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How To Go Zero-Waste in a Wasteful World

artwork by Stephanie Carreto

Elaina Martin, Opinions Editor

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With more scientific evidence than ever, the threat of global warming looms over all our heads. Weather phenomena, such as the drought sucking San Diego dry and the monstrous hurricanes slamming the Southern American coastline, are making people realize the Earth is reaching unliveable extremes… and fast.

   Luckily, there is a push to be more active in global preservation. But it can be hard to know just what to do. One thing many people are picking up is a minimal or “zero-waste” lifestyle. This lifestyle can really be broken down into three categories, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Just reduce, reuse, and recycle ( These three steps, with a little work and thought, can be incorporated into anyone’s life.

   Reduce. The first step of a zero-waste lifestyle is cutting down on the things you don’t need. Don’t buy disposable razors; instead, use an electric razor. Try using washable rags in lieu of paper towels to clean. If possible, consider an electric car — these produce zero carbon emissions. Freshman Soline Grimbert said, “By using an electric car, you dramatically reduce your carbon footprint.” Look for things in your everyday life that you don’t need or that can be replaced with reusable items. This can quickly reduce how much waste a single person produces.

   Starting to reduce in your grocery shopping can also cut down your waste. Use reusable bags and try to avoid buying prepackaged food. Buy in bulk at the grocery store and use glass mason jars to hold goods. Also, use your leftovers! According to One Green Planet, 40 percent of all food in America goes to waste ( There are many ways you can use leftovers to make meals, saving food from the landfills. Finally, whatever food you can’t use, compost.

   The second step of a zero waste lifestyle is reusing and repurposing. Learn how to be more conscientious in everything you do; we live in a society dominated by instant gratification, so when you’re about to buy something on a whim, try to think about whether you really need it or if you already have something similar. A lot of the stuff you have can be repurposed, so get creative! There are many websites and tutorials online that can show you how to make new things out of  stuff you might have initially considered just throwing away.

   Clothing is also a huge factor you should consider. According to a world news website, the fashion industry is one of the worst pollutants in the world, second only to the oil industry ( So, look for ways you can reduce the demand for clothes. Instead of buying more cheap clothing, buy a few more expensive items that will last longer. You can also shop at thrift stores or second-hand shops. Shopping at these places gives clothing a second life and keeps it out of the landfill. As long as you are repurposing clothing, you are lowering the fashion industry’s emissions, little by little.

   Finally, just recycle. But remember, recycling is a double-edged sword. While you might think you’re doing a good thing by putting your plastic bottle in the blue bin, just remember that there’s a strong chance it might not actually be recycled. National Geographic’s website stated that only nine percent of all plastic in America is recycled ( So, look for ways you can avoid disposable containers such as replacing disposable water bottles with reusable ones. If you pack lunch for yourself, invest in reusable containers. Only throw out things you absolutely know you can’t do anything else with.

   Trying to incorporate all of the above into your life might be a little overwhelming. Try starting out small and focusing on one of these three categories. However, even if you can’t do any of these things, you can think. Before you make a purchase — think. Do you really need whatever it is? Because one thing you don’t buy is one thing you don’t put in a landfill, and one more step to a healthier world.

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How To Go Zero-Waste in a Wasteful World