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Take the Zero-Waste October Challenge

October 1, 2018

Zero-Waste is the practice of limiting – to near zero – the amount of trash and recycling one makes. It heavily focuses on the first and most important (and oft under-utilized) of the 3Rs: Reduce. Aiming for zero-waste pushes us to move away from single-use products towards reusable alternatives.

Why is zero-waste important? First, and more obviously, trash doesn’t decompose in a landfill and worse, it can contribute toward landfill methane emissions that feed climate change.

But why limit recyclables? Because even if a single-use item is recyclable it takes a lot of energy to harvest the resource needed to produce the item, make the product, and ship it for it to be used only briefly before it is tossed in the recycling. Recycling in in turn often travels a long distance and then requires energy and water resources to be re-processed (albeit less than a product made from non-recycled materials). The quote below sums it up pretty well:

Lastly, add on “transport it to a landfill” or the entire process of recycling and reproducing a product to get the full costs of single-use items. You can substitute almost any disposable item for “spoon”.

Compare that to a reusable item, such as a reusable water bottle that can replace hundreds of disposable bottles in your lifetime. It is made once, reused many times and simply washed in between, until, perhaps one day, it can no longer be used.

In brief, going zero-waste means making no trash by reducing what you need, prioritizing the use of reusable items over single-use, and choosing the compostable or recyclable option that makes the least waste when reusable isn’t possible. In the end, it’s not about perfection but progress towards creating less waste and reducing your environmental footprint. Let’s get started!

The 31-Day Zero Waste Challenge 

Take on the Zero-Waste October Challenge in your classroom to get started on the path toward zero-waste. You’ll be guided in evaluating waste, and simple steps to cut back. Learn more about the-31 day challenge here. Check out a preview of the daily themes below.

There are resources specifically for schools and the Plastic Pollution Coalition has a useful write-up about Zero-Waste October. SCARCE can help you get started with a waste audit or program to supplement your zero-waste efforts.

NGSS Connections

Zero-Waste October can foster ideas, discussions and activities that connect to NGSS standards in the disciplinary core ideas of Earth Materials and Systems, Natural Resources, Human Impacts on Earth Systems, Global Climate Change (consider the fossil fuels used to make and transport disposable items, the impact of food waste on climate change and more), and Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience. In addition to standards that connect to investigation, and the potential for solutions through engineering and technology.


October 1, 2018
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