8 Practices for Creating a Zero-Waste Society

Try the No Impact Challenge to explore how you can help create a zero-waste society

Many factors have contributed to global warming. Years of pollutants making their way into the atmosphere, power plants, animal agriculture—the list goes on. Trying to make amends for the damage that has been done is great, but to truly create a solution we must devise a new model for consumption—a new model that challenges us to use less and alter our daily habits as consumers.

To create a sustainable world, we need to strive for a minimal or zero-waste society.  One man named Colin Beavan tried to do just that. He challenged himself and his family to have no impact on the planet for a full year. The family did not use any automated transportation, ate only food sourced from a 250-mile radius of their Manhattan apartment, and did not shop for anything new, except food. The only trash they generated were food scraps that were composted.

Colin wrote a book about the experience called No Impact Man, and a documentary filmmaker tailed the family to create a movie by the same name. The journey to being a “no impact family” was not without its struggles, but they pulled it off. Their success is a beacon of hope for what is possible in the realm of sustainability.

Their journey inspired a group of friends from the yoga studio where I practice to form a No Impact Group and take on the No Impact Challenge for two months. If the Beavans were able to do it and our No Impact Group at the Jivamukti Yoga School in New York City could take it on, so can you!

Here are eight practices from the book No Impact Man that you can take on right now.

1. Stop Buying New Stuff (Except for Food)

“99 percent of the stuff we harvest, mine, process, transport—99 percent of the stuff we run through this system is trashed within 6 months.” – Annie Leonard, “The Story of Stuff”

Think about how much better shape our planet would be in if we all consumed less and took less from the earth.

2. Give Up All Disposable Products

The Beavans sorted out their weekly trash and completely stopped using anything that they could throw out. In 2010, the U.S. produced more than 250 million tons of trash, 4.43 pounds per person per day, according to EPA Municipal Solid Waste Data for 2010.

3. Burn Calories, Not Fossil Fuels

Use active modes of transportation to get you where you need to go and take mass transit trains and buses rather than driving or flying to your destination.

4. Eat Locally and Seasonally

Buy as much of your food as possible from your local farmers’ market (many cities have winter markets as well) and locate grocers and bakers in your neighborhood who buy from local companies.

5. Conserve Energy

Explore no-energy alternatives to accomplishing your daily tasks. Solar-powered phone and computer charges are great tools to reduce your energy consumption.

6. Reduce Water Use

The average American uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. By changing the way you brush your teeth, water your lawn, or wash your dishes, or switching to more efficient plumbing or appliances, you can reduce your water footprint by 25 percent.

7. Give Back

By giving back, you slow down and appreciate what you have. Challenge yourself today to be charitable and to become one with others.

8. Take an Eco-Sabbath

Today is the day to to lay off using lights, televisions, computers, appliances, cell phones, and all other gadgets and discover and appreciate life’s bare necessities.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user stephaniehobson.

Michael Forman is a native of Bronx, New York, and has lived in New York City for almost his entire life. He is the executive farm director of Pure Love Organic Farms, an organic, urban farm that he and three other friends created in 2012 from a former garbage dump site. Michael also works as the North American account manager for Totally Green in the sustainable technologies field.