By Sondra Abruzzo ‘19
Hi Scripps, it’s me Sondra, the SAS Sustainability Chair coming at you with some great tips on how to reduce the amount of waste you produce. According to the EPA, the average American produces about 4.5 pounds of trash each day, over half of which ends up in landfills. Since landfills hold large concentrations of greenhouse gasses and hazardous air pollutants, pose contamination risks to local water supply, and take up valuable open space, it is important that we limit how much we throw away, and. I sat down with sophomore Kati Tuemmler, a Zero Waste queen, to learn about her journey with the “low impact movement” and how we all can consume in smart and sustainable ways.
Sondra: Hi Kati, so first, tell me a little bit about yourself.
Kati: I’m an Aquarius, EA major- not declared yet but that’s what I’m going with- and I’m living in the Green LLC in Newhall, which is super fun!
S: To get us started, what exactly is the Zero Waste movement?
K: Well, Zero Waste is actually a bit of a misnomer. People in the movement are trying to change the name to “Low Impact Living” because “Zero Waste” implies perfection which is unattainable and often very discouraging. So what the movement is about is essentially, reducing your footprint as much as possible by sending as little as possible to landfill and recycling.
S: So composting is A-Okay?
K: Yes, composting is ideal.
S: How long have you been doing “Low Impact Living”, and what has been your game plan so far?
K: I heard about the movement in February of last year (2017) from a girl on YouTube with a channel called “Trash is for Tossers”. I would definitely recommend her videos.Basically, the first step in any low impact journey is assessing where your trash is coming from so can make a plan that works for you and reduces the most.For me, my trash was coming from food packaging, beauty and skin products, and other miscellaneous things that I was bringing in to my life mindlessly and throwing out mindlessly.The second step is find ways in each of those categories to reduce as much plastic as possible. Avoiding food packaging has been tough, since all the quick and convenient snacks are wrapped in disposable plastics. My advice is to plan ahead. I always keep a piece of fruit or some nuts in a tupperware in my backpack in case I get hungry and need a quick snack. When grocery shopping, I make sure to bring my own bags and jars and go to places where I can shop in bulk (like Sprouts) to avoid buying items that would normally be packed in plastic. I have also really changed my beauty and health routine to reflect a more low impact lifestyle. Swapping shampoo bottles for shampoo bars, bamboo toothbrushes for plastic ones, and one metal razor for all those plastic disposable razors, has made it so much easier to cut down on my plastic usage.
S: What do you see on campus that makes you cringe regarding how much waste we as students produce mindlessly?
K: The main one is straws and plastic containers for food and drinks. You know, people will go to The Coop and get two coffees a day, and then just throw away their plastic cups and plastic straws that will take years to break down. Another thing that is frustrating is the disposable containers (those green coffee cups) in Malott. They all say that they are compostable, so people choose to use them even when they are dining-in instead of using the reusable cups.
S: Another thing I have noticed with Malott, is when I want to take something out, I will put my food in those paper bowls or paper cups. I should really keep a tupperware in my backpack at all times, and then if there is something I want to take out, I can just stick it in the tupperware.
K: Or you can put it in a little baggie, too! Basically, what I keep with me at all times is my little “zero waste kit”. It includes bamboo cutlery, a reusable thin metal straw and boba straw, and a reusable rag that I use as a napkin. And that has been super helpful, especially on days where the dining hall just has plastic utensils, or when I get something to-go at a restaurant or cafe, it just really helps to be prepared.I would say at the end of the day, it really is a mindset shift from expecting things to be convenient and disposable and cheap to realizing that all the waste we generate has such an impact on the environment and people around the world, and that it actually takes very little for us to make changes that will be so meaningful in the long run.It is hard, because you are losing that bit of convenience, but at the end of the day it’s worth the cost. After you make the initial investment, all your items will last you much longer, you will save money, you can feel good about reducing your footprint, and you might even inspire others along the way.
Image Credit: EMSCO