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Zero Waste Changes I’m Making in 2023

Hi all, I’m so glad you’re here! It’s been a while since my last post on Simple Living Lessons for 2021. Welp, 2022 is over and my first post is officially in 2023! Happy New Year! Oh well. Life happens. One of my 2021 simple living lessons was to spend less time online! But today I wanted to talk about some changes I’ve made to my zero waste journey. I still consider myself to be a zero waster, however, my focus has shifted from my own individual ecological footprint to conscious consumption and systemic changes, such as large polluters and political corruption. My family STILL produces far less trash and waste than most western households. Our family of four produces about 1 trash bag per week. I know minimalism was so 2016, but I’m still a minimalist too! Minimalism will never go out of style for me! You can find some of the methods I use to limit our trash production in this blog! But to be honest, composting is my biggest weapon against trash! I will eventually do a composting post. So stay tuned!

RELATED CONTENT: Learn how to Lower Your Food Waste Without Composting here.

I love limiting my waste, but instead of being hyper focused on my own individual waste, I’m focused on LARGE SCALE systemic changes, like 1.) Reforming our corrupt political system, 2.) Pressuring big polluters and 3.) Selective boycotts. If you live in a western country then your country (proportionately) produces the most greenhouse gases in the world. Western economies are typically consumer based. For example, 70% of the US economy is solely consumer based. So our individual and collective consumption habits of the 99% DO MATTER. I say 99%, as in most of us are NOT multi-millionaires!

Now let’s talk about the 1%. The emissions of the 1% wealthiest people in the world are astronomically high. In fact, the wealthiest 1% produce the vast majority of the planet’s greenhouse gases. The elites produce 1 MILLION TIMES the greenhouse gas emissions the average person does. Yes, that’s correct. 1 MILLION TIMES. The elites take 3 minute flights on their private jets, buy massive mansions, and yachts, and create more emissions in a year than we do in our lifetimes. They are super consumers. Yet instead of turning in their private jets, governments are shutting down family farms in the Netherlands to mitigate climate change.

In addition to the 1%, there is THE ONE HUNDRED. What’s significant about the “One Hundred?” Well, one hundred companies are responsible for 71% of emissions in the world. That’s right, just 100 companies. And sadly our political systems operate to serve them. The billionaire class, the multinational corporations, and the political elites who serve them– are THE PROBLEM.

These same elites use the US military to protect the fossil fuel industry. Side note: The US military produces more greenhouse gas emissions than Sweden AND Denmark. “The United States’ Military is the largest institutional emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world.”

I say all of this to reiterate that your neighbor with overflowing trash cans and a gas guzzling pick up truck is not the problem.

THE HEART OF THE ZERO WASTE MOVEMENT IS ENVIRONMENTALISM, and as environmentalists, we need to focus our attention where it belongs. Michael Moore produced an incredible documentary called “Planet of the Humans.” It was controversial because he examined how our attention is being diverted from deforestation, land disturbance, and the greenwashing of “green energy.” It shouldn’t be controversial to say that solar panels and wind farms cannot save us. I say this as a proponent of renewables and energy efficiency! But we need to think bigger! Listed below are ways I’m focused on being Zero Waste in 2023!

Zero Waste Changes I’m Making in 2023

Don't donate money to uniparty politicians democrats or republicans


Stop donating to political parties (at the federal level). The political class (regardless of party) only responds to corporate power. This was proved by a Princeton study. Instead, donate to local candidates (city council, school board, county, etc.), or give to mutual aid funds, strike funds, medical clinics, or environmental conservation funds. Working people all over the globe are struggling to afford food, rent, and utility bills. Look around. There are people in your community you can help. I often find people to help in Facebook groups or the Nextdoor app. Americans don’t have universal healthcare. Medical debt is the number 1 reason Americans declare bankruptcy. There are mutual aid funds specific to medical debt. RIP Medical Debt has wiped out $6.8 billion in medical debt!

Imagine if we collectively donated to mutually to benefit our communities? Sadly, this is what government is supposed to do with our tax dollars. I believe in government. I worked in government and studied government for years. I desperately want government to work for the people, but sadly this doesn’t seem to be happening at the federal and some state levels.

volunteer community organizations zero waste

2. VOLUNTEER with local activist organizations to pressure the powerful.

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. If there’s a particular policy issue you’re passionate about, find an activist community to connect with. Local activists will happily connect you with local needs, protests, boycotts, and strikes in your community. Join your school’s PTA (Parent Teacher Association), volunteer at your local election office, join a local environmental group, petition for a sidewalk or a bike lane, give someone a ride to a doctor appointment, or organize a group to go to a city council meeting to discuss out of control development. It may seem like the macro political scene is more important (and it is important), but local issues also affect your daily life. The people elected to local office are the FIRST LINE OF GOVERNMENT.

Getting involved with other activists also helps keep us motivated. Activism is not a sprint. It’s a marathon and WE NEED EACH OTHER.

Side note: If you haven’t read Jane McAlevy then you’re in for a treat! McAlevey’s book “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age” is the quintessential book on effectively organizing. McAlevey teaches you the difference between “mobilizing” versus “organizing.” I highly recommend her book and her Facebook group.

We all have a role to play in making things better. In 2020 I joined the fight for Medicare for All (in the U.S.). If you live somewhere else, you can put your political energy elsewhere, like Greenpeace. Here are 15 grassroots environmental organizations you can get involved with. I chose Medicare for All because it’s important to meet people’s basic needs before they can mobilize to fight for the massive environmental changes. When the majority of bankruptcies in my country are because of medical debt–it’s time for a change. If you’d like to help an American with medical debt go to RIP Medical Debt. They buy medical debt for pennies on the dollar and they forgive it.

stop watching mainstream media

3. Support Independent Media.

In 1996 the Telecommunications Act deregulated the telecommunications industry and allowed massive media consolidation (this is specific to the US). Now SIX media corporations OWN all TV, film, and print media. Yep, just six companies control the media ecosystem.

These companies are 1.) National Amusements, 2.) Disney, 3.) Timewarner, 4.) Comcast/NBC, 5.) News Corp/Rupert Murdoch, and 6.) Sony.

These billion dollar multinational corporations are primarily dependent on advertising and broadcasting fees, which means YOU HAVE POWER IN THIS EQUATION!

  • You can choose 1.) to NOT support cable television; (If you need access to broadcast tv consider a Mohu antenna.) 2.) what type of companies you make purchases from; and 3.) which type of media companies you support.

I happily got rid of cable TV in 2016. Now I primarily watch and listen to video and podcast apps. Like you, I still need internet and unfortunately many of us have to use whatever provider is in our neighborhood. That said, we can still make changes in our media consumption habits. Here are a few of my favorite apps: Rokin, Vimeo, Locals, Spotify, Callin, Patreon, and Rumble. I still use Youtube when needed. Similar to mainstream media outlets, Youtube (Google) is owned by a massive corporation that depends on advertising dollars. The companies listed above are not without problems either, but they’re not a behemoth like Google. I also prefer to use subscriber-based services, like Substack and Supercast. These platforms give you direct access to top-notch journalists. If you can afford to purchase independent media directly from the source then I highly recommend it!

fight the banks join credit union

4. Join a credit union.

Big banks FUND CLIMATE CHANGE. It’s really that simple. “According to a report from the Rainforest Action Network, the world’s 60 biggest banks have financed $3.8 trillion worth of fossil fuel companies, just since the passage of the Paris Climate Agreement.” (Common Dreams) Big banks like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citi, Credit Suisse, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, UBS, and BNP Paribus are some of the worst offenders. In addition to fossil fuels, they also fund Amazon rainforest deforestation and violate human rights for beef production. “Cattle grazing is the leading driver of deforestation emissions in Latin America.” (Global Witness) I’m sure it’s just a coincidence that Moody Corporation acquired a climate and natural disaster risk assessment company? THEY KNOW. These banks know climate change is real and happening but they don’t care. There’s short term profits to be made and that’s more important than a habitable planet. ⁣

So I am trying to unbank myself from these big banks. Please note, that decoupling from ALL big banks may not be possible, particularly if you’re in credit card debt. Many of us don’t have access to public banking systems (public/government banks), but we do have access to the next best thing– CREDIT UNIONS. I joined a credit union and I’m never going back. Credit unions are owned by their members and are non profit.

buy from local farmers community agriculture

5. Join a community supported agriculture (CSA) or produce boxes.

Food prices have skyrocketed because of supply chain problems, the war in Ukraine, monopolies, and corporate greed. In addition to high prices, grocery stores generate a tremendous amount of packaging waste, food waste, and transport food from long distances (which increases emissions). A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a business (and possibly a worker cooperative) that works with local farmers to bring food directly to your door (without the same level of processing, packaging, or transportation, associated with grocery stores).

Similar to farmer’s markets, CSAs provide “farm to table” produce, dairy, and meats from local farmers. If locally grown, the produce is likely in season for your particular area. For example, I’m in North Carolina. I buy cucumbers in the summer and apples in the fall. If you’re in the USA you can find your local CSA here. (Click here for Canada, UK, or Australia). My CSA buys tropical food items from longer distances (such as bananas or oranges), but most food from my CSA is locally grown. Purchasing locally is important because there are (oil miles) in each food mile.

Surprisingly my farmer’s market and CSA are cheaper than the grocery store. CSAs work directly with your local farmers and cut out the middlemen. Whereas when you purchase from a grocery store there are more steps to get food to your table.

  • GROCERY STORE – Farmer>Distributor>Processor>Transporter>Grocery Store. Versus

  • CSA – Farmer>CSA>Your Table.

Big agriculture is also a big polluter. Factory farms MAY be more efficient, but are they more environmentally friendly than small family farms? Efficiency does not concern itself with the health of the soil. Soil regeneration is essential for carbon sequestration. Efficiency doesn’t concern itself with the misuse of anti-biotics, crowding animals into cruel and unsanitary conditions, growth hormones, animal waste, water contamination, or worker exploitation. Concentrating animals in crowded conditions INCREASES methane production. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not the only greenhouse gas. Methane is one of the biggest contributors to global climate change. We are being bombarded with methane from factory farms and landfills. Smaller farms and regenerative agriculture are essential to lowering methane greenhouse gas emissions.

So if you can afford it, try out your local CSA or go local farmer’s market.

gift economy donate buy nothing facebook group

6. Join a Buy Nothing group on Facebook.

I don’t use Facebook very much, but every social media tool is a means to an end. On the rare occasions I do visit Facebook, I always stop at my local Buy Nothing group. Buy Nothing groups are hyper local community groups that focus on the gift economy in which you can give, receive, share, or lend to others without the exchange of money. They recently developed an app too! So instead of going to Goodwill thrift store (who likely throws away most of the items you donate and underpays disabled employees), join a Buy Nothing group instead! I’ve gifted hundreds of items to individuals who didn’t have to buy a new product. This gifting prevented a usable item from going into a landfill. It also prevented the individual from buying a new item. I’ve gifted unopened soda I didn’t like, unused pet supplies, fresh produce, furniture, clothing, toys, baby items. You name it, I’ve gifted it (as long as it’s in working order and not recalled).

Please don’t give items that are broken or not in good condition. When in doubt THROW IT OUT. It’s better to toss than to give someone your broken stuff. There are certain occasions when someone is willing to repair an item. If that’s the case then please be honest about the condition. I recently picked up a lamp that was in much worse condition than pictured. The lamp was held together by tape. I didn’t realize this until I picked it up. The gifter was not honest about its condition. Since it involved bad electrical wiring, I decided to throw this item away. It was a waste of my time and a waste of the gas to go pick it up. So please, only gift items that are in working or good condition. There’s no shame in throwing a broken item away.

ethical consumption slow fashion

7. Ethical and Local Consumption.

If you live in the western world then you live in a consumer based economy. In the US, 70% of our economy is based exclusively on consumption. So our consumption matters. Imagine if we purchased from ethical and local businesses? In our current globalized system buying local is difficult, but not impossible. There is power in how we spend our money, who we support, and the activities we engage in.

There’s a reason you can buy a $5 tee shirt from Walmart. Whereas a tee shirt from a small business is $50. Cheap goods made overseas through the exploitation of natural resources and impoverished labor forces are cheaper for a reason. This includes corporate America’s impoverishment of its own labor force by turning our society into a service economy. As western living standards declined over the last 40 years, corporations needed to make consumables cheaper. Their solution? Cheap goods made overseas, shipped over massive distances.

You may not be able to buy a lot from a small business, but even if you can buy ONE thing from a small business–it’s a START! Buying local keeps the money in your community, supports jobs in  your community, and lowers transportation emissions from far off places. If you don’t know where to start, start with local vendors on Etsy and from your country of origin if possible.

RELATED CONTENT: Check out these Shopping Resources.

I fully admit that I still shop at these big box stores on occasion, but my consumption habits have changed. When I needed a new pair of gym shoes I bought them from Psudo instead of Target. When my husband needed a new pair of jeans I bought from Dearborn Denim instead of the Gap. I have shifted my purchasing power from big corporations to small businesses. Admittedly, sometimes I can ONLY find the item I need on Amazon. C’est la vie. It is what it is! I’m just doing the best I can. You can see the businesses I patronize here. If you’re interested in buying local, Reddit and Etsy are great resources. Go to Reddit Made in USA, Made in Canada, Buy Canadian, Made in UK, Buy it For Life, Buy Me Once. Buy Me Once UK, Etsy.

boycott corporations join mass movement

8. Boycotts

A boycott is an essential tool to voice our concerns to the elite ruling class. When we stop purchasing an item en masse it affects their profits (which is all they care about), but do boycotts work? The answer is…sometimes. There has been so much corporate consolidation that most brands are sold by the same few companies. Click here to learn how a handful of corporations own most of the food brands in the world. If you’d like to learn about successful boycotts click here.

Boycotts are difficult, but they can be successful if it gets enough media attention. Companies have been caught red-handed treating their employees badly, preventing them from unionizing, and creating excessive waste. Starbucks landfills brand new coffee machines so they can’t be reused. Amazon landfills hundreds of thousands of items per week. There is a Tiktoker who dumpster dives for Coach purses that are slashed by employees when they don’t sell. The Tiktoker sells the purses at a discount and the buyer sends the purse to be repaired by Coach for free. This is madness. How much energy is wasted in this cycle? The TikTok dumpster diver is a great example of successful “boycott” because it caused Coach to change its behavior. It wasn’t a boycott per se, but it brought A LOT of media attention to the wasteful Coach policy. As soon as it was exposed Coach, issued a statement that they would donate unused bags to thrift stores.

Lastly, stand in solidarity with workers who are striking for better working conditions. When Kellogg’s and Frito-Lay workers striked there were several Facebook groups and Reddit subthreads who refused to purchase ANY Kellogg’s or Frito Lay products until the strike was over. Check out the Facebook group the American Youth Worker’s Coalition. People posted all the brands associated with these companies so we could boycott them. It wasn’t an easy task because Frito-Lay (who is owned by PepsiCo) owns hundreds of brands from Quaker oatmeal to Rice o Roni, but negative media attention and a tiny dip in their profits ended the strike in the worker’s favor. Imagine if we all did this in support of workers? I’m trying! I hope you try too.

online shopping sustainable slow shipping choose

9. Embrace Slow Shipping

I still make an occasional purchase from Amazon, but I mostly purchase from smaller retailers. Sometimes Amazon is the only option. When I do order from Amazon I choose SLOWER SHIPPING. Same day, one day, or two day shipping comes at a cost and is environmentally damaging. It takes an enormous amount of resources to collect, pack, ship, and deliver something in a short span of time. ⁣

I’ve also learned about the human cost associated with fast shipping. As the gig economy kicks into gear, people all around the world are being killed in car accidents because of fast shipping. ⁣Untrained contractors desperate to make ends meet are hitting the road in unsafe vehicles with tight deadlines. They’re required to deliver 999 out of 1,000 packages ? in one day. I have since rethought fast shipping. Now I choose the longest time possible to ship or I go to the store myself. ⁣So when you check out, look for “Review Items and Shipping.” Avoid 1 or 2 day shipping and choose the longest shipping time. You can choose your Prime Day or “No Rush Shipping.” If you choose No Rush Shipping, Amazon will gift you a digital credit.

boycott cvs change pharmacies small business

10. Change your pharmacy.

One of my favorite changes this year was transferring my family’s prescriptions from CVS Pharmacy to a locally owned pharmacy. CVS Pharmacy (who owns Aetna and Caremark) has been caught donating dark money to fight AGAINST making healthcare affordable for my fellow Americans. CVS and other health insurance giants don’t want Americans to have affordable healthcare. High costs increase their profits. If you live in almost any other country in the world, then you likely have more affordable healthcare than Americans do. CVS and its  subsidiaries, along with other big pharmaceutical and health insurance companies, purposely make our prescription drugs and healthcare costs the most expensive ON THE PLANET. Their greed is one of the many reasons Americans struggle to make ends meet.

Transferring all of our medications was not an overnight process. Finding a non-corporate pharmacy was not easy. It took several months until all of our prescriptions were finally transferred. Depending on your location, you may not be able to find an independent pharmacy or you may be required to use CVS via your employer. In the states, we have employment based health insurance. Some employers require employees to exclusively fill their medications at CVS.

CVS is the largest pharmacy in the US. Their pharmacy business accounts for 47% of its revenue. If you stop using CVS Pharmacy, this will hurt their bottom line and provoke change!

minimalism is still cool

11. Don’t Give up on Minimalism!

Minimalism was the new big thing in 2015, but don’t give up on minimalism just yet! Minimalism stopped being cool. Now maximalism is the new trend. Well, I’m still a minimalist and I’m never going back. Minimalism isn’t a fad. It’s a lifestyle. What do I mean by minimalism?

  • I don’t buy unnecessary things. If I don’t have a purpose or a place for something there’s no need to buy it.
  • I take stock in what I have.
  • I do buy nothing challenges every now and then. Buy nothing challenges exclude necessities.
  • I have a small wardrobe. If you haven’t tried the Project 333 Challenge, give it a whirl. It’s a 2010 challenge, but many people have forgotten about this challenge.
  • I give away items I don’t need. Since 2016, I have given away about 50% of my belongings. This is why the Buy Nothing Project on Facebook comes in handy. I’ve also give away items in the free section on Craigslist.

stop junk mail opt out data brokers save trees

13. Stop (or try to stop) Junk Mail.

According to EcoCycle we spend at least 8 months of our lives sorting and tossing junk mail. On average Americans receive 41 pounds of junk mail per year. In addition to being a time suck, junk mail is also a carbon contributor. According to ForestEthics (now Stand.earth), junk mail creates carbon emissions equivalent to 9 million cars and produces 51 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. Every year 100 million trees are cut down to print more than 100 billion pieces of junk mail. On average every household receives more than 900 pieces of junk mail per year. This means junk mail is a major contributor to climate change.

RELATED CONTENT: Stop Junk Mail in its Tracks!

In 2018, I tried to stop junk mail! Needless to say this battle is still ongoing. I still receive junk mail, but my mailbox is SO MUCH LIGHTER. My physical mail has decreased by 60%. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start! Some companies make it more difficult than others. Some companies will take you off of their marketing lists, only to add you again six months later. I wrote 11 tips on how to stop junk mail. One of my favorite junk mail fighters is Catalog Choice. “Catalog Choice sends merchants your catalog opt-out request on your behalf.” It’s a free service, but please consider donating to them. They do such good work! Catalog Choice has saved 500,000 trees from becoming catalogs!

There are several types of junk mail: solicited and unsolicited. Solicited junk mail is from a vendor you’ve done business with. You may not have given them permission to send you mail, but it doesn’t matter. If you have a credit card, they will mail you promotional marketing materials (regardless of online billing).

Unsolicited junk mail is EVERYTHING ELSE, like coupon inserts, grocery circulars, catalogs, advertisements, alumni associations, vacation rentals, charity solicitations, cable TV offers, publisher clearinghouse, magazines you’ve stopped paying for, realtors, car insurance, phone books, etc. I contacted most of these companies via email and Facebook. You can follow along the process in the link above.

throw seeds guerilla gardening seed balls seed bombs

14. Guerilla gardening

I am a guerilla gardener! What is a guerilla gardener you ask? A guerilla gardener plants on unused land. It can be something as simple as throwing seeds on a random dirt patch or more involved like cleaning up unused lots and planting vegetable gardens. One of the best known guerilla gardeners is Ron Finley. In south central Los Angeles Finley lived in a food desert. Food deserts are typically low-income communities that have limited access to fresh food stores, however, they are surrounded by fast food restaurants and liquor stores! So Finley planted a vegetable garden on the strip of land between his house and the road (these are typically called hell strips) and he encouraged people to help themselves to his garden. The city of Los Angeles was not pleased. They fined Finley and issued a warrant for his arrest. Finley fought back. He argued that planting fresh food in a food desert should not be an illegal act. With the help of a councilmember Finley got the city to change the law. Now Finley and others plant community gardens all over Los Angeles on public or abandoned land.

I live in a rural area so my terrain is a bit different, but I enjoy throwing seeds whenever (and wherever) I can! Another thing I do is throw seed balls. Seed balls (or seed bombs) are little balls made of clay, compost, and wildflower seeds. They should not be buried in the soil, but are meant to stay on top of the soil. The seed balls break down, giving the seeds a better chance at germination. Seed bombs can be thrown near motorways, into mulch beds, urban tree pits, or riverbanks. Please use seeds native to your location. Native wildflowers benefit the local wildlife in your area, including insects and most importantly bees!

I don’t know if this counts as guerilla gardening, but I report litter, downed signs, potholes, and general unsightly areas through Clickfix. If your local community doesn’t have a click fix (or if the street is a state road) you can contact your state department of transportation for potholes and downed signs. Taking pride in our surroundings helps keep our communities tidy and in good order.

don't fight social media avoid distractions no surf

15. Don’t Get Distracted

Don’t argue with people on social media. This is a lesson I am still trying to learn. I am frequently frustrated with people on social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. These apps are purposefully addicting and not easy to walk away from. I’ve noticed that the less time I spend on social media, the happier I am and the better my day flows. Read “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Account Right Now.”

Instead of getting into twitter debates, get involved, help someone, join a community organization, or get to know your neighbors. Any of these activities will help your community more than fighting with someone online. You won’t convince anyone by arguing with them. Present your argument or counter argument, and leave it at that. If you come across a troll, then BLOCK AND ROLL. Don’t get bogged down with silly things. We have BIG PROBLEMS in our world. We have to come together to solve them.

RELATED CONTENT: How to Talk to a Climate Change Denier.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on zero waste changes I’m making in 2023! If you have any ideas or suggestions, please share them with me in the comments or on Instagram

#zerowaste, #environmentalactivism, #lifehacks, #lowwaste

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