By Anne Rivas
After the excesses of the holiday season, I usually want to start over, to clear out extraneous stuff. Most of us make resolutions to lose weight, get organized, live more mindfully, become better people.
I recently read Zero Waste Home, by Bea Johnson. While I doubt that I will ever reach her level of waste reduction, I do think she has a point. My takeaway from her book, her 5 R’s:
“Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse, and Rot (Compost) the rest.”
Refuse (the verb). Just because something is recyclable, is that a reason to use it? In practical terms, this means bringing silverware to work instead of using and recycling plastic forks and spoons. It means using a refillable water bottle and making tea in a mug. Ideally, I would bring my lunch every day in a re-usable container, avoiding the dreaded Styrofoam Clamshell of Doom.
Reduce. Isn’t that what we focus on in January? Clearing out drawers and closets? Getting organized means organizing my stuff. So how much stuff do I need? More to the point, how much time do I want to spend taking care of my stuff? Do I really need two closets, one for the clothes that fit me now and one for the clothes I hope to fit into again someday? Does donating the smaller clothes mean giving up hope? Why do I panic when I contemplate letting go of what I don’t use? Who am I without my stuff?
Reuse. Donating counts as reusing. Google “Where to donate in Omaha NE.” Reuse meat bones and vegetable trimmings, onion skins, mushroom stems, etc. for broth instead of buying ready-made broth. Then, after all of the goodness has been extracted from your vegetable trimmings, strain the broth and compost the leavings. How’s that for reuse? Bones attract critters, so keep them out of your compost.
Recycle. We already do that, right?
Rot. I’m good at Rot. Did you know that you can put shredded home-office paper in your compost? Here is a list of compostable items.
Really, this boils down to two main actions: decide what I want in my life, which scares me all to pieces, and conscientiously reuse, recycle, and rot the rest.