How Low Could You Go?

Coud you go as low as Amy and Adam Korst? For one year, they challenged themselves to produce no waste destined for the landfill. After 52 weeks, they were left with a shoebox of materials which they could not reuse or recycle. That’s going pretty low! It weighed about the same amount as the three pounds of waste the average American throws away for landfill disposal EACH DAY.

They were surprised to learn that it wasn’t that difficult and the benefits were many. They lived more simply, spent less money, ate healthier, and were generally happier. In addition, they were helping preserve natural resources and reduce the harmful effects of resource extraction, manufacturing, and transportation on the environment. So, they just kept doing it.

In her book, The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less, Amy Korst shares firsthand knowledge gained from their experience. The book is both an interesting narrative and an educational reference. Whether you read it cover to cover or keep it on the shelf as a do-it-yourself resource, you won’t be disappointed.

The first five chapters cover the big picture of waste in America, as well as hands-on advice on reducing your consumption, improving your recycling, and composting your organic waste. Here are some of her tips.

Get to know people where you shop. At a grocery, she’ll ask to speak to the manager and, in her words, “I introduce myself, shake their hand, and explain my lifestyle. Then I ask that person whether I can bring my own containers to the store. She offers this helpful tidbit: “I make sure I note the manager’s name, so if I encounter a skeptical employee when I get back to the meat counter, I can say, ‘Oh, I checked with Carli, the store manager, and she said it was okay.’”

Lead by example. Korst encourages the reader to, “Be proud! You’re making a difference. How many people can say that? Those around you see your choices and may choose to emulate them. Even if they don’t, they may choose to accommodate your choices, thereby using their consumer purchasing power to buy green products.”

Call manufacturers. As you research what packaging items are made of and whether or not they are recyclable in your area, she encourages you to call the manufacturers’ toll-free numbers and express your interest in recyclable packaging.

Helpful tools are provided, such as a master shopping checklist to help you evaluate what you buy regularly and evaluate whether packaging associated with those items is recyclable. She also advocates that you maintain On-the-Go Kits for the car and work, such as a travel mug in the car kit and reusable plastic containers to prevent the use of Styrofoam containers when taking leftovers home from a restaurant. Korst says the kits “often becomes a talking point among my coworkers, which is great because it helps raise awareness even more.”

In later chapters, she provides detailed instructions on reducing waste in every room of the house, as well as specific advice for kids, travel, work, holidays, and special occasions.

Throughout, Korst divides her guidance into beginner, moderate, and advanced levels. Everyone will find something useful here. Once their systems were in place, Amy and Adam found no difficulty maintaining their efforts. With this book, you won’t have to develop those systems from scratch.

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