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Oregon Family Magazine

Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle

04/01/2020 08:51PM ● By Sarah Grimm, Lane County Waste Management
It’s not easy to create a zero waste home. But the efforts you make to get as close as possible can create positive change for you and your family, in many ways.  Ernest Callenbach (Author of Ecotopia, 1975) describes the “Green Triangle” between the health of our planet, personal health, and personal finances. 

When modifying behaviors for environmental reasons - like riding a bike to work for example – one also achieves well-known health benefits and improves finances by reducing gasoline consumption. Drying clothes on a line instead of a dryer saves electricity, reduces pollution, and has the added benefit of exercise which is good for the body. Even taking a bus to work/school or avoiding buying the latest gadget brings a trifecta of benefits.

With 40% of greenhouse gasses known to cause climate change being emitted by the industries that make and deliver all the stuff we buy, reducing wasteful purchases not only saves money, it improves our environment, which is, of course, directly connected to our personal health.

Seven Ways to Save Money (and the environment):

Eliminate Disposable Products. There may be some things you’re not quite ready or willing to give up just yet; but by eliminating conveniences such as disposable cleaning wipes, single serve snack foods, Keurig cups, plastic wrap, paper towels, bottled water, etc., you can expect your budget to get a healthy boost.

Eat Real Food.  Also, don’t eat too much, and eat mostly plants.  This idea comes from Michael Pollan’s book, Food Rules. The idea comes from a personal health perspective, but it—along with avoiding food waste is also the #1 most effective way families can reduce climate change emissions on a day-to-day basis.

Avoid Prepared, Packaged Foods. While convenient, and sometimes necessary, pre-packaged foods often contain excessive salt, sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients to extend shelf life and palatability.  The added processing and package manufacturing causes significant air pollution and greenhouse gasses.

Shop at Home First When Planning Meals. When it comes time for meal planning, check your fridge and freezer first, and put a priority on using up foods that may go bad if not used soon. Also, look through cupboards and the pantry to make sure you don’t accidently double-buy.

NEVER Let Food Go to Waste.  Use leftover veggies in quiches, pizzas, and soups. Use bruised or old fruit to make a quick jam, sauce, smoothie, or freeze for summer snacks.  Old bread makes great croutons, bread pudding, egg strata, or dry and grind them up to make your own breadcrumbs! 

Compost the Rest. If you have curbside garbage service in Eugene, you can put food scraps in your yard debris cart now. Otherwise, starting a compost pile, earth machine, or worm bin is easier than you think. Visit for ideas and instructions for this Earth friendly option – and include the kids!

Shopping at Farmer’s Markets is a great family activity.  Kids love to see all the variety, and the experience teaches good values.  The food is more nutritious, fresh, grown locally, and free of excess packaging. As a bonus, you can usually reuse egg cartons, berry baskets, and produce bags. 

Change can be hard… So, take your time, and go one step at a time!  Enjoy the process – and modify it to suit your family’s personal needs and lifestyle.  Do it for yourself, your children, and our planet Earth. Enjoy the warm satisfaction that you are doing what you can to give your family a healthy home, and livable future.