TRASH IS TRAGIC
I decided to stop making trash in 2013. My commitment to reducing waste and consumption is a daily practice, stemming from ideals related to environmentalism, human rights, and a desire to live simply. Striving for "zero waste" mean that my partner and I:
- prioritize waste-busting habits through refusal and re-use
- minimize our reliance on disposables and recyclables
- reduce our energy and water consumption through efficiency
- re-think the expression of "convenience" in our throw-away culture
Trash is Tragic is a monthly column offering practical tips for zero waste living. It appears online in the Boston Hassle, with a special blurb in the Counter Culture Compass print edition.
ADDITIONAL ZERO WASTE RESOURCES
Below is an outline of resources that have helped my partner and I reduce waste over the past several years. In addition to se it as an entry point to a low-waste or zero-waste lifestyle.
FOUR SIMPLE, WASTE-REDUCING ITEMS TO CARRY WITH YOU
1. Re-useable drinking container.
2. Re-usable cutlery.
3. Re-usable bag.
4. "No, thanks." Use in response to: would you like a bag, a straw in your drink, a bunch of soy sauce packets, a free sample, etc. Refusing what you do not need is an important element of waste reduction.
These sites provide strategies and inspiration for developing a zero-waste lifestyle. It's a process, so go slow, and remember that everyone - even the authors below - make some trash. It's not possible to reach absolute zero in a culture that relies on disposables. Start with modest goals and then keep going. By picking and choosing accessible strategies, you'll eventually build your own unique practice that is low-waste, if not zero-waste.
Boston Zero Waste, Emily Paulhus
My New Roots, Sarah Britton - friendly to zero-waste cooking (also a cookbook)
My Plastic Free Life, Beth Terry (see: 1oo Steps to a Plastic-Free Life, How To Store Produce Without Plastic)
No Trash Project, Colleen Doyle
Trash is for Tossers, Lauren Singer (see: zero-waste alternatives to trash-creating products)
Zero Waste Chef, Anne Marie
Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson (see: 100 Tips for Reducing Waste)
BOOKS - available in your local library
Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science, Philippe Squarzoni
Generation Wealth, Lauren Greenfield
The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert
Trashed, Derf Backderf
Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson - a very comprehensive guide
Koyaanisqatsi directed by Godfrey Reggio
LIVIN' TRASH-FREE IN BOSTON & CAMBRIDGE
(Make sure to check out bostonzerowaste.com for more ideas!)
BFresh - In Somerville and Allston. I haven’t been yet, heard it through the zero-waste grapevine, but I have seen photos and yes: they have bulk.
Breweries - Buy beer in growlers, which are filled at breweries and returned for re-use. On average, there is a $2 deposit which is paid at purchase and then refunded when you return the jug. You might also bring your own container and ask for a fill-up - check with the brewery to see if they’ll do it. Check out this list of all the New England craft breweries.
Cambridge Naturals, Porter Square - This natural health store has a comprehensive selection of dry bulk items related to health and wellness, making it a great spot for witchy types who make medicinal/nutritional supplements and beauty products. They carry unpackaged soaps and trash-free menstrual products. Sexy!
Central Bottle, Central Square - This wine merchant has loose loaves of locally made bread, a dope cheese counter, and an olive oil fusti where you can fill a bottle. They’re accommodating to customers who bring their own containers. One time, I got a jar filled with meat and a small boy drew a picture on it.
Find a supplier - Visit your local bakery, fish market, or butcher for unpackaged specialty foods. See if they will cram your jar with meats : < 0
Food for Free, Cambridge MA - Food For Free rescues fresh food that might otherwise go to waste and distributes it within the local emergency food system where it can reach those in need. Free produce is offered to anyone each week on Bishop Allen Drive in Central Square.
Harvest Co-Op, Central Square & Jamaica Plain - I might starve to death when this place closes. Harvest boasts a diverse, inexpensive bulk section which includes: cooking oils, castile soap, laundry detergent, lotion, shampoo, honey, maple syrup, nut butter, grains, cereal, beans, legumes, various flours, and a large spice section. Recycle old plastic bags here (plastic bags CAN NOT be placed in curbside bins, but can be dropped off at designated recycling spots).
Mass Farmers Market, various locations - These pop-up grocery markets sell locally grown produce directly from the farm to consumers, often at a lower price compared to grocery stores.
Whole Foods Market, Inman Square - Here, deli and fish counter workers will gladly put fresh cuts into containers you bring. My jars have been unwelcome at some WFM locations (I’m looking at you, River St). Apparently some WFMs are more afraid of being sued than others. Regardless, all locations in Boston/Cambridge have a bulk section.
HOME & GARDEN
Ace Hardware, Central Square - This small hardware store carries unpackaged nails, bolts, nuts (you name it, they have it), as well as wire, chain, and rope by the foot.
Boston General Store, Coolidge Corner- A good stop for compostable and long-lasting cleaning products such as the Redeker dish brush and sea sponges.
Online Suppliers - When you can't find good local options, several home goods stores exist with the explicit purpose of providing products to reduce your waste output. Check out Package Free Shop in NY or Life Without Plastic.
The Works, Cambridge - Learn all the ways to compost and where to donate or recycle just about anything. The Works gives away finished compost at their location on Hampshire Street - bring your own bucket to haul away free, unpackaged, nutrient-rich humus for your garden!
SECOND HAND: GET IT - OR GET RID OF IT!
40 South St., Jamaica Plain - Mid-to-upscale vintage boutique.
Bobby from Boston, South End - Upscale vintage.
Boomerang's, Central Square & Jamaica Plain - Thrift. Accepts donations.
Buffalo Exchange, Davis Square - Second-hand and vintage. Buys clothing - but keep in mind, their buying methodology is erratic.
Craigslist Boston, online - Buy, sell, barter, or find free from locals looking to downsize.
Freecycle.org, online - "A grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods."
The Garment District, Kendall Square - Vintage, contemporary, costume, and dollar-per-pound clothes. Buys clothing and awards $5 store credit for donations.
Global Thrift, Waltham Center - Thrift. Accepts donations.
The Great Eastern Trading Company, Central Square - Mid-to-upscale vintage and costume boutique.
Goodwill, Central Square and Davis Square - Thrift. Accepts donations of most items for resale, reuse, or recycling, including ripped clothes (given new life as rags), broken christmas tree lights (the copper wire is recycled), old glasses, single shoes - see this list of 9 things you didn't know you could donate to Goodwill, this list of acceptable and unacceptable donations, or check with your local store.
MassArt ReStore, Longwood Medical Area - The ReStore is a free, public store that carries used and unusual artmaking supplies. They accept donations of "most objects that won't mold or explode."
Nike Reuse-a-Shoe Program - Bring worn-out athletic shoes of any brand at a drop-off point (located in most Nike stores) and they will be recycled into courts and playgrounds.
Oona's, Harvard Square - Mid-to-upscale vintage boutique.
Second Time Around, Harvard Square, Coolidge Corner, & Newbury Street - Upscale contemporary. Buys clothing.
Shelters and Charities - Many accept donations of canned food, used towels and sheets, toiletries, electronics, and much more. Google it!
Urban Renewals, Allston - Thrift. Accepts donations.
Where to Compost (via The Works)
Where to Recycle or Donate Anything (via The Works)