November 09, 2011

Chevanne's Story

Thanks so much for your submissions, and please keep them coming!

Our first guest is: Chevanne.

Coincidently, Chevanne posted one of my favorite comments a while back and that comment is what motivated me to host guest posts!

Needless to say more, other than: Thank you Chevanne for participating!


Zero waste means discovering
new ways to enjoy my community.

"Approaching Zero" by Chevanne S., NJ

In February 2011, I read an article on Huffington Post about a family that produced less trash in six months than most people did in a day. Impossible. I mocked the whole idea after seeing a picture of their six month trash tally that could fit into the palms of my hands. Just another crazy set of hippies on their high horse. The cacophony of the "green" movement was all the same junk. Soon I forgot about it.

I can't deny though, that I was intrigued by the concept. A few months later, I revisited the idea of zero waste by asking myself a simple question: Is it possible to produce no waste? Theoretically, yes, but this modern society is full of things we must throw away and the trappings of luxury we've become accustomed to would be difficult for anyone to shake. I'm a woman of science and logic before all and decided to be charitable. I began to read all the articles posted on the ZWH blog, but was still relatively unconvinced. I got ahead of myself and like others, judged the language as condescending and the tone, annoying casual.

Then I started to think a bit about the context of the message and play devil's advocate against my own judgments, shifting my focus in order to look at both sides of the argument and find slivers of truth. I found that most of the objection to zero waste was a matter of perspective from a cluttered life. The issue of time commitment kept coming up and I realized the lost potential in days spent stocking our cupboards with food we will never eat, reorganizing things we don't need and still buying more stuff. It was also a false perception of cost. I realized I had learned that a long time ago. I found a recipe for scones and could make them for pennies, instead of buying them for $4 a piece. I never bought another again. Why are we so afraid to admit what we already know is true?

I became a believer in the zero waste journey when I decided to clear out my cupboards. I threw away about $100 worth of expired food, finally realizing what terrible shopping habits I had. I didn't even know what food was in my house and I piled on more. After that experience, there was no turning back, but in order to make the changes, I had to start phasing out a life of waste. I also started thinking about donation. It was an unnerving prospect at first, but an essential part of decluttering my life. I went through old clothes that still had tags on and wondered why was I making space in my home to keep junk. Over the next few weeks, I donated one third of my clothing.

I was still fumbling through the process when I had a revelation. In math, there is what's called an asymptote. It's a curve that infinitely approaches zero, but never gets there. That was the secret. It's about getting as close as you can to zero and posing the question over and over: Is it possible to produce no waste? From then on, every challenge I met was treated like an experiment beginning with that same question. It has spurred a host of small experiments all over the house. I decided on a transitional strategy of observing, weaning and replacing. Examine the routine, try out less wasteful solutions and replace wasteful products when they run out. I have come to know what exactly is in my cupboards with no duplication of products. I am phasing out use of plastic containers and replacing them with glass or reusable bags. There have been no paper towels for months. I'm even toying with homemade facial scrubs. It's almost as if this journey has been a exercise in logic and so far everything I'm doing makes sense.

There is a bigger picture we don't see which keep us focused on our own silo, forgetting that each one of us makes an big impact, good or bad. We really have to start thinking about what choices we make and keep heading toward zero. I've changed the way I think because I've altered my perspective, seeing truly the consumerist machine for what it is. It takes a while to realize what you really need and week by week, month by month, letting everything else go. It's like shedding your skin and you are all the more free and liberated because of it.

Despite my failures and setbacks, I know I've come a long way. I recently ordered reusable sandwich bags and the website offered a free gift with my purchase. I happily refused.