Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Waste Audit Part 1

So what can I do?

Arguably, climate change, oceans full of plastic and the continued use of fossil fuels aren’t things that each of us individually can solve.  That said, we don’t have to just ‘continue as is’ powerlessly waiting for others to make changes. Everyday we can take actions that help the planet but also help our bodies and minds in a lot of ways.

Modern culture, through media, marketing and social norms, tells us to shop, accumulate and get more in order to be happy, successful and so on.  What many people are finding out is this routine of more, more, more isn’t making us happy, healthy or satisfied.  In turn, more people are turning to living lighter - purchasing less, looking for durable, reusable items when they do need new things and reducing the amount of waste they create.

This idea of living lighter doesn’t happen overnight, there is no perfect solution, and what works for you and your family may not work for others, but many people have noticed they feel better, spend less money and generate less waste.

KPU Students performing a waste audit, 2015.  

So you ask, how can you start? My first recommended step is to do a waste audit. Look honestly, at the amount of waste generated by your household and then take steps to reduce that waste. You’ll probably quickly realize that nearly half of your waste is compostable, another quarter is recyclable and the rest is bound for the landfill.  The average north American generates four pounds of garbage a day – at the end of this you’ll get to find out how you compare – don’t worry there’s no shame this is all about learning.

Doing a waste audit isn’t difficult though it does take some preparation and organization. Essentially, you're going to gather all your waste from the kitchen, bathrooms, offices and such for a few days, and measure it by weighing or counting and then calculating how much you generate per person or per day for your household. Once you know what your waste is, investigate where its coming from and what you can do to reduce it. Don’t forget to get your roommates, partners and family involved because they’re responsible for that waste too and they will probably be mores supportive if they’re included too!  

For more details on conducting your own audit try one of these great blogs:

From your audit, you’ll probably find some changes you could make right away - sorting your recycling properly or using a reusable coffee cup. One of the best things you can do is make sure that what you’re currently recycling in your municipal or building recycling bins is actually what’s meant to go in those bins - look up your municipal website or talk to your building manager and make sure you stick to what’s allowed. Wishcycling (hoping it can be recycled), actually reduces the ability of that whole bin to be recycled.  Other changes might require more research and planning - any change to reduce waste is positive and it won’t all happen overnight. If you want to follow along,  Next month, we’ll explore doing a waste audit with some of our KSA staffers who undertook this project in December so you can compare your results to some locals doing the same thing!  We’ll also delve into some great resources for starting your journey looking at the waste you generate but if you’re curious right now - just hit up Google, Instagram or Pintrest and search zero waste.

By looking at ways to reduce your waste you’re joining a growing movement of people striving to live zero waste, reduce their plastic use, take better care of their bodies or just create a personal challenge for themselves.

If your curious about why reducing garbage and waste is important try some of these resources:

-- Mairi (KSA Sustainability Coordinator) 

Waste Audit Part 2 coming soon... 

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