This post is the ninth in a series exploring ten principles of bioregional living and spotlighting Cascadians who embody each principle.

“Reducing waste, reusing where possible, and ultimately sending zero waste to landfill.”

From One Living Planet

What is Waste Reduction?

Waste reduction is minimizing the amount of product that ends up in the landfill in the first place. This can be done by being more mindful about what we use, and how we use it. 

 

Why is it Important?

Cascadia is our home so it is our responsibility to preserve it. There are endless ways to reduce the amount of trash and waste that pollute the earth, and avoid using so much of the earth’s material in the first place.

 

How can you practice at home?

Paper:

Reduce.org reports, “The average American household receives more than 500 pieces of advertising mail each year.” Mail is paper, and paper can be recycled. To be extra green, contact the companies that continue to send junk mail and have your address removed from their mail list so you don’t continue receiving mail that just gets tossed anyways.

 If we all recycled the paper we no longer need or use instead of throwing it in the trash, we can reduce waste significantly.

Packaging:

“Packaging makes up 30 percent of municipal solid waste.” We can reduce packing waste by recycling or composting packaging. Another way is to purchase products in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging used for the same amount of product. 

Food Waste:

“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 27 percent of the nation’s total food supply — 97 billion pounds — went to waste in 1995.” We can reduce food waste in multiple ways. 

1. Get creative with leftovers. If you make more than you eat, don’t throw the rest away. Either make a new creation with the leftovers or save it for lunch the next day. 

2. Compost food scraps to return the nutrients back to the earth. You can make your own composting bin or contact your local garbage disposal company to get a compost bin that they can pick up for you with your normal trash. 

3. Consuming local foods reduces the amount of food that spoils in the storage and transportation of produce that is grown in excess. 

Furniture and Clothing:

Someone else’s old can be your new. Don’t underestimate the treasures you can discover at second-hand shops or online resale sites such as Craigslist if you are in need of some new goods. By purchasing second hand, and also donating our no longer wanted items, we can greatly reduce our overall waste production. 

Transportation:

Fossil fuel emissions is a huge contributor to our waste production. 

We can reduce our footprint by walking or biking. If this is not an option, be sure to keep up on your vehicle maintenance to reduce dirty fuel emissions.  

Fellow Cascadian Haley Chu: Creative Waste Reduction With Worm Farming

We met with fellow Cascadian, Haley Chu, who has found a very creative way to practice waste reduction in her home. She and her husband have made a worm farm in their garden as a way to compost their food scraps. 

To describe what she is doing, Haley said, “For waste reduction we started a worm farm. We just used a large moving box and put some dirt in it and added some starter worms. Now we put almost all of our food scraps in there like a compost. This feeds and worms, creates more soil, and reduces waste.”

She has noticed a difference in the amount of waste they eliminate. “We have definitely noticed the amount of soil has gone up and the amount of worms have multiplied by hundreds.”

“We really love using this as a form of waste reduction because it is a cool way to see the direct impact we can make, even though it is on a very small scale.”

Haley thinks that all people can benefit from this type of waste reduction. “I would encourage other people to try this, especially people who do a lot of gardening or fishing. I use this fresh soil for all of my plants in my garden and my husband goes through and picks out the biggest worms and uses them when he goes fishing,” she told us.

Find Haley Chu on Facebook.

Stay tuned for the tenth principle of bioregional living,  Zero Carbon, by Mariah Edwards-Heflin