In today's culture, most people know about recycling. You know, just throw your plastic bottle or glass jar into the recycle bin and get that warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart. Fortunately, recycling is becoming more convenient, so more and more people are starting to do their part to take care of the earth. But will that be enough?
The truth is, probably not. Why? While you are being conscious and trying to “reduce, reuse, recycle", the trash you put in your trash can is only a tiny part of the problem. Most trash produced on our planet comes from the extraction industries, such as timber, petroleum, agriculture and mining, those that manufacture natural resources into finished products. (Source, World Resources Institute)
So even if you and your friends adopt super sustainable habits and tell everyone you know, that doesn't touch the huge amount of trash that happened before we even get a product into the store.
Taking care of our earth is not just our responsibility. We need to change the systems around us to prevent waste and protect our planet's resources.
“The Linear Production System: An Outdated 20th Century Approach"
Currently, our production system goes one way – from the earth to the dump. That's a pretty broken and senseless system, considering natural resources only last so long.
“The Zero Waste System: Meeting the Needs of the 21st Century and Beyond"
The Zero Waste system is cyclical, preventing wasteful and
polluting practices that lead to so much trash, and takes the discarded trash
and turns it into new products, feeding the local economy. A no-brainer,
really! It makes sure that very little waste is produced, and those pieces of
waste are then reused somehow, and takes the dumps, landfills and incinerators
out of the picture. And our earth can take a big, clean deep sigh of relief.
And you're thinking, “I want this in Indy!", right? Here's the good news: Indianapolis is incredibly lucky to have our own Zero Waste Warrior right here in our city: Piazza Produce. Located on the northwest side of Indy, they've been a regional distributor of fresh produce for almost 50 years. Now, they are leading the pack to “change the system" with their zero waste policies, and they're doing it while winning awards and turning heads.
Their journey to be a Zero Waste Warrior started out quietly in 2005. “Zero Waste" wasn't even on their radar. They simply wanted to reduce their growing waste costs. But once Scott Lutocka, the Facilities Manager, started really getting the ball rolling, he discovered the many wonders of zero waste. And in 2012, Piazza surpassed the coveted 90% landfill diversion rate and received the Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's Sustainability Award that year. In 2013, Piazza received the “A World of Difference" award for continued efforts in zero waste. And in 2014, Piazza received the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council's Gold Level Zero Waste Certification: the first certified Zero Waste business in Indiana!
(Source: Piazza Produce)
“We paid about $100,000 for waste removal in 2005. We were just looking for a way to manage expenses….By 2011, those expenses dropped to $15,800, with a total of 46,000 in rebates, netting the company more than $30,000." - Scott Lutocka, Facilities Manager
So how did Piazza accomplish this? Zero Waste is a Team Sport. Lutocka worked with Piazza's produce suppliers to eliminate trash components within packaging. An excellent example is a polystyrene foam insulation panel was glued to the cardboard box used for shipping fresh herbs. Piazza recycles Styrofoam and cardboard, yet the glue rendered the entire box trash. A simple call to the herb farmer resulted in elimination of the glue. All win: Piazza separates the polystyrene and cardboard for recycling; the farmer experienced reduced material and labor costs by eliminating the gluing process. (Source: Zero Waste is a Team Sport)
What is the impact? From 2005 to 2014, Piazza reduced the amount of trash sent to landfills from 2,415 tons per year to just under 19 tons in 2014. That comes out to 5,753 tons of trash recycled or reused by Piazza during that period! That's an incredible contribution by just one company that makes a lasting impact on our environment. What if more companies did the same? Why don't they today? (Source: Piazza Produce)
(Source: Piazza Produce)
How can I try it? Being a zero-waste warrior at home can be daunting but also fun and rewarding. Just like Piazza, it's a team effort between all members of your family and the producers of consumer products you let into your homes. Here are a few tips on how to get started:
1. Start composting! Did you know a pound a worms can eat half their weight every day?! That's keeping your food scraps out of the trash and converting it directly into nutrient-dense worm doo-doo for your flowers and veggies.
2. Contact the companies who make your product packaging and demand they use recycled materials or you will shop elsewhere
3. Stop and think before you throw anything into your trash. Can you recycle it? Can it be repurposed or reused for a fun, family craft or other project?
4. Be proactive in evaluating your product choices and consumption! Ask yourself, “Do I really need this or is it merely a 'want'?"