Today’s post is a reflection of Climate Generation’s Zero Waste Challenge – March 11-20, 2019. Because I have an innate need to create and make a living as an art director, graphic designer, and artist, visuals are poster designs inspired by the Zero Waste Challenge.
The Zero Waste Challenge was an ultra challenge for us because at the start of the challenge we did not have a working kitchen. That meant take-out for meals.
Long-story-short background: My significant other and I are currently renting a townhome. Our neighbor in the adjoining unit left shortly after the holidays. Originally from a southern state and not having a full understanding of a Minnesota winter, our neighbor had turned off the heat before leaving. A polar vortex happened, then it warmed up and that’s when our neighbor’s unit sprinkler system burst to leave 6 inches of water everywhere.
Over time, that water seeped under the foundation into our kitchen, seemingly coming from the refrigerator. The refrigerator wasn’t leaking, it was the unit next door that was. The townhome association with all its rules and compliances hired a contractor. They moved out all our appliances into the living room, tore up the kitchen floor, and subjected us to 7+ days and nights of loud running industrial heaters and dehumidifiers. (We work where we live so moving to a hotel was not a practical option.)
We did the best we could and chose establishments that had recyclable or compostable containers for our take-out meals. What stands out for me from this experience (both by not having a kitchen and the Zero Waste Challenge) is how much plastic surrounds us. It’s freaking ubiquitous. A grocery store alone is a gauntlet of plastic packaging, single-use plastic, and stuff made of plastic.
What I learned is there is so much I can’t reuse, recycle or compost. I still have questions on what I can and cannot recycle, like frozen food packaging and labels on top of the plastic. What about those organic cotton circles and all cotton-paper Q-tips? What about the packaging that cotton circles and Q-tips come in? Given that recycling is at the bottom of the barrel of what we can do, I don’t even know if materials are actually getting recycled or getting burned instead. Do I need to find an alternative to everything I use in everyday life?
I wasn’t prepared with reusable glass containers for take-out during the kitchen debacle. It did make me think, I need a tool kit to help me get to zero waste, one made of physical alternatives, and a mental mindset.
Zero Waste Tool Kit card featuring items I will need to make going zero waste possible.
(Card size 6” x 9”)
1. Glass containers for meat and fish. I’ll bet if I asked the meat counter guy to weigh my selection first and then plop it into my glass container and because he probably has to, he can place the price sticker on the bottom of the container. I chat these guys up all the time at the local grocery store. If I state that I’m trying to “go zero waste,” even if they don’t or can’t honor my request, it will at least start the conversation on what going zero waste means.
2. Make cloth a habit. I do use old cloth napkins instead of paper towels as much as possible when I’m cooking and cleaning produce. The trick is to move this habit into mealtime. Still grabbing a couple of paper towels as we sit down to eat. I also have a number of lovely hankies to use instead of Kleenex. Again, it’s breaking the paper the habit.
3. Stop using plastic produce bags. I do need a few reusable produce bags and I always use reusable grocery sacks to bag my groceries.
4. Stainless steel water bottle. I am embarrassed to say I don’t have one (yet), but we both use a stainless steel tumbler for coffee. Thankfully, we have never been a fan of straws. If you can’t break the straw habit, you are in luck. UPDATE: I now have two stainless steel tumblers. One for me and one from my significant other. No more single-use plastic bottles for us!
5. Bamboo toothbrushes. I am anxious for the day when I can just waltz into any convenience store and pick up a bamboo toothbrush. I’ll be really excited with we can have cake toothpaste-like they have in France. I’m just not ready to go strictly baking soda for brushing. I’m also looking for alternatives to everything I use that traditionally comes in a tube – that will be a challenge!
6. Metal razor. I have a hunch I will get a better shave than with the disposable plastic razors.
7. Utensils packed and ready in my bag for when I’m on the go. I personally can’t stand using plastic forks and spoons and plastic knives are useless for cutting through food. There are better options.
Zero Waste Tool Kit Badges. I just thought I would run with this theme.
I know I will be adding to my Zero Waste Tool Kit over time. Plastic is everywhere and sadly way too convenient. It means taking small steps, changing habits, and a little creativity to get to zero waste. It will take learning what I can do to avoid the plastic I cannot recycle and finding alternatives. Just talking with others who are on this quest to zero waste will be extremely helpful and hopeful.
Poster design inspired by Climate Generation’s Zero Waste Challenge. (Poster size 16” x 20”)
We are both diligent about recycling thought I know recycling takes energy and resources. Between myself and my significant other, we produce, on average, about 3 gallons of organic waste in a 7 day period. I cook just enough for us both and any leftovers get polished off the following day. It’s the vegetable and fruit peels, coffee grounds, eggshells, the paper towels and tissue I’m working to give up, and dried leaves from any number of my 18 huge houseplants that make up the trash.
At the beginning of this post, I stated we are renting a townhome. It’s our goal to purchase a home of our own before the summer is over. It’s our dream to have more control over own personal living environment and make it better for everyone. That means learning how to properly compost — maybe teach the neighbors in the process. (I would love to install a rain garden or two, plant native plants to filter water and maintain soil health, create raised beds for planting veggies, and diversify the lawn for bees and wildlife.) You’d think I’d be crazier about owning a house — place and space mean everything to me as an artist — yet it’s what I can I do outside that gets me super excited, knowing that owning a yard can help us get to zero waste and create an environmental example for others.
A little more ominous poster design showcasing the five principles of zero waste
inspired by Climate Generation’s Zero Waste Challenge. (Poster size: 24” x 36”)
Want print-ready or web-ready poster or badge files for their own use? Just make your request in the comments and I’ll send them your way.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kristin Maija Peterson is passionate about the environment, promoting positive action in light of climate change, and serving as an advocate on behalf of environmental organizations. She creates compelling, educational, visual campaigns, and communications for nonprofits.