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Achieving Zero Waste with Audits

By Larraine Roulston:

Respecting our planet requires each of us to Rethink and Reduce what we throw away. To do this, it’s important to audit what we discard as trash. This applies to every resident with a supply of plastic garbage bags as well as to workers in the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sector who fill dumpsters.

For the those in industry, auditing can be a big undertaking that involves weighing, sorting, training employees, setting up a materials exchange program with other companies, and changing suppliers. For the average person, however, it simply begins with The Big Four together with buying less. To be very thorough in all aspects of your lifestyle, utilizing a clipboard or notebook would be helpful. Record this information: What do you throw away at home or when you travel? Examine the trash containers in your bathrooms, bedrooms, den/office, workshop and kitchen. Then, for each item you see in them, think of an alternative. Record this, too.

Before you begin those visual observations, shift your vocabulary regarding discarded materials from “Waste” to “Resources.” Determine what can be Reused, Revamped, Repaired, Rented, Recycled — if in fact the items need to be purchased in the first place. Documentary filmmaker Craig Leeson, who directed A Plastic Ocean, stated, “We need to change the terminology. This isn’t post-consumer waste — it’s not waste. This is a resource.”

Waste Audits. Solid Waste. Waste Management. Once company managers practice the 3Rs, they begin to Rethink and see Resources while saving on disposal fees. Most municipalities are limiting the number of residential garbage bags for pick-up, thus forcing citizens to cut back.

Unwanted food is not waste. Leftovers can be made into soups or casseroles. When composted, food peelings and cores help create a wonderful soil conditioner that nourishes your garden. Whether you live in an apartment or have a backyard, there are options to investigate.

Yard Trimmings of clipped branches and grass are useful. A little brush in your backyard composter provides air flow. Dry leaves are the carbon required to create compost. By including grass clippings, you are adding nitrogen to your heap. Better yet, they are best simply left to nourish your lawn. Pet droppings and shredded paper/wood chip bedding from vegetable-eating animals can be composted or spread under shrubbery. Special bins are available for composting dog/cat poo.You can compost pet fur, cooled wood ashes, floor sweepings, hair, wilted flowers, feathers and bits of wool/felt/rope/cotton. The rule of thumb is that, if it was once alive, it will decompose naturally.

Clean paper, cardboard, bottles, cans and jars are Recyclable. If plastic film or hard plastics are not included in your area’s Recycling program, look for ways to avoid them. Reuse before Recycling by taking your own containers to delis, bakeries and fast food outlets. Avoid straws and single-use items. Tote your own Reusable bags when shopping. Many food stores now allow customers to provide their own containers.

Unstoppable student voices for Climate Change action are taking center stage in politics. Your challenge to save Resources as well as your power of purchase will accomplish the same ends. A personal audit will help you change attitudes and shop with the circular economy in mind. The Future is all Rs!

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Larraine writes children adventure books on composting and pollinating. To view, please visit www.castlecompost.com

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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