By JULIETTE FRADIN — With environmental issues at the forefront of global politics, the desire to make small changes on an individual level is on the rise. But where to start? Everyone has their own journey to a more eco-friendly lifestyle. There are plenty of reasons to start a zero-waste lifestyle: Maybe you care about nature, wildlife or sea conservation, or you want to live a more frugal life; maybe you are terrified by facts about climate change, or you are drawn to the aesthetic of natural, pristine and quiet zero-waste interiors. You might want to improve your health by cutting your plastic consumption (literally: According to a study conducted for the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, you could be ingesting approximately the equivalent of one credit card of plastic per week).
Of course, you can be motivated by several of these reasons (and others), but when you identify your main motivations for going zero waste, you will find resources that will help you maintain your goals.
Now where to start to reduce your ecological footprint? Reducing your trash to a mason jar a year might not be your goal — yet!— but here are four easy steps to cut down waste.
The first and easiest thing you can do is to start composting. You will reduce your trash by a third, return valuable nutrients to the soil, and improve your soil’s quality and fertility. The City of Hyattsville has a supply of backyard compost bins available to residents free of charge. Contact Volunteer Services Manager Colleen Aistis at email@example.com or 301.985.5057. If you are the DIY type, a quick search on the internet will give you lots of tips for making a compost bin on a budget. You can also look at sharewaste.com, a website that connects people who have a compost pile (or chicken coop) and will recycle your scraps.
Get rid of single-use items. In my household, we now use cloth napkins and handkerchiefs, compostable Swedish cloths instead of paper towels, bamboo toothbrushes, bar soaps and shampoo bars (no more plastic bottles and harmful chemicals), DIY toothpaste, reusable totes, stainless steel straws and cutlery, menstrual cups, reusable water bottles, a French press coffee maker, bamboo dish brushes, glass containers, silicone baking mats, beeswax wraps, plastic-free water filters and so on. They are all easy swaps that help to lower your home waste. Try to implement one thing at a time, and once you are comfortable, make another swap! New habits take at least two weeks to be integrated, so don’t give up.
Regarding grocery shopping, we are lucky to have multiple choices for bulk shopping in and around Hyattsville. My number one stop is Glut Food Co-op. They are raising funds right now and need some neighborhood love. You can bring your own containers, tare them and pay for your produce only. They have an amazing collection of culinary and medicinal herbs and spices, and loose tea and coffee. For bulk shopping, you can go to Yes! Organic Market, Whole Foods, Safeway or the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Food Co-op in Takoma Park. You still have a few weeks left to visit some local farmers markets. They are a great way to shop plastic-free, wholesome foods! Just bring your bags. You can shop the Riverdale Park farmers market on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m., the Downtown College Park, Greenbelt and the Takoma Park farmers markets on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the Paint Branch farmers market in College Park Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon.
Finally, the way we consume is impactful. Fast fashion is the reproduction of highly fashionable clothes at high speed and low cost. It’s terrible for the environment (it takes 10,000 liters of water to make one pair of jeans), it encourages forced labor around the globe, and it’s bad for your health due to the chemicals used in the clothing. To lower our impact, we can shop secondhand. Your wallet will be much happier, and doing so prevents garments, toys, home goods and lots more from ending up in landfills. It also frees you from the grip of advertisement and corporations. Another bonus: You get to experience the thrill of the hunt.
Ready to grab your tote bags? Send me your questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.