Before “modern civilization,” trash dumps didn't exist. In fact, neither did trash for the most part. Native Americans lived off the land and gave everything a purpose. Meat from a buffalo became food on their table, and animal bones and hides were used to make tools, shelter, and clothing. While living like this would be a bit extreme for today's standards, there are ways you can reduce your waste by a little and a lot! In an attempt to enjoy a zero-waste day (that is, no waste for the whole day), follow these steps.
What is Zero Waste?
Zero Waste is a philosophy that has been widely adopted and a trend that is spreading. As the name would imply, it is a lifestyle that produces zero waste so as not to harm nature. When someone uses a foam cup, waste is created. It doesn't have the ability to break down and return to the earth. A reusable cup is a much better choice for our earth. It gets used over and over again and no waste is created by its use. While reusable ware is a little more high maintenance than disposable, the benefits to Mother Earth greatly outweigh the minute or two it takes you to wash them.
Packing for Zero Waste
Living a Zero Waste day takes some planning ahead, whether you want to do it at home or when camping. Think about the things you typically throw in the trash and choose a reusable alternative instead. Here are some great substitutions that will result in living a more sustainable life:
- Ditch the disposable cups and dishes and bring along reusable ones that can be washed after use.
- Put the paper towels and napkins up and use hand towels and wash rags instead.
- Store leftovers in washable containers instead of throwing out perfectly good food.
- Bring along frozen, homemade meals instead of buying food in packaging that gets thrown out.
- Bring ice from home instead of buying ice in a bag (which becomes trash).
- Use cheesecloth instead of coffee filters for your morning cup of Joe.
- Bring eggs in a cardboard carton instead of foam.
What to Do with Trash
Sometimes trash is inevitable. You eat bananas, you have a peel to throw out. You make coffee, you have grounds to toss. Your morning omelette used 3 eggs, and now you have eggshells to deal with. Luckily these things, and much more, can be disposed of in a way that actually benefits nature. Let's see how you can dispose of natural trash all on your own!
Some things can be tossed into a campfire. Carbon-based items that are easy to burn and won’t give off toxic gasses or leave anything but ash behind are safe for the environment to burn. If you do end up with paper items such as paper towel, cups, or plates, just burn them. But be sure to keep an eye on them in the fire. Since they’re lightweight, they can easily blow out of the fire after lighting and potentially start a new fire somewhere else!
Composting waste is a great way to put things back into nature. It turns things we don’t want, like those banana peels and eggshells, into nutritious food for plants! You can build your own little composting bin that you can bring along with you when camping. Then you can either take the compost back home to your garden, or spread it in the woods around you. All you have to do is create the right environment for it! Here’s how to do it!
A bucket with a lid
A drill bit
A carbon filter about the size of the lid
Step 1: Drill some holes into the lid of the bucket to allow for airflow.
Step 2: Cut your carbon filter to fit the inside of the lid.
Step 3: Glue the filter inside the lid.
Step 4: Put the compost in the bucket and snap the lid on!
If you’re planning on keeping your compost bucket outside, you may not need a filter, as this is just to contain the smell. How will you know when the contents are fully composted and ready to be dispersed in a garden? The compost is ready to use when it looks like dark soil and you can no longer tell what you put in there. If you can still see chunks of peels or eggshells, it’s not ready. It will also smell like soil when it’s ready. So if there is a decomposing smell, it’s still not ready. Finally, feel it. It will be cool to the touch when it's done decomposing. When things are decomposing, they heat up, so if it’s warm, give it more time. It can take a while for it to become usable compost, so be patient.
What are some things you do to decrease waste?