As the month of January ends, so does our challenge. It has been a wonderful and stressful past few weeks as I try a different challenge all month long. I feel that I have learned so much information in the past few weeks and that I have educated myself more than ever. Experiences are some of the best teaching tools one can have, and as I reflect on my journey this month I realized that I left my biggest challenge for last. This challenge was one I was dreading due to the intense requirements.
For anyone who strives to be sustainable, producing no waste is a big goal. It requires the utmost dedication to change a very integral part of your life. However, I believe it should be something we should all strive to achieve. The reason I believe producing no waste is important is because the United States makes an average of 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day, higher than the global average of 2.6 pounds. More shockingly, and personal was the fact that California is the 4th largest producer of trash in the United States.
If you have read our previous blog on the great Pacific garbage patch (insert link) you will remember that the West coast, including California, is a large contributor to ocean pollution. This inspired and gave me the courage to try the no waste challenge. As a California it should be my duty to be part of a solution instead of contributing to the problem.
Creating no waste is not just a movement it is a lifestyle. It takes time for them to be placed into effect and requires changing integral parts of your life. You must change everything in your life and it can be difficult because there will always be residual items that you forget about in the beginning. I wanted to be realistic with my goals and expectations, and to be honest there is no way I could possibly be able to change every aspect in my life in one week. My goal was instead of creating no waste, I should compromise and produce less than the global average of 2.6 pounds per day.
With the challenge of last week being officially over, I was happy to be able to eat an unrestricted diet. In the morning I ate toast and vegan butter and later in the day my mother brought me some home cooked food. It was very sweet of her to take time out of her day to bring me something to eat, and since she brought me everything in reusable containers, I didn’t create any waste.
The first day for this challenge was the foundation for the rest of the week. I had to be able to understand what was defined as waste and what could be reused or recycled. I know food waste is a big issue in America and I did not want to have my food end up in a landfill. My father an avid gardener has a compost pile and kindly agreed to let me compost my discarded food. He is a shy and private man, so he did not let me film or photograph his garden and compost. I decided that if I couldn’t recycle or compost an item, it would be considered waste.
I did have to work on Enji that day, so most of my food came from my home. I did not create waste except for the corn husks left over from the tamales my mother brought me. My father had to inform me that dried corn husks are too tough to place in his compost and that I should discard them instead.
Day 2 to 3:
Tuesday and Wednesday of January are usually busy since our miniseries challenge is being edited and in the final stages of production. I worked from home those days and only went out side briefly to pick up some mail. I was very pleased to see that I had received a package on Tuesday and when I got home I realized that I had completely forgotten I had ordered the item over three weeks ago.
Like I said the biggest obstacle of this challenge is trying to alter every aspect of your life. The package I had ordered came in a plastic lined envelope and couldn’t be recycled, and it had to go in the waste. This was not the last time I forgot either. On Wednesday I had a candle burn out and die, and although the glass container was recyclable, the wax inside was not. Not only that but I thought that if I bought some fast food, I could recycle the plastic bag. I foolishly forgot about the tissue paper used to wrap the food, and since it was soiled I couldn’t recycle it.
Something special occurred on Thursday, it was my birthday, and I went out to a dinner with my significant other. Because we dined in a moderately fancy restaurant we didn’t have as much waste compared to a fast food place. The napkins were cloth and all the foods were served in reusable dishes. Although we had a wonderful time, I forgot that we would eventually have to take the leftover food home, and I had left the Tupperware at home.
Not wanting to leave copious amounts of food behind, we took home two hard paper containers. It made me feel a bit better that I did not have to take a plastic container, and the material seemed like it could have been recycled. I was able to recycle the paper bag the restaurant gives us as well.
Having a celebratory event during this challenge was difficult. My brother bought me a single serving of chocolate cake in a plastic container without telling me, which made it frustrating to be happy and disappointed at the same time. Although the sentiment behind chocolate cake made me smile, the plastic container made me feel guilty about accepting it.
Friday was a busy day consisting of last minute arrangements before Team Enji left for Tucson. There were many things to do and final details to plan before I could even begin the weekend. I had to run out of the house for a bit since I had a few errands I had to do before all my visitors came. I bought groceries and drinks that relied on recyclable materials for their packaging.
When guests arrived, it was easy to keep things clean and waste friendly. I used towels instead of paper napkins and reusable glasses instead of plastic cups. The night was going well waste wise, until my friend Vanessa showed up. She came to my house with a big bag of burgers and fries. She loves to eat food with me since it was the main factor of our friendship and said she did not want me to go hungry and had bought me food for the long night ahead.
Although I was reluctant to take the food from her, I knew she was right and it was important for me to eat. I did not feel too bad as the only waste I had produced that day was a bunch of receipts all weighing less than a couple of ounces. I think that night I produced the most waste mostly due to the fast food my friend brought.
Day 6 to 7:
I went out of town Saturday to see some of my friends in the Los Angeles area. One of my close friends hosted me and two other people and we all had fun. Unfortunately, because it was my birthday weekend, they surprised me with a pizza party. I know is said it before, but it is very frustrating to have a birthday during this challenge. The tradition of surprising someone with a present during their birthday was one that aggravated me.
The aftermath of the game night was minimal, but still significant enough to notice. I did not partake in many of the communal snacks and drinks as I still wanted to be responsible. I simply ate one type of pizza, drank from a reusable glass, and ate from one bag of chips. I know it was a group effort to make all the waste for that day, but I felt responsible for creating it. Had it not been my celebration, we wouldn’t have had a communal meal.
Sunday was very unproductive. We sat in meetings all day and I ordered a simple Starbucks cup of coffee for breakfast. I had Starbucks pour my coffee in a reusable cup to reduce my impact from last night. Other than that, we spent most of our day either in the meeting or driving back to San Diego. Later that night I ordered some fast food to share with my significant other to help mark the official end of our miniseries challenge.
Overall, I want to say that my week went well and that I learned a lot about what is defined as waste. I feel that these challenges were an important experience to have. They helped put everything into perspective and helped me be more conscious about the way I use and dispose of resources. I was happy that as a Californian I was also able to be part of the solution, even if it was only for a week.
Looking over this past month, I realize that I had an impact. I eliminated greenhouse gases and pollution by not driving, supported local entrepreneurs and sustainable practices, reduced water consumption by eating a plant-based diet, and help redirect my waste into more sustainable practices. I took each challenge one day at a time and I believe that is the reason it is difficult to feel impactful, because you can’t see tangible results from your actions. I might feel like I did not accomplish much, but I know that my contributions have made a difference. Enji encourages everyone to help be part of the global solution toward sustainable practices.