USA

What happens when you’re hungry? You often search for a snack — in your bag, the kitchen, cafeteria, convenience store, kiosk or market. How many items do you see packaged in plastic? What will happen to that waste, after you eat whatever item is inside? Will the packaging still exist next week? Next year? In 50 years? The answer is likely y-e-s.

Too often, we think that the lifecycle of a product begins when we make a purchase and ends when we throw an item “away,” but in reality, what we see is only a small fraction of its journey. Stuff (or matter, if we’re being formal) never really goes away. It may decompose or be turned into something else, but the vast majority is destined to sit in landfills or waterways forever, polluting our atmosphere, resources and planet.

Let’s take a step back and look at the entire lifecycle of single-use items, such as plastic bags, takeout food containers, coffee cups, bottles, utensils, and such. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused plastic waste to surge, given the massive global increase in disposable everything — as leaders and all of us try to take responsible actions to ensure health and safety. Today, the newest waste found everywhere is a single-use face mask, which may soon outnumber jellyfish in the ocean. Millions of people are wearing one to two masks per day, in addition to gloves and other single-use PPE, producing mass amounts of waste. Concerns over cross-contamination have prompted grocery stores not to allow customers to bring their own reusable bags, jars, mugs or other items. Coffee shops are no longer offering customers an option for BYO reusable cups. Buying in bulk has become a challenge, as many stores replaced bulk bins with prepackaged, plastic-heavy options to mitigate exposure. COVID-19 has changed everything, including our consumption and waste of plastic, largely in the form of products which have devastating consequences for the planet. 

Have you ever thought about plastic’s impact on climate change? The production and life cycle of plastic is fossil fuel-intensive and a major contributor to the climate crisis. It is estimated that by 2050, global plastic production will emit 2.75 billion tons of carbon, equivalent to 615 coal-fired power plants.

While it may be difficult to live a low waste lifestyle right now, there is some good news. Over 115 scientists signed a statement to underscore that reusables are safe to use during COVID-19. Dr. Mark Miller, former director of research at the National Institute of Health’s Fogarty International Center, explains that public health must include thinking about our Earth. Promoting single-use plastic to “decrease exposure to COVID-19” works against the environment and negatively impacts water systems and food supplies. Reusable bags, containers, and utensils are safe to use, if cleaned and handled properly. Even on plastic, the virus can remain active for 2-6 days, studies show, so proper vigilance is necessary, including masks, hand washing and social distancing.

Is plastic hazardous to human health? The answer, unfortunately, is yes. Plastics contain chemicals linked to cancer and major health concerns, as a result of leaching from packaging into food. Studies also show that plastic can break down into tiny, nearly microscopic pieces called microplastics, often present in food or water and easily ingested into the body. A 2019 study found that humans ingest around 5 grams of plastic each week, the same amount of plastic as a credit card. While plastic may seem convenient and sanitary, it comes with detrimental long term health risks.  

After a single-use item is used and disposed of, where does it go? The item will most likely end up in a landfill, where 79% of all plastic ever produced permanently resides, taking up to 500 years or more to degrade. Or it may be swept into waterways, ultimately polluting the ocean. According to a 2018 study, almost 13 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean, adversely affecting the entire ecosystem. 

Waste has become a negative byproduct of daily life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. According to 5 Gyres’ 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. Companies like today’s partner, Klean Kanteen, offer reusable alternatives that make it simple and fun to transition to a low waste lifestyle without any sacrifice. 

 Think about this: in just one day, the average American produces 4.5 pounds of waste. In the Footprint Challenge, you learned how many Earths it would take to support our largely unsustainable current habits. So, how can we start reducing our waste now?  

 REFUSE. As Plastic Pollution Coalition reminds us, “plastic is a substance the Earth cannot digest. Refuse single-use plastic.” Refusing is the most important step you can take to reduce waste, as it can significantly decrease intake.

REDUCE. You’ve heard it before, but reducing is key to having less waste! Buying items in bulk, choosing items with less packaging, and cutting back on the quantity of items you buy all help to reduce waste.

REUSE. By reusing and repurposing items, you can greatly lessen waste and extend the life of your items! Reusable bottles, straws, and containers are great alternatives.  

RECYCLE. Recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce or reuse to ensure your waste doesn’t end up in landfills! Recycling labels can be difficult to understand, so be sure to check whether an item is actually recyclable here or here before tossing.  

RETHINK. Focus on how you can change behavior to cut waste. Simple ideas include wearing a reusable mask, packing food from home in reusable containers, carrying your own water bottle, utensils and straws for take-out and much more. 

A low waste lifestyle is possible and far more cost effective in the long run, helping with both your ecological footprint and budget. But it doesn’t happen all at once, especially when trying to live safely during a pandemic. By being conscious of the waste we produce and simple changes to behavior, we can decrease our waste, lessen negative impacts, and even achieve positive ones collectively!

CHALLENGE

Green

20 POINTS

THINK

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? These answers have serious implications for people and planet. Remember that every piece of plastic ever created still exists in some form.

CHALLENGE

  • Watch the Story of Stuff and Story of Solutions, both brilliant and transformational short films made by environmental leader, Annie Leonard. 
  • Share three major takeaways from these videos.
  • What is one change that you will make as a result of what you learned? 

Share a link to Story of Stuff or Story of Solutions on a social media platform of your choice and caption it with the change you will make. Tag @TurningGreenOrg and @StoryOfStuff and use #PGC2020.

DELIVERABLES

Upload your responses in a PDF document. Include a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.

Submission Guidelines

  • Submit all entries as PDFs; no Word or Pages documents
  • Be sure to include all content for your submission in one document
  • Save filenames using the following format: firstname_lastname_challengeday_challengelevel_year.pdf (ex: kasie_shils_day1_green_2020.pdf)
  • Do not include # or spaces in filenames
  • Do not upload a file larger than 5 MB
  • Link to images, if possible
  • You will see a confirmation in green that your submission uploaded correctly; if you do not see this confirmation, please try again
  • If your total points does not change, your submission did not load correctly, please try again
  • Send any questions to info@turninggreen.org
  • Don’t forget to post about the challenge and your learnings/doings on social media and tag us on Facebook @TurningGreen, on Twitter @TurningGreenOrg, and on Instagram @TurningGreenOrg and use #PGC2020

Greener

40 POINTS

THINK 

Out of sight, out of mind is what can happen when we throw trash “away.” But what if you were forced to see every piece of waste you produced in a day? This challenge gives you that chance, like this video which offers a visual picture of waste.

CHALLENGE

For the entire day today, carry a bag everywhere you go (even if you are at home or in your dorm the whole time) and collect everything that you would otherwise throw away. Carry your bag of waste proudly and invite conversations with family, house or classmates, community members or fellow grocery store goers. Share the story of your day!

  • Take a photo of everything you collected at the end of the day, separated into recyclables, non-recyclables and food waste/compost.
  • Check out local guidelines for recycling for proper sorting.
  • Post that image with a short caption on Instagram (and Twitter and Facebook too!), tagging @TurningGreenOrg and #PGC2020.
  • Tell us about conversations with two people: Who did you interact with? What did they say? How did they react? If you’re not seeing anyone in person, it can happen via Zoom, FaceTime or video call!

Next, consider reusable alternatives to each of the items in your bag. Pick two and explain how you could avoid creating that waste in the future (i.e. filling and carrying a reusable bottle, instead of taking a single-use plastic cup of water). Low or zero waste living is an ongoing commitment that needs planning and forethought, but it pays off!

  • What will you do to be accountable in adopting reusable products into your daily routine to make this a realistic part of your life?

DELIVERABLES

Upload your responses in a PDF document. Include a screenshot of your social media post. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.

Submission Guidelines

  • Submit all entries as PDFs; no Word or Pages documents
  • Be sure to include all content for your submission in one document
  • Save filenames using the following format: firstname_lastname_challengeday_challengelevel_year.pdf (ex: kasie_shils_day1_greener_2020.pdf)
  • Do not include # or spaces in filenames
  • Do not upload a file larger than 5 MB
  • Link to images, if possible
  • You will see a confirmation in green that your submission uploaded correctly; if you do not see this confirmation, please try again
  • If your total points does not change, your submission did not load correctly, please try again
  • Send any questions to info@turninggreen.org
  • Don’t forget to post about the challenge and your learnings/doings on social media and tag us on Facebook @TurningGreen, on Twitter @TurningGreenOrg, and on Instagram @TurningGreenOrg and use #PGC2020

Greenest

60 POINTS

THINK 

Homes, schools and communities produce massive amounts of waste. In the school dining hall (during non-COVID times!), students use and dump plastic utensils, styrofoam trays, single-use plastic water bottles, cups, straws and more multiple times everyday. Plastic is increasingly difficult to avoid. However, we can make simple choices to reduce waste. This challenge asks you to address one source of plastic waste in your own life, whether something you do personally or observe in the environments in which you spend time.

CHALLENGE

 Respond to the following:

  • Share two takeaways from each resource 
  • Think about your plan and approach:
    • What steps would you need to take to implement this project?
    • Who would you need to involve in the process?
    • What are some potential barriers you might face and how will you overcome them?
  • Write a thoughtful step-by-step plan using the information you learn from the resources above.

Create a graphic, informative image or descriptive logo. Post on Instagram with a caption about your plan to spread the word and challenge peers to work towards solutions to waste. Tag @TurningGreenOrg and #PGC2020 — plus @StoryOfStuff, @5Gyres or whatever resources you reference!

DELIVERABLES

Upload a PDF document with your responses and graphic. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.

Submission Guidelines

  • Submit all entries as PDFs; no Word or Pages documents
  • Be sure to include all content for your submission in one document
  • Save filenames using the following format: firstname_lastname_challengeday_challengelevel_year.pdf (ex: kasie_shils_day1_greenest_2020.pdf)
  • Do not include # or spaces in filenames
  • Do not upload a file larger than 5 MB
  • Link to images, if possible
  • You will see a confirmation in green that your submission uploaded correctly; if you do not see this confirmation, please try again
  • If your total points does not change, your submission did not load correctly, please try again
  • Send any questions to info@turninggreen.org
  • Don’t forget to post about the challenge and your learnings/doings on social media and tag us on Facebook @TurningGreen, on Twitter @TurningGreenOrg, and on Instagram @TurningGreenOrg and use #PGC2020

Extra Credit

0 POINTS

Extra Credit is due on October 14 @ 6am PT.
Up to 100 points will be awarded for outstanding work.

THINK

Making a personal decision to avoid plastic is a great place to start – but a terrible place to stop. To create a future without plastic pollution, we need to work together to make the right decisions the easy decisions in an economy that works for everybody.
– Story of Plastic, a powerful film from our partner, Story of Stuff.

CHALLENGE

We invite you to watch the film the Story of Plastic. The link to this film is good for one week from October 6 from 6am PT to October 14 at 6am PT: www.storyofplastic.org/watch/qd5wxacxlg0qord2vuf3 (Feel free to share with family and friends so they can be inspired as well.)
It is password protected. You can access it by typing in the following password: SOP_October_2359571293.
If you are having any trouble opening this link, please email info@turninggreen.org and we will try to help resolve the issue. 

Watch and respond to the following: 

  • Share three things you learned from the film.
  • In one sentence, sum up how you felt after watching this film. 
  • Did the film motivate you to do something more about the plastics catastrophe in our world. If yes, what?
  • What are three actions you can take to work toward a solution?

Create an Instagram post including:

  • a visual 
  • a short review of the film
  • a link to the trailer
  • include call to action using what you learned from the film 

DELIVERABLES

Upload a PDF document with your responses to the questions above, a screenshot of your Instagram post and photo of you watching the film. Please include your name (or team name), username, email address, and school.

Submission Guidelines

  • Submit all entries as PDFs; no Word or Pages documents
  • Be sure to include all content for your submission in one document
  • Save filenames using the following format: firstname_lastname_challengeday_challengelevel_year.pdf (ex: kasie_shils_day1_extracredit_2020.pdf)
  • Do not include # or spaces in filenames
  • Do not upload a file larger than 5 MB
  • You will see a confirmation in green that your submission uploaded correctly; if you do not see this confirmation, please try again
  • If your total points does not change, your submission did not load correctly, please try again
  • Send any questions to info@turninggreen.org
  • Don’t forget to post about the challenge and your learnings/doings on social media and tag us on Facebook @TurningGreen, on Twitter @TurningGreenOrg, and on Instagram @TurningGreenOrg and use #PGC2020

TODAY’S PRIZES

Up to 10 Greener and 10 Greenest outstanding submissions will be selected as winners.

Each Greener winner will receive:

  • A $50 gift card to shop at KleanKanteen.com to pick out items you will enjoy! 
  • A 3 piece set of Bee’s Wrap® made with certified organic cotton and sustainably sourced beeswax.
  • For your zero waste lifestyle, a reusable bag from the Grove Collaborative

Each Greenest winner will receive:

  • A $75 gift card to shop at KleanKanteen.com to pick out items you will enjoy! 
  • A pair of reusable stainless steel straws from Klean Kanteen
  • A GOpure Pod which can purify, protect and preserve up to 264 gallons of water, which is the equivalent of 2,000 refills of a standard size reusable bottle.