MEREDITH’S JOURNEY TO ZERO WASTE: IT STARTED WITH NATURE

In 2018, Meredith’s family of five will try to fit all of the garbage they create for the whole year into a single kitchen garbage bag.

In 2017, I set a goal of getting outside with my kids for 1,000 hours. My motivation was simple: more fresh air, more sunshine, and more exercise would be beneficial to my kids’ well-being. Simply, I wanted healthier, happier kids!

We crossed the 1,000 hours mark back in September and with a just a few days left in 2017, we are approaching 1,300 hours spent outside this year. We made so many fun memories, and I think the outdoor time offered them all of the benefits I hoped it would, and some.

One thing I failed to anticipate was the effect 1,000 hours outside would have on me.

While we explored forests, swam in rivers, and clambered up mountains, something was growing inside me. I began to feel more and more attached to the natural world.

I began to feel a stronger connection to the birds that flew by over our heads, to the trees swaying in the wind, to the tiny ferns unfurling in the spring, even to the parts of nature that we call inanimate – a feeling of connection to the rocks themselves, to the water, to the wind. It was a powerful and unexpected experience.

As this new awareness grew in me, I began to feel a dissonance between that sublime feeling of connection and the way I was living. How could I love and respect the Earth while at the same time pollute and harm it? Instead of mindlessly tossing my granola bar wrapper in the trash can and moving on with my day, I suddenly found my hand hovering over the bin, my heart racing, my spirits depressed.

I didn’t want to live in a place of unhappiness and guilt. I didn’t want to let those emotions chip away at my burgeoning relationship with the Earth. So, I started to change my actions to align with my new perspective.

I started buying less.

I became more aware of what kind of packaging the things I did choose to buy came in.

I started to reflect on the lifecycle of things I purchased. Where is this going to be a year from now? 10 years from now? 100? While it can feel like that what we throw in the garbage magically disappears – I think most of us know, at some level, it does not.

For me, these changes in outlook and practice have happened slowly over the last year, and now that 2017 is coming to a close and my family reached our 1000 hours outside goal, we are ready to take on a new one. In 2018, my family of five will try to fit all of the garbage we create for the whole year into a single kitchen garbage bag!

This is going to be a huge challenge for us, as we currently produce A LOT more than this. But, I think it will be also a great learning experience for all of us. I want to work with my husband and kids to learn how to thrive and find joy outside of the pressures of consumerism. Together, we can come up with solutions for how to live without this or that product that *feels* necessary, but truly isn’t. We will try to make the things we do need ourselves. I welcome this challenge as an opportunity for our family to be inventive and creative together, and to build bonds in a manner that at trip to Target or a click on Amazon could never replicate.

Below I will detail the specific parameters of my challenge, and how I will hold myself accountable:

First, I will include only NEW trash that was brought into our home in 2018 in my challenge. We are also working toward minimalism right now, so I know that as we continue to decrease our possessions, while most can go to the thrift store, some will need to end up in the garbage. I am not going to hold on to superfluous possessions for an extra year for the sake of the one bag rule. However, all new garbage MUST go in the single bag. If I bought it in 2018, it goes in my single 2018 garbage bag.  

Secondly, my husband will dispose of some of some of his trash separately. Although he is supportive of the goal, he is not totally on board with a zeroish life yet. And that’s ok! He is his own person, and I trust him to do what feels right for him. I want this to be a positive experience for all of us, and I think it would be hard for anyone to find joy in working towards a goal that is forced upon them or that they are pressured into. I shop for and cook all of the food at our house, and do all the shopping for the kids, and my husband is just about the least consumerist person I know, so I don’t foresee his trash production to be that substantial anyway.

Finally, I am going to try to make this challenge as fun as possible for all of us. Zeroish living doesn’t have to feel like a burden or a source of frustration. I want to embrace zeroish as a source of fun, connection, and exploration for all of us –  and to share the way we do this with all of you!

Meredith Hanson lives on six acres of land in rural Minnesota with her husband, three kids, nine chickens, and six guinea fowl. She loves running through the woods, digging her fingers in the dirt, and making things with her hands. In 2018 she’ll be learning to live a more zero waste lifestyle, trying to feed her family on veggies grown in the backyard, and making rather than buying just about whatever she needs.

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