Zero Waste: A state of mind

There is no better measure of our sustainability, of our resilience, than looking at our waste

By Steve Unger

“Is zero waste some new recycling thing?”

Respectfully, this is like asking if the Internet is some new computer thing. In the  same way that the Internet has forever changed how we view and interact with the world, zero waste is a shift in our beliefs as to what constitutes waste.

More accurately, it’s a view that society’s attitude to waste needs to be completely re-thought.

The concept of “zero waste” is a new lens through which we can do a 180 on our perspective of garbage.  It is nothing less than a state of mind.

Before we talk about zero waste, however, we need to talk about waste. No other species generates garbage. Humans are the only one.

Waste plays no part in the natural world. In fact, there is no equivalent to garbage in the ecosystem. It simply does not exist.  One organism’s waste is another’s food. Mother Nature recycles, reuses, repurposes, reconstitutes everything; its a perfect system!

Waste and garbage are human creations that started with the industrial revolution, exploded with the advent of plastics, and have now become a fundamental aspect of our human industrial growth economy.

In fact, our economic system today – founded on the rapid purchase and disposal of “stuff” – requires constant and manufactured obsolescence (i.e., waste). The economic treadmill we’re running on cannot afford for us to reuse, recycle or repurpose.

And while our economy cannot live without waste, our ecosystem cannot live with it. We are left to choose between the ecosystem and the economy.

The problem really came with modern technology, specifically the invention of plastics. Plastic takes tens of thousands of years to decompose. And since the rise of its generalized use less than 50 years ago, plastics are everywhere now. And when plastics do finally decompose, they leave toxic fibers in their wake.

So, for the sake of discussion, let’s reimagine waste as by-product.  The by-products of making dinner, for instance, are food  scraps, peels, possibly a few bones. In turn, this becomes compost, food for animals or stock for soup. It’s not waste.

Likewise, the by-product of a construction project is firewood, materials for other projects or salvage to reuse on another build. Surplus old clothes become new quilts. And so on. This is not new thinking. Quite the contrary, it is extremely old and once commonplace logic for the countless generations before us that understood and lived with scarcity.

So what to do? We need to rethink waste. In fact, we need to stop thinking of waste as a something to get rid of.  Waste – I mean by-product – is an opportunity, it’s a resource, and more importantly, it’s a responsibility.

We can no longer be “wasters,” we must steward a healthy ecosystem for our kids.

Rather than automatically tossing stuff out, become a “recycler” or a “reuser.” Be creative! Take back your power to do it yourself. Fix that old whatever or turn it into something new!  Stop wasting.

Once you get the idea of zero waste, you’ll realize that it applies not just to stuff. It applies to time, energy, people. You’ll stop wasting hours in front of the TV and instead use your precious life-force to plant a garden, visit a friend or do some community work.

And let me leave you with one last thought. There is no better measure of our sustainability, of our resilience, than looking at our waste.  It’s the crap we leave in our collective cultural wake that is our legacy. Let’s not be wasters!

•••

Steve Unger writes for Zero Waste Sooke.

 

 

Just Posted

Province delivers notice of unauthorized occupation to Saanich tent city Camp Namegans

A Ministry of Transportation liaison to Camp Namegans delivered a “notice of… Continue reading

Campfire ban coming into effect across West Coast

The Coastal Fire Centre says bans will begin on Wednesday

LETTERS: It’s time to stop looking for excuses

Re: Proposed fishing restrictions will be devastating: officials I understand how those… Continue reading

UPDATE: Woman hit by car in parking lot 93 years old

Driver of sedan backs into older adult walking through lot

Delivery truck downs power lines in Sidney

A tractor trailer delivering eggs clipped a low-hanging wire on Second St.… Continue reading

Trudeau asks transport minister to tackle Greyhound’s western pullout

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s asked Transport Minister Marc Garneau to find solutions in Greyhound Canada’s absence.

Special forces unit to monitor Hells Angels ride on Vancouver Island

Enforcement unit says motorcycle club to hold 35th anniversary ride in Nanaimo

Hub for mental health and addictions treatment opens at B.C. hospital

St. Paul’s Hospital HUB is an acute medical unit that includes 10 patient beds

Saanich Police investigate store robbery

Store video captures image of suspect

Restaurant Brands International to review policy over poaching employees

One of Canada’s largest fast-food company to review ‘no-poach’ franchise agreements

Calgary family’s vacation ends in tragedy on Texas highway

Three people died and four others were injured in the crash

Union construction cost competitive, B.C. Building Trades say

Non-union firms can bid on infrastructure, but employees have to join international unions

Trudeau to shuffle cabinet ahead of Liberals’ team for 2019

Trudeau could lighten the work loads of cabinet ministers who currently oversee more than one portfolio

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 17

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Most Read