Waste Watchers: Trying the ‘No Waste Movement’

All over social media there are different health, beauty, fashion and self-improvement movements and fads circulating.  From veganism to wearing mom jeans, the ideas seem endless. The “No Waste Movement” has made an appearance on social media in the recent months, mostly circulating the clean eating and healthy living blogs.  The idea is to lessen your carbon footprint and promote a cleaner Earth.  

This week, I was given the challenge of trying to produce zero waste and I wanted to challenge my best friend, Mia, to do it as well.  

I knew that I would need to prepare for the week a bit differently than normal, but I had no idea that this would creep into everything that I did.  The movement entails not purchasing anything that would have to be thrown away after using it.  I quickly realized that this was going to be close to impossible on a college student’s budget and I was not ready to say goodbye to my plastic bottles of makeup, hair products and even toothpaste.  I soon decided instead of trying to perfect this challenge, I would do the best that I could to minimize my waste.

This all started with a trip to the grocery store.  I knew that I would have to stick to mostly produce because it doesn’t come in a package, but I also couldn’t use the flimsy produce bags.  The only other thing that I could get at the grocery store that was completely zero waste was pasta and rice.  In the bulk aisle, you can scoop grains, nuts, coffee and other things right out of large glass containers and put them into reusable bags.  So, I did this and headed to check out.

Every morning, I make coffee in my Keurig using K Cups, but they are wasteful.  After returning from the grocery store and realizing this, I had to go back out to get coffee.  I decided to get a metal tin of coffee even though it’s not no waste.  My excuse for this was that by the time the week would end, I would not be finished with the coffee and, therefore, would not have produced waste from it.  It’s a pretty lame excuse, I know.  I spent quite a bit of this week living off smoothies, raw fruit and vegetables.  Of course, I cracked a few times like when I bought lunch out and it came in a plastic container, but I was pretty successful when eating at home.

There were things that I was not going to buy just for this week. For instance, I use floss picks everyday and did not want to stop flossing for the week just to say that I didn’t create waste. I also use shampoo, conditioner, face wash and body wash that are all in plastic bottles. When researching what a good alternative was, I found that Lush has many products that do not have packaging. They are just like bars of soap in that they come solid, but when you get them wet, they turn to liquid.  The Lush website explains the company’s reason for getting rid of packaging for 35% of their products: “Packaging generates an enormous amount of waste, with millions of tons ending up in landfills each year.”     

Overall, this week was extremely difficult, but also very rewarding.  My goal going into it was not to completely create zero waste. I knew that this was not going to be possible because of my budget and the limited availability of no waste products.  Although I didn’t succeed completely, this week opened my eyes to see how much waste people produce daily.  

Mia had a similar experience this week. She explained, “I found it a little easier than Shannon because I go to school in New York City so no waste goods are more accessible here than they are in State College. But, the week was still very challenging.”

Going forward, I hope that I can commit to trying my hardest to produce less waste. I would recommend everyone to try this challenge even if it is just for a day or two, so that you can open your eyes to the amount of waste you produce.