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Why I live low waste

For our future, for the Earth, and for my health

Where my passion for sustainability began

It all started when I moved out of my small town in Ohio. I grew up in Arcanum, a town of just over 2,000 people. We were a farming community 40 minutes from the closest city/river and roughly a 12-hour drive from the nearest ocean. You can listen to my full journey here

I just had no idea about the state of our Earth. I couldn't feel or see the effects of the rural Midwest.

I went off to join the Air Force, was at basic training for two months, and then moved to San Angelo, TX where I lived for eight months. This is where I finally noticed the effects of my (and everyone else's) everyday life. I noticed how many plastic bottles and cans were being thrown away every day at our dining facility and in our dorms and that is what first drew me into the "zero waste" movement. 

Our waste.

Don't get me wrong, I have always been passionate about the Earth. My mom always taught me to not be wasteful and we went thrifting often (two small yet important steps). I grew up on a farm and knew how to care for the land and grow my own food. But, my town was just too small to see how big of an impact we, as humans, have on this earth on a daily basis.

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My big project

Immediately upon starting class I asked my first instructor about recycling on base. I was informed that it was a thing a few years back but it cost the Air Force too much money to continue collecting and transporting recyclables. Texas (as with most US states) is a "non-incentive state" which means that they do not reward their citizens for recycling like California and Hawaii do with 5-10 cents per item, for example. 

 

I was appalled. This entire base with all of these students and no recycling program? I had to do something about it. I pitched an idea that maybe some students with cars could get together and haul the recycling to a near by facility but I got no response from leadership.

After Christmas break, I now had my car and a burning passion to get this program started. We had just gotten a new training leader who was also passionate about the Earth and she helped me start the recycling program in our dorm. I reached out to a local recycling facility who loaned us some bins and I began collecting recyclables for hundreds of students single-handedly. It was a big task but I was determined.

 

The point is, even though I did not get the chance to collect the recycling for the entire base, I collected it for a few hundred people for four months. That, in my mind, made a huge difference. 

Your actions may seem small, but just think of them in the long run; they might not seem so small after all.

Where I am now

After moving to Japan, that is when I got really serious about reducing my waste. I slowly bought the essentials: reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup, bamboo-ware, reusable straws, shopping bags, and produce bags on top of other things that might not be "essential" to everyone. I also packed my own lunch for work vs eating out, thrifted whenever possible instead of buying new, and started to buy less plastic whenever we went shopping. I even learned how to say "no bag, please" in Japanese.  

Living on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific really opened my eyes to the true crisis we have with litter and ocean debris. I go to the beach fairly often and whether I was intending to pick up litter or not, I always manage to leave with a (reusable) bag full. After realizing how important recycling was in Texas, Japan helped me realize how important reducing was.

Since then, I have begun to make a lot of my own food such as: breads, granola, tortillas, hummus, and much more. I have begun to be more conscious when I shop and ask myself questions such as: do I really need this, can I find it second hand, is it available in something other than plastic, and so forth. 

Here is something I NEVER thought I would say: I even ventured into the realm of veganism. I used to think it was crazy that people "went vegan for the Earth" but after educating myself, I found it to be true that industrial animal farming is one of the leading causes of CO2 emissions, a leading factor in climate change (I will touch on this more later)

Keep in mind that I am not perfect and no one truly is. What matters is that you find what drives you to help save the Earth little by little each day.

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Where can you begin?

You don't have to spring up a huge recycling project to show your love for the Earth (although that would be awesome!). But, here are some easy first steps to beginning your sustainability journey:

- knock out the big four: reusable water bottle, coffee cup,

cutlery, and shopping bags

- eat less meat

- carpool when possible

- switch to a renewable energy company

- buy and use less plastic

- pick up litter when you see it

These are just some beginner first steps. Although they may seem small, try to think about how many water bottles you (yes you, only one individual) can save from entering a landfill or the ocean every year if you switch to reusable. Now, think about how many that would be if you influenced 1 or 10 or 100 others to switch. You can have such an impact just by changing your life a little every day, into more sustainable habits.

Thanks for joining me on my journey; now, let's save the Earth.

"The smallest changes make the biggest impact when multiplied"

-Emma Dendler

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