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How I Failed my Zero Waste Journey in 45 Minutes

It’s amazing the things procrastination and Facebook videos will inspire you to do outside of school. I would debate that may be how Her Campus got its start (just joking Stephanie and Windsor). The world of Facebook videos will show you how to make birthday cake mimosas, how to get drunk from eating a watermelon, NowThis videos explaining why Donald Trump is a leech, and how to make the world a better place by being vegan.

One video that peeked my interest was of a young woman whose trash over the last five years could fit in a mason jar. A small mason jar. I wondered how that was even remotely possible, and she began explaining how she began to live her life “zero waste,” through composting, shopping at the farmer’s market, and making her own beauty products.

Inspired, I decided I would attempt the same lifestyle. I care about the environment, I use a Diva Cup instead of tampons whenever I’m on my period, so I felt like I was already on the right track to begin to live my life zero-waste, and never throw anything away again. This was until I looked around at everything in my room and realized I own an overwhelming amount of trash for someone who lives in a dorm room by herself.

It’s amazing how much trash one person can accumulate. The average person creates nearly four pounds of trash in a single day. That means in my residence hall alone, with 12 residents, we accumulate on average 84 lbs. of trash every single day. But how on earth am I, myself, accumulating that much trash?

A breakdown. I bring home a paper bag from work every day from the free sandwich I get (I work at Schlotzsky’s). I have a plethora of plastic grocery bags that I use as trash bags. The packaging of food in my fridge alone occupies the entirety of my small dorm fridge. I buy tea from a nutrition store that’s packaged in cardboard. And I have to throw away the tea bags. But, I still don’t buy tampons and pads.

Despite this minor (major) set back, I was still convinced that I was able to begin a zero waste journey, and I would begin by going shopping at the farmer’s market. The Farmer’s Market that happens every Friday in Gainesville lasts from 2:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. I felt equipped enough. After work ended at 5 pm, I walked over to the farmer’s market with a friend armed with my 1878 SGA fabric bag which was intended to be used as a shopping bag in place of plastic.

Once I got to the Farmer’s Market, I realized I did not make a list of what I needed to actually buy. There were tomatoes, green beans, squash, and loads of other vegetables.

Lost as to what I should even buy, I decided to buy some honey for the herbal tea I drink. If I knew anything about the zero waste lifestyle, it was that you should avoid plastic at all costs. At the same stand where the honey was, I found some muscadines. I was excited. But all of the honey was packaged in plastic except for the wildberry flavored ones that were $8. Feeling like there was no way I could accomplish anything in my zero waste journey that only began 45 minutes prior to showing up at the Farmer’s Market, I decided I would buy the $8 bottle of honey, and two baskets of muscadines that were $2 each. Once the transaction was completed, the vendor at the stand packed my belongings in a plastic grocery bag. At that moment, I knew I failed.

Society is literally set up for us to waste everything we own. Once it’s used, humans throw away everything. Not even at the farmer’s market can you expect to be able to attempt a zero waste journey. Because no one else quite understands the purpose.

The purpose of anyone transitioning to a zero waste lifestyle is to save the environment. Little things that humans waste don’t decompose. Things like straws, “to-go” food packaging, plastic cups, and other things, are so dangerous for the environment. You can’t even use tupperware and think you’ll be safe, as plastic fumes leech into your food, even if your tupperware is “microwave safe.”

At no point should I have expected to simply start a zero waste journey without preparation. The reason being that you have to have self discipline. You won’t be able to buy certain foods that you are so used to eating, like cereal, chips, and etc. I didn’t realize the serious dietary changes I would have to prepare for.

I also did not realize that you REALLY have to make lists.

Going zero waste is not something that you can just DO. It is a major life change where preparation is mandatory.


My name is Kenya Hunter! I am a freshman at Brenau University as a Mass Communications major. My focus is journalism!
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