Zero Waste Wednesday
Who doesn't love a good challenge where you alliterate an activity with a day of the week?
Today I want to talk about Zero Waste Wednesday.
This is a hashtag you might sometimes see floating around on Twitter or Instagram, usually by people trying to reduce the amount of waste they produce.
I've been thinking about this concept and decided to create a few rules so that this concept can be applied consistently by anyone seeking to reduce their environmental footprint.
You are not allowed to produce any waste on Wednesday. This means you are not allowed to do anything that results in the need to use a bin, or even a recycling bin. Creating waste that is compostable is fine.
You can produce waste while preparing for Zero Waste Wednesday, meaning you can take some food from its packaging on a Tuesday and store it in a reusable container, and then consume it on Wednesday (more on this later).
You cannot consume anything that could result in waste. For example, lets say I have a bag of walnuts (and I do) that is full. On Zero Waste Wednesday I cannot eat from that bag because if there was only one walnut left in the bag it would result in waste. Basically when consuming anything you need to act as if it is the end of the packet/box/whatever - which means waste.
Restaurants are Ok - however you cannot use paper napkins, straws or anything that ends up as someone else's waste (this includes a box used to take left overs home - you’ve gotta bring your own).
Mathematically, if one million people individually produce 10g a day of waste then they collectively produce 10 tonnes (that number is likely a lot higher, one coke can = 15g) .
10 tonnes of waste in a single day.
Not on Zero Waste Wednesday though - 10 tonnes becomes zero.
I figure there are some questions that everyone will have about the rules so I'll answer them here.
Why can't I recycle?
Recycling is great, everyone should of course do it - however it is always worth remembering that the thing you recycled had to be made in the first place.
That means carbon was produced.
Not allowing recycling on Zero Waste Wednesday is just a gentle reminder that excessive consumption of packaged products has a significant cost when looked at collectively.
It’s also worth remembering that things cannot be recycled indefinitely. Most plastic can be recycled 1-2 times. For paper it’s 5-7 times.
Don't I just produce the same amount of waste but on a different day?
Following these rules will still result in waste being produced. You just produce extra waste on Tuesday prepping food or whatever else for Wednesday.
This is absolutely true.
However, prepping for Zero Waste Wednesday will reveal to you just how much waste you produce in a single day.
Being able to see the sum total of your waste production laid out in a single pile should be an insightful, possibly shocking and definitely valuable exercise for everyone involved.
The thing is, if you want to make improvements to anything you must first measure and understand your starting point. Once you do that, making incremental improvements is a lot easier and you will have learned how to assess your activities which you can then do repeatedly from there on out.
Future / Potential waste
It might be a bit harsh to deny you the ability to eat anything from packaging, even if the packaging doesn't end up in the bin that day. However, this is a very important rule.
This packaging can be seen as potential waste, or future waste.
On Zero Waste Wednesday future waste is still waste. Thinking about it any other way results in loopholes.
For example you could eat something with wasteful packaging and just throw the packaging away the next day - resulting in no waste on the day.
That's not cool and defeats the whole purpose.
What does it all mean?
This zero waste challenge is all about understanding just how much waste you produce on a day to day basis - which for most people I would guess is a lot.
It's about being mindful of your own footprint.
With that in mind I'd like to propose an extra rule:
Don't beat yourself up if you don't hit absolute zero for waste production.
You haven't failed, you have just learned how hard it is to not produce waste in today’s society. Take it as a lesson and try again next week.
Can you manage it?
It sounds easy, right?
Just one day...
Waste Free Weekdays
The next step after Zero Waste Wednesday is Zero Waste Weekdays.
If you find ZWW (Zero Waste Wednesday) to be too easy then try ZWWD (Zero Waste Weekdays).
The rules are the same, they are just being applied from 00:01 Monday to 17:00 Friday (we all know the weekend starts at 5pm of Friday).
Try it and share your successes and your struggles. Not with me, but with your friends and family. Get people talking and trying it out.
Remember that the potential win here is saving on tonnes of waste every day, as well as deepening your own understanding of consumption and waste.