Working towards a zero-waste home

It is difficult to live in a developed country without feeling somehow baffled by the amount of rubbish we throw away on a daily basis. There is this slight sense of shame that most of us feel when we carry our large plastic bags to the wheelie bin. My shame turned into despair when I became a father and I realized that my bin was just not big enough anymore. We all have a pretty fair idea of where our general waste ends up: it’s either incinerated or disposed of in landfills. Neither of those options sound very sustainable.

Concerned by our impact on the environment, as individuals, but also as a species, most of us would therefore consider recycling a very convenient solution. It doesn’t dramatically change our way of living and consuming, we just need to make a small effort to remove recyclable materials from our rubbish. Sadly (without even considering the additional energy required to recycle and the pollution potentially generated in the process), there is one major issue with recycling: some materials such as plastics cannot be infinitely recycled.

So, is the only option to eliminate our waste once and for all? When I submitted the idea to my wife, her usual calm and methodical personality dear to the people of England was betrayed by a slight expression of panic. “We don’t have time for this,” was her first reaction: I told myself that this could be good material for my personal leadership challenge!

While trying to create change in my family and motivate them to look for zero waste solutions, we will measure our progress by weighing our weekly rubbish before disposing of it. In two years from now, I would like my bin to receive only a third of what we put in it today… Let’s the challenge begin!



One Comment

  1. Great challenge, Nicolas! Reducing your household waste by one-third in two years is attainable, assuming your family is board. Or, if they’re not on board and you’re a family of three then you can do zero-waste on your own and still achieve your goal (I was wondering how you came up with one-third)!

    When you mentioned your kids I immediately thought of diapers. If the kids are in diapers, you might also have some potty-training to do to reach your goal.

    While reading your post I also thought of the 3R principle that came up during our Circular Economy module. As you probably recall the principle goes —Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, in that order. The order is significant and something I only started to think about fairly recently. As a kid growing up there was a song that played on comericals that went — “Recycle, reduce, reuse and close the loop. You can close the loop (repeat).” Either the song writers were clueless or they intentionally sacrificed the order of the 3R principle for the catchy jingle that I still remember nearly 30 years later. Anyway, just as I was beginning to enjoy the newly discovered order of the 3R principle, I came across a 5R principle! The 5R principle goes as follows, in this order—Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refurbish, Recycle. Even better as there are more solutions to consider.

    I hope that the jingle from my youth (for your kids), the 3R principle (for your wife) and the 5R principle (for you) will help you and your family achieve your goal! Best of luck!



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