Could you go a day without throwing anything away? What about a week? A month?
Community members gathered in the Fairhaven Main Lounge Thursday, Jan. 26 to learn how to make lifestyle changes to benefit themselves and the global community. The topic: zero waste.
Zero waste is a lifestyle philosophy where participants only use products that do not produce landfill waste. Junior Gwen Larned, Western’s Office of Sustainability’s zero waste coordinator, described how students can make the change through a five-step system.
Larned said Western students can learn to live without waste through a five-step system.
“Zero waste doesn’t just happen, you take it one step at a time,” Larned said.
Step one is recycle and compost everything you can, Larned said. The Office of Sustainability has equipped the campus with several waste disposal areas, and many of the products sold by the university dining locations are recyclable or compostable. Students living off campus can petition their property management for a compost bin or make one themselves, Larned said.
Students living in Birnam Wood or Fairhaven Dorms can ask their building staff for a compost bucket courtesy of the Office of Sustainability. This program has not been implemented in other on-campus housing locations, but students can submit a request to their resident directors to promote the initiative, Larned said. The Office of Sustainability is working on a grant to grow the program and collaborate with resident halls’ facilities management.
Step two is reuse. While you do not have to completely eliminate plastic from your lives, using a reusable water bottle or travel mug is a positive change, Larned said.
Step three is make the switch and actively commit to reducing your personal waste. This means buying reusable or used, buying in bulk, avoiding packaged products and bringing your own bags and containers to the grocery store.
With any change in lifestyle, cost is a factor and some may have a stigma non-commercial products are more expensive, Larned said. Freshman Hanna Bridgham, an environmental science major and Fairhaven’s Eco Rep, said focusing on necessities can help with costs.
“A bushel of apples is cheaper than a bag of granola bars. Packaging itself costs so much.”
Freshman Hanna Bridgham
Step four is make what you cannot buy. Items like deodorant, shaving cream, toothpaste and lotion can be made at home with natural ingredients. Processed foods can also be made in a zero waste way, such as potato chips, almond milk and granola bars.
The fifth and final step is to accept what you cannot have with the new lifestyle, but move forward by focusing on the ways you are making both yourself and the world healthier.
“I hope students recognize that if they see a problem in the world, they have the power to do something about it,” Larned said.
Junior Maggie Herriot, an environmental studies major, was inspired by the presentation.
“Now that I have heard a couple small tips and tricks, I’m definitely going to try that and I have a goal of becoming zero waste one day. I’m going to start after tonight,” Herriot said.
Students looking to learn more about the zero waste lifestyle can visit Larned’s blog Trashy Radical or contact the Office of Sustainability at Sustain@wwu.edu.