Why We’re Going Zero Waste for 10 Days

From March 11–20, our staff — and the supporters and followers we bring along with us — will embark on the journey of living zero waste for ten days.

The idea came to life when our board member, Dr. Christie Manning, shared that she does this same challenge with each class she teaches at Macalester College. We were all excited and nervous about the opportunity to make deliberate choices about our consumption and see how we can challenge ourselves to do more in our home and work spaces to reduce waste.

So, why would a climate change organization focus on zero waste, you may ask?

  • Many single-use packaging items contain toxins that leach into food and water.
  • Plastic pollution in our waterways is becoming more difficult to clean up and more hazardous to wildlife, fresh drinking water, ecosystems, and our bodies.
  • Extracting more oil, building more pipelines, and producing more plastic is only going to increase carbon emissions and accelerate the effects of climate change.
  • One of our favorite reads of the year, Drawdown, lists focusing on solutions around our use of materials, including recycling, composting, and reducing food waste, would result in 111.78 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2 and $1.04 TRILLION net operational savings globally!
  • Collective action is fun to do together!

If you’d like to join us, start by watching our Zero Waste Challenge Webinar recording. We’ve got the science and real-world tips for living this way, as well as answers to some common questions about getting started. We’ve also got links and resources for you. Then, keep us in the loop with your challenges and success with the hashtag #CGwastewatchers! We’re excited to create a digital community sharing advice about what works and why they’re embarking on this journey.

We recognize that everyone is coming to this challenge from a different starting point, and we welcome you just as you are. Our staff shared what they’re most excited and nervous about, as well as why they are invested in living zero waste.

Nicole

I’m excited about the challenge in and of itself: seeing how much waste is really in my daily life and making efforts to be more conscious to reduce it. I’m also excited to learn from my team members taking this challenge; what’s working for them, resources in our community, and support around what’s difficult. I’m aware of the overwhelming nature that waste, specifically plastic, plays in our everyday life, and I’m nervous that this fact will make this effort feel futile. I’m personally nervous about being able to truly cut my waste down to one mason jar in this 10-day challenge! I am proud that Climate Generation has decided to take on this challenge — for each of us, for team bonding, and organizational culture. It’s important that we are real and authentic about who we all are, what is comfortable for us, and that we each come to this work differently. We don’t have to be perfect or do things perfectly to be a champion for climate change solutions.

Jothsna

Even for those of us working on climate change everyday, it can be a struggle to put into action the many solutions that we know can help. Finding the right resources and people to support you, sustaining motivation, and finding resolve all must be intentional efforts. There is a certain amount of pressure and guilt that can be felt from being an environmentalist. Yet, I don’t think we need to get everything right — we just need to be determined to keep moving, and to do better as we learn more. I am personally very excited to learn more about zero waste, to hear from those who are doing it, and to challenge myself, in a safe space along with my colleagues as we encourage each other and see what is possible, with just a little bit more intentionality.

Maddie

I’m excited that everyone at Climate Generation is doing this challenge together. Being zero waste is a daunting challenge for me, but having a community to hold me accountable and help me find solutions makes me feel so much more confident in my ability to tackle my waste. I’m nervous about being able to break some of my waste habits, especially when it comes to buying groceries. I have type 1 diabetes, and individually packaged snacks have been a huge help for carb counting since I was little. Moving away from that will be challenging, but I’m also hoping it will push me to find healthier and more sustainable ways to pack my lunch! It’s my personal belief that in order to change our consumer culture, we have to work collectively to make sustainable buying practices the norm. If we can show that being zero waste is more achievable when we all commit to helping each other, maybe we can inspire others to take collective action to reduce their waste. Plus, if you never want to have to #KonMari your house again, this challenge is a great push to tackle your hoarding tendencies.

Jenna

The idea of zero waste has always been a challenge with myself. Each time I go to the co-op or add an outfit to my wardrobe, I am trying to make the least possible impact on the planet (as well as my checking account). I am so excited to take this challenge outside of my house and talk about it at work and with my social media followers. I have some easy tricks to share but I’m also excited to be challenged in thinking about aspects of my waste that I hadn’t tackled yet (like the online ordering I do a little too often). I think that it’s important that Climate Generation does this to increase the conversation about waste and help our followers lessen their impact on the planet. Seeing my waste for ten days in a mason jar will be very informative and will stick with me for years to come.

Jason

I am excited to take on this challenge as a team, to learn from and have fun with the Climate Generation community. I also am taking this as a chance for mindfulness — paying better attention when I buy food and gifts. I am nervous to look more squarely at how huge and harmful our consumption can be. A real zero waste world means China is not the US’s landfill, Prairie Island Mdewakanton Sioux community is not Minnesota’s nuclear waste dumping ground, and none of my neighbors are disposable or forgotten. I will need your support facing this challenge! What feels important is noticing the chain of interdependence I have with beings across the world.

Kristen

I like structured, tangible opportunities to do something that has a measurable impact and committing to taking on zero-waste for ten days is a great opportunity to do this. I am honestly pretty nervous about how successful I will be. As a member of a family of four that is super busy all the time, eating take out and easy food is a go-to activity. I’m also kind of a perfectionist, so I am trying to be okay with not doing it perfectly and just making some concrete specific goals. My house is set up with composting, recycling, and garbage containers already, but I haven’t been recycling plastic bags. I will figure out where and how that gets done this week! My “easy goal” is to remember my reusable coffee mug and water bottle, and make sure I make my lunch at home every day and use only reusable containers. The next tier goal is making sure we have meals that are made at home during those ten days — not take out! My stretch goal is to go to the co-op with all reusable containers to buy the things that I often buy pre-packaged including nuts, spices, baking basics, granola, beans, oil, and syrup. I’m excited to do this with our team because we laugh a lot and I know everyone will be open to share their challenges and support each other through this with a sense of humor!

Rebecca

I am looking forward to taking on the zero waste challenge! I think it’s easy to ignore the waste we create and tricky to avoid ‘numbing’ yourself when the problem of plastic waste seems overwhelming. There are so many creative solutions for reducing waste and I’m looking forward to trying a few and becoming inspired to make some permanent changes to my routine. I am interested to see what comes to my attention about the kind of waste that my lifestyle currently generates and what I have been overlooking. As an organization that focuses on education, outreach, and storytelling, it is important for the staff of Climate Generation to be able to represent our personal stories and experiences to the world. Undertaking the zero waste challenge is a way for us to represent what it looks like to take on personal responsibility for waste reduction. Coming away from this challenge, I hope that we can share what we’ve learned about the waste-reducing choices we are able to make, and our re-discover our agency within a culture that relies heavily on disposable plastics.

Lauren

I am so excited for this zero waste challenge! I’ve always been inspired by individual action that ripples out into the community and catalyzes bigger change. Doing this challenge with the Climate Generation team feels like a safe and inviting way to push ourselves to live out our mission together. I already compost a little bit at home and bring my own reusable bags with me when shopping for groceries or clothes, but I’m eager to see what other parts of my life I can adapt to a zero waste lifestyle. Hearing stories from people who are producing only one mason jar of waste per year creates an end goal target for me — climate change is something that we can tackle together as we continue to look at how all parts of our lives are perpetuating a fossil-fuel based society, including zero waste. For me, it’s about bettering my own habits and the way I interact within my community in order to live out my values of caring for our shared home and all the people who are here alongside us.

Janet

Although I have always considered myself a rabid recycler – think carrying bottles or cans home from an event or even on a trip to be able to recycle them – I realize this is not always enough. Years ago I traveled with a group of students to the Hennepin County garbage transfer station. It took a moment to realize what we were seeing in the high-up viewing room was a non-stop line of dump trucks dumping waste into a gigantic pit. The dump trucks looked so small and the line never ceased. It was shocking. When teaching a youth class in the mid-90’s I learned that much of our recycling in the United States wasn’t recycled at all, but was being shipped to other countries to be landfilled. China, who has previously accepted much of the recycling from the U. S. decided last summer to stop importing any foreign recycling – mostly because we were doing such a poor job sorting out garbage. It just goes to show that when you throw something away – it never really goes “away.” Especially plastics. Usually it is communities of color or financially challenged communities who are left to deal with other people’s garbage. Landfills, burners and garbage transfer stations are intentionally placed in communities of color. Thinking about how we consume, where this ends up, and who it impacts the most are all good things to remind ourselves.

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