This is our attempt as a traveling military family to live the zero waste lifestyle.
This isn’t a recent idea, but it is an improved one. Brought up in a recycling family, I started my first recycling program in high school. I placed plastic-lined boxes beside each trashcan with a homemade sign that read, “Please place all cans, cardboard and plastic in this box. I’ll recycle it.” Each Friday my dad picked me up from school and emptied them with me. They were almost always full of trash.
In the military, I was the only cook in the missile field who recycled. The other cooks and facility managers made fun, telling me I was making my life difficult. Difficult was the word they used. To me, it was normal. The guilt of throwing recyclables in the trash kept me from sleeping at night.
I ran everything through the dishwasher with the dishes, stuffed it in three brimming garbage bags and took it with me. I didn’t have a car and had to wait to find someone to take me to the recycling center on base.
The dorm manager constantly ticketed me with failed dorm inspections, claiming “bags of trash” as the reason. Every week, I walked into his office to explain once again, “It isn’t trash, it’s recycling. I don’t have anyone to take me across base to get rid of it this week.” He never offered. It drove my roommate crazy.
It wasn’t until I got married, that I was officially introduced to composting. In the middle of Washington, D.C., in his backyard, the man composted. I thought he was an absolute genius.
Between composting everything and recycling everything else, we generated such a small amount of trash; I didn’t see a need to pay for trash pick-up by the city.
Some cities combine their recycling and trash pick-up programs. Others combine trash pick-up with the use of city water. The next city we move to though–I might just be able to cancel trash pick-up, altogether.
When I saw the video clip of the Johnson family and their “zero waste lifestyle” from the Today Show, I now had a word for it. The lack of clutter, the orderly, organized,smooth run of things in their household. Aha! I’ve found what I couldn’t put into words. Zero waste lifestyle–generating absolutely no trash. That’s the goal.
Granted, it’s a bit more of a challenge as a military family when we’re constantly moving. There aren’t always bulk stores near by, or a chance to plant a garden, with every move it’s different. But as the Marines say, “Improvise, adapt, overcome.” We can do this.
The more I read and the more I research, I’m finding there are SO many more things we could be doing. It’s exciting and fun to see what we can implement next.