June 7, 2013

Toward Zero Waste

Consumer cultures are marked by their wastefulness. In fact, the thing they are best at producing is prodigious waste.

Wastefulness serves an unfortunate purpose -  It indicates to ourselves and others that we are rich and have an abundance, extra, more than enough, a surplus. An extreme example would be lighting a cigar with a hundred dollar bill, but there are endless other less dramatic ways of being wasteful in every day life.

Using waste to elevate our status is unlikely to continue for long. It is unethical, uneconomical, inefficient and not very smart. This is where the zero waste movement comes in.

"Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. 
Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. 
Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health."
- Zero Waste International Alliance, 2004

If we want to do the right thing all we need to do is observe nature and mimic her ways. When we do this we quickly see that there is no waste in nature.

If there is no waste in nature, there can be no waste in the human world.

The current life cycle assessment of manufactured products known as 'cradle to grave' which tracks products from manufacture to disposal, must be replaced with 'cradle to cradle' which eliminates the disposal phase entirely.

Let there be a 'War on Waste' in our efforts toward becoming a Zero Waste world.


  1. The Northwestern University psychologist Galen V. Bodenhausen linked consumption with aberrant, antisocial behavior.

    1. Thanks for sharing that - I will be looking Bodenhausen up. He sounds like my kind of guy. I am sure the billions of people that can't meet their basic needs would agree with his assessment.

  2. Anonymous6/08/2013

    Check out Bea Johnson's blog Zero Waste Home. She and her family do an amazing job of showing everyday folks how to work toward zero waste. Her mantra is refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.

    1. Thank you for the reference. We love Bea's mantra, and chant it ourselves with regularity.


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