Holyoke, MA

Can you fit four years of trash into a 16-ounce Mason jar? Laura Singer did!

Jayne B. Stearns

The average Holyoker generates over 4 pounds of trash every day, which, if you pull out your calculator, equals about 1.5 tons of solid waste per year.

And that’s a lot of trash.

Over the decades we’ve managed to make progress with recycling, and since the ’70s, an increasing number of young and retired people began to compost much of their trash, then dump the rest. Even municipalities began to care about recycling. It’s been a decades-long process reaching toward zero waste and it’s encouraging to see the blue recycle bins on the Holyoke streets, along with the regular refuse containers. Still, there’s more we can do as individuals.

Laura Singer, who went viral for fitting four years of unrecyclable waste into a 16 oz. mason jar, hasn’t produced any waste since 2012. Good for her! Right? She also founded “Trash is For Tossers” as a personal blog documenting her personal journey of reducing her waste to zero while selling all sorts of sustainable products minus the packaging that kills the environment.

How do you get from 1.5 tons of trash per year to zero?

It's not easy.

Kathryn Kellog, blogger at Going Zero Waste, says it requires being mindful of each product you buy and it necessitates rethinking your life and making it a habit,

And it all begins with the packaging.

Being environmentally conscious is an intentional way of life for zero-wasters. The less waste we have, the least amount of trash we need to drag to the curb, dumpster, or load on the back of a pick-up and drive to the nearest landfill. In the meantime, we’re saving the environment for our grandchildren.

Here are some beginner tips:

Forego using any containers that are not recyclable. For instance, Whole Foods carries flours, beans, rice, dried foods, and nuts in bulk where you can scoop your own products into your own reusable containers.

  • Use your own cloth grocery bags.
  • Drink from a reusable bottle
  • Brush your teeth with a bamboo brush instead of plastic and make your own toothpaste with coconut oil, essential oil, and baking soda.
  • Buy clothes second hand
  • Use cloth napkins even when out to eat.
  • Refuse plastic straws in drinks in restaurants
  • Begin composting your garbage and compostable paper products
  • Make your own cleaning products
  • Make your own soap and shampoo bars
  • Cook large meals ahead of time and freeze them.
  • Purchase your meats at a butcher shop and bring your own container.
  • Cook and bake from scrap
  • Shop at Farmer’s Markets

Try to avoid packaging of all sorts and avoid plastics. Stick with the recyclables of glass, aluminum, and paper. And only purchase what you need at one time because your food will spoil sooner when you’re not buying highly processed packaged foods. Yeah, this may mean more visits to the big-bad-grocery-store.

It’s an ironic but necessary truth that foods are processed to prolong their shelf life, but that same processing shortens ours.

Ultimately, growing your own fruits and vegetables would save many trips to the grocery and eliminate having to deal with packaging. And since you only need one-half acre to grow enough food for a four-person family, this is doable for some.

For the rest of us? We’ll start buying mason jars and meet you at the farmer’s market.

Sources:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "Municipal Solid Waste." Web Accessed December 13, 2021:

https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-

https://trashisfortossers.com/four-years-of-trash-one-jar-whats-in-my

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Jayne is a freelance writer, published poet, and award-winning playwright who specializes in writing human interest stories and anything else that satisfies a multitude of curiosities.

Holyoke, MA
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