TALKING TRASH: Zero Waste and Minimalism

The beautiful thing about minimalism is less consumption and therefore less waste.

This minimalist truism works well for objects and clothes.  You buy things intentionally and when it is time to pare down your belongings there are a few different avenues to dispose of your stuff:
-donating them
-selling them
-recycling them
-and of course trashing them. ☹️

On the other hand, the packaging of goods is designed for the garbage.  The cycle of consumption and the trash that comes with packaging is a big environmental problem and often not considered in minimalism.
I didn’t consider it either.

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↟Here I am now carrying my food scraps to a compost location at a friend’s house (sadly our apartment building doesn’t compost yet).  For those of you who want to keep track, I’ve been flirting the idea of zero waste for quite some time and pursuing it in earnest since January 2017.

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For a long time, I was mindful to practise minimalism in my life, but I was still producing heaps of garbage.
Truly, there’s nothing minimal about an overflowing garbage bin.
This is why I started asking “where does all this trash come from?”
Well, it mostly came from the grocery store and from online orders.  While some of it was food scraps, a lot of the trash was plastic packaging.  Food scraps can be composted but packaging was on everything and I didn’t know what to do about it.  What’s worse, I carried this unwanted packaging into my home with every purchase I made.
Was I just a garbage producing machine?
I was appalled and frustrated.
Where could I go from here?

Now, the heaps of garbage in my bin was not the result of a minimal lifestyle opting for convenience.  I never chose packaged goods so I could save time and invest that time elsewhere.  Honestly, I’ve just never given much thought to the garbage streaming in and out of my home.  And I also hadn’t considered the life cycle of things much.  I thought being minimal and frugal was already making a difference.

But this is what I know now:  My minimalism didn’t address the extraneous amounts of packaging waste.  Packaging is designed for short term, often single use and it is meant to be thrown into the garbage.  At best packaging is recycled, but often it streams right into a landfill.  By design packaging isn’t precious as for example an old t-shirt or an unloved object is.  Unfortunately, until recently, it never occurred to me to work on reducing the packaging waste that came around the produce from the grocery store.

I didn’t know I could say no to the paper bags at the bakery.
I didn’t know I had a choice in how fresh produce, bulk food and deli counter purchases are packaged.
I didn’t know I can bring my own glass containers or cloth produce bags and say no to the obligatory plastic baggies.
I was afraid grocery shopping would turn into a huge hassle but I was wrong.  In fact, most stores in Salt Lake City are happy to support zero waste shopping.  And it is refreshing to leave a store with just produce and no added garbage.

Also, in case you’re wondering, adopting this new lifestyle didn’t turn me into a crazy bag lady with lots of zero waste knickknacks.  On the contrary, I noticed that zero waste reduced the number of bags my husband carried home from the store, it streamlined not just my trash but it also simplified the belongings in my kitchen and bathroom.  Which minimalist wouldn’t like that?

In many ways, minimalism and zero waste compliment each other.  For example, one of the most important ways to keep clutter and trash away is to control what enters through the front door.  This is always a good way to start minimalism or zero waste.
I started my zero waste journey by
-looking at and examining our trash
-and then I set out to shop without buying any packaging
-and I also decided to disengage from using disposables and plastics in general.

Saying no and refusing “trash” made a significant difference every day.  At the same time I realized that zero waste is a slow journey that builds momentum over time and it also gets easier with time.  In the beginning zero waste isn’t easy because many old purchases in the home are far from zero waste and will eventually be phased out and become trash.  This kind of trash is almost unavoidable and it’s especially annoying when you’re so on top of your zero waste game with new purchases.  As an added pressure, society assumes zero wasters like me can fit an entire year’s worth of household trash into a single mason jar.  To be honest this might be the case if on day zero of going zero waste I filled a dumpster and rid my home of all the half full plastic packaged items so I could start with a clean slate.  That’s not the route I wanted to go.
Maybe one day my trash will fit the size of a mason, but I still wouldn’t keep my trash in a jar like a prize or a measure.  That’s not for me.  I’m much more concerned with the big picture.

Luckily my husband is on board with the zero waste initiative.  This is important in our household because he does 90% of the grocery shopping.  Therefore, we both had to keep the same goals in mind to effectively keep garbage from entering our home.  Overall, it’s been a simple transition and easy to maintain.  An added bonus about zero waste is the money saved from buying ‘naked goods’, the frequent and novel conversation with cashiers and the responsible sorting and minimization of our garbage.  As the name implies, zero waste means creating no landfill trash.  At best it also means sending nothing to recycling.  Of course this is the ideal that zero wasters work towards.  I’m not at zero in my efforts to reduce waste, but since being more mindful and starting to compost our overall household garbage decreased by 90%.

I’m good with this progress for now.  After all zero waste is not about being perfect.
It’s about being aware of one’s impact on the planet.
It’s about being aware of where items go after you have used them.
And it’s about being aware of where your items came from before making the purchase.
It’s not as the name implies creating zero trash because very few people can attain this goal.

On that note, it’s important to know that the zero waste lifestyle is not an all or nothing approach.  An all or nothing way of thinking often has little practicality.  It allows us to do nothing, be afraid to start, or quit since not being able to do it perfectly is a really good excuse.

With minimalism or zero waste I’m not looking for perfection but I would love to take steps towards making a difference.  I look at zero waste as a lifestyle I can pursue daily with simple persistence.  To me, it’s not just a fad.  It’s daily intentionality that afford me to have a lighter footprint on this earth.

#GoingGreen2017 #SLCzerowaste #plasticfree

Written by Nina Estabrook from SLC Zero Waste.  Photography: Spencer Estabrook.

Salt Lake City Area Farmers Markets 2017

The Salt Lake valley is lucky to have quite a few farmers’ markets.  Most of them will start in the first week of June so I wanted to share this year’s lineup.  Farmers’ markets are a great way to get into zero waste shopping because farm stands are overall more supportive of shoppers bringing their own reusable containers and grocery bags than most conventional grocery stores.  In addition to buying the freshest locally grown produce and artisan goods, take the opportunity to speak with the farmers and craftsman to learn where and how the produce was grown and if they take back their own jars, produce baskets and egg cartons when the product is all used up.

To zero waste shop, plan ahead and come to the market with a few shopping supplies:

  • reusable shopping tote or market basket
  • reusable produce bags
  • canning jars or glass storage containers
  • return jars, baskets, or cartons from past purchases for reuse
  • and don’t forget your reusable water bottle so you can stay hydrated while strolling and enjoying the market

Now, please feel free to browse the listings below and check out our map to find a market near you.

(↑ This map has several layers to make it easier to find what you’re looking for.  You can show the layers by clicking on the arrow on the top left of the map and selecting the ones you’re interested to see.  Farmers’ markets are the bottom category and tagged with a green symbol showing an apple and a jug.   You can click on a listing to have more information about the location and how supportive the businesses are of the zero waste lifestyle.)

SUMMER MARKETS

Sugar House Farmers Market
Wednesday 5pm – 8pm, June 7th – Oct
Fairmont Park
1040 Sugarmont Dr
Salt Lake City, UT 84106

Website: www.sugarhousefarmersmarket.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SugarHouseFarmersMarket/?ref=br_rs

Liberty Park Market
Friday 4pm – Dusk, June 9th – Oct 20th
Liberty Park
1300 South 680 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84105

Website: https://libertyparkmarketslc.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Liberty-Park-Market-972118346253038

Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park
Saturday 8am – 2pm, June 10th – Oct 21st
Pioneer Park
350 West 300 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Website: www.slcfarmersmarket.org/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slcfarmersmarket

Wasatch Front Farmers Market at Gardner Village
Saturday 9am – 1pm, July 8th – Oct 28th
Gardner Village
1100 West 7800 South
West Jordan, UT 84088

Website: www.wasatchfrontfarmersmarket.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/wasatchfrontfarmersmarket

Sunnyvale Farmers Market
Saturday, 12 – 3pm, June 10th – Oct 14th
Valley Center Park
4013 S 700 W
Salt Lake City, UT 84123

Website: https://sunnyvalefarmersmarket.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/SunnyvaleFarmersMarket
Instagram: www.instagram.com/SunnyvaleFarmersMarket

Wasatch Front Farmers Market at Wheeler Historic Farm
Sunday 9am – 2pm, June 4th – Oct 29th
Wheeler Historic Farm
6351 South 900 East
Murray, UT 84121

Website: www.wasatchfrontfarmersmarket.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/wasatchfrontfarmersmarket

9th West Farmers Market
Sunday 10am – 2pm, June 11th – Oct 15th
International Peace Gardens
1000 S 900 W
Salt Lake City, UT 84104

Website: https://9thwestfarmersmarket.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peoplesmarket

FALL MARKETS

Downtown Harvest Market
Tuesday 4pm – Dusk, Aug 8th – Oct
Gallivan Plaza
239 Main Str.
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Website: www.slcfarmersmarket.org/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slcfarmersmarket

VA Hospital Farmers Market
Wednesday, 11am – 2pm, Aug 2nd – Oct
500 Foothill Drive (Thacher Street / Lot 5)
Salt Lake City, UT 84148

Website: www.saltlakecity.va.gov/SALTLAKECITY/features/vaslchcsfarmersmarket.asp
Location: www.saltlakecity.va.gov/forms/FarmersMarketFlyer.pdf

University of Utah Farmers Market
Thursday 10am – 2pm, Aug 24th – Oct
University of Utah Tanner Plaza
201 South 1460 East
Salt Lake City, UT 84112

Facebook: www.facebook.com/UofUFarmersMarket

Murray Park Farmers Market
Friday/Saturday, 9am – 2pm, July 28th – Oct 28th
Murray Park
296 E Murray Park Ave
Salt Lake City, UT 84107

Facebook: www.facebook.com/murrayfarmersmarket

South Jordan Farmers Market

Saturday 8am – 2pm, Aug 5th – Oct
1600 W. Towne Centre Drive
South Jordan, UT  84009

Website: www.southjordanfarmersmarket.com

WINTER MARKETS

Downtown Winter Market
Saturday 10am – 2pm, Nov 2017 – April 2018
Rio Grande Depot
270 S Rio Grande St
Salt Lake City, UT 84101

Website: www.slcfarmersmarket.org/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/slcfarmersmarket

Wheeler Farm Indoor Market
1st Sunday of each month, 10am – 2pm, Nov – April
Wheeler Historic Farm Barn
6351 South 900 East
Murray, UT 84121

Written & created by Nina Estabrook from SLC Zero Waste.

Zero-Waste Dining: Pizza!

cuteveganpizza

I cannot imagine my life without pizza! This weekend, I visited my favorite pizzeria in the valley, The Pie, and realized how easy zero-waste pizza can be! Of course, I am talking about zero-waste from a consumer standpoint as it can be difficult to know how much waste was generated by the establishment in creating the pizza – however, there are many ways to reduce your environmental impact as a consumer through a few mindful choices: planning to eat your pizza at the restaurant & bringing a few essentials to reduce your reliance on disposables.

  1. Plan to eat your pizza at the restaurant.

I am no stranger to the joys of ordering a pizza, flipping on a movie, and spending the rest of the evening in a food-induced coma. Sadly, this joy is short-lived as the next day I feel guilty when I am faced with throwing away the large cardboard box. Although SLC Green states that Salt Lake County residents may recycle pizza boxes as long as they are free from grease, my apartment manager was notified a few months ago by Salt Lake County that our building residents must stop putting pizza boxes in the blue bin, or else they would stop servicing our recycling. I have sent an email to both SLC Green & Sanitation asking to explain the discrepancy, and will update with the response. Nevertheless, this means that for the past few months, all of the pizza boxes from my building have been sent straight to the landfill, and will be decomposing there for decades! It can be difficult trying to sift through conflicting information about recycling. In times like this, I think of Bea Johnson’s 5 R‘s (Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot) and remember why it is important to follow them in order! If I refuse a pizza box in the first place, I do not have to worry about recycling it.

Any easy way to refuse a pizza box and thereby eliminate “box guilt” is to simply dine-in at the restaurant. Most likely, by the time you are done enjoying your meal, the leftover slices will fit easily into one or two reusable containers. This brings me to my next point:

2. Bring a few essentials to reduce your reliance on disposables.

When dining-in at The Pie, reusable cups, plates, and utensils are all available. Pizzas are served on metal pans. This means that the only items I need to bring are a cloth napkin and a container for leftovers (after my partner and I have eaten, we usually have 2-3 slices to bring home).

Other local pizza places that I have visited tend to have similar accommodations. Vertical Pizza and Este offer reusable plates, pizza pans, silverware, and cups. The Pie Hole offers mostly disposables, and heat their pizza slices on paper plates, so I recommend contacting them directly to see if they can accommodate a reusable plate should you bring one. I realize that there are many more dine-in pizza establishments in SLC, but if you call ahead to see what reusable items the restaurant already offers, you can bring any necessary items to close the gaps and avoid disposables.

I have been following this strategy for the past several months – and have discovered an additional benefit of enjoying my pizza at the restaurant: I tend to enjoy my meal more because I am eating mindfully. When dining out, I find myself happy to disconnect from technology, and instead connect to those at the restaurant with me, while being fully immersed in the aromas and flavors of the delicious pizza!

If dining-in is simply not an option for you, you can make take-out more zero-waste friendly by creating your own reusable pizza box! Although I am not sure this option is practical for me personally, the Instagram blogger zerowasteteacher has had success with her custom wooden box (check it out here). One of the things I love about the zero-waste community are the creative solutions to everyday problems.

While researching this article, I found a pizza chain in California, Mombo’s Pizza, that offers a reusable pizza box program – which is a fantastic idea – and would be a great model for our local pizzerias to adopt! I will contact The Pie & Este this coming week, suggest that they create a similar program, and update this article with their responses.

Written & Illustrated by Bree Berrie for SLC Zero Waste.