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What Does It Take to be a Zero Waste Organic Parent?

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It’s a new century, folks, and this one comes with three big R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Chances are that these three words aren’t unfamiliar to you and that you’ve tried to incorporate them into your daily life. To dub yourself a Zero Waste parent, however, you’re going to have to go a little further than remembering to separate the cap from the water bottle before tossing it in the blue bin.

“My top tip to get to Zero Waste is to adopt the Five R System,” says Bea Johnson, award-winning blogger and author of Zero Waste Home. That’s right – two more R’s! In addition to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, Johnson and fellow Zero Waste proponents practice Refuse and Rot. Let’s emulate the science experiment at work in your garbage can and break things down a bit:

1. Refuse. We all need to learn how to say no when it comes to junk mail or random freebies. If you don’t need it, don’t take it. Pre-opt out of junk mail using websites like Catalog Choice and 41 Pounds. Shredded mail can also be composted or used as padding in boxes.
2. Reduce. Get ready to throw the biggest garage sale in the neighborhood! Going Zero Waste means shedding some serious numbers. Limit the amount of furniture, clothing, and household items by asking yourself, Do we need this? If the answer is no, toss/donate it. If the answer is no but I’ll miss it, reserve a small amount of belongings to survive the purge as “sentimental keeps”. But don’t let sentimental feelings get in the way of your new minimalist lifestyle.
3. Reuse. Start by trading out all disposable containers and grocery bags for reusables ones(Yes, now you will have to remember your shopping bag when you head out to the grocery store). Trade out disposable containers and grocery bags, etc. for reusable ones. Buy used items whenever possible(You can find everything from clothes to building materials at reuse centers and consignment shops). Borrow, rent, or share items that are used rarely or randomly, like party decorations or tools.
4. Recycle. You’ve refused, reduced, and resused, and there are still items left over in your house! What to do with these objects? Recycle! Check your local recycling center for rules regarding separating materials and which materials you can send for recycling.
5. Rot. Compost is the best gift you can give to your garden but it might also be the best gift for your kitchen! Implementing a composting system in your household gives your excess food a significantly more useful role than waiting for a garbage truck to haul it off.

The internet is full of helpful tips to get you started on the 5 R’s and hack your way towards being a full-fledged Zero Waster. It takes work but in a society with a reputation for loving materialism, Zero Waste parenting says “Less is more” and learning how to live with less is something worth teaching our children.

Less clutter leaves more room—both physically and mentally—for home dwellers to rest and focus. A cleaner home with minimal possessions may have positive effects on the work productivity, stress levels, and creativity of both parent and child.

The effects of Zero Wasting can be more tangible, as well. As more states pass laws regulating plastic bag waste, it’s becoming common for stores to charge a fee for checkout bags. Five or ten cents may not seem like much to tack on at the end of your weekly shopping bill but the fix is comparably so much nicer: hang a reusable shopping bag by your front door or keep a “car bag” under the driver’s seat for charge-free grocery shopping.

“You don’t need to have twenty of them, you just need to have a few that you know will fill your family’s needs. In my case, it’s three large totes,” says Bea Johnson of her grocery shopping routine.

Choosing organic is a major part of following the Zero Waste parenting style. By now you already know that organic is a good idea because you know– if it has been labeled with the Certified USDA seal– that harmful pesticides were not administered onto or into the food in any way. But organic products are also less likely to be distributed in bulky, unrecyclable packaging– the very type of materials that Zero Waste parents try to limit in their households. After all, candy bar wrappers don’t work well in the compost pile.

Following any of the 5 R’s can help reduce your carbon footprint. Equally important is how a parent’s aspiration towards a Zero Waste lifestyle helps set an example for a child to be environmentally responsible in their own life.

 
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