My Goal For Minimal Waste

Waste. It’s an unfortunate side effect of the consumer economy we live in.

With me saying that you, probably think I’m some sort of hippy or tree hugger. I’m not even close to that. I just have a healthy respect for the environment. I am also conscious that there are things I can do to be a better steward of it. Most true tree huggers wouldn’t accept me as part of their group anyway. I mean I literally drive 30-40,000+ miles a year. They’d probably claim I was one of the worst offenders and couldn’t care less about the planet.

In the whole scheme of things, I’m trying to live in a modern society with a goal to minimize waste. For me, I take a more holistic approach to what I view as waste. When most people think of waste, they think of physical waste. Basically, they think the stuff that you throw in the trash.

When I look at waste, I also see things like time, money, or any other resource. That’s how I figure out if it’s worth it to take a toll road. Not taking the toll road might save me a little gas and money in tolls, but it costs me more in time. Is it more wasteful to spend money on tolls or take the extra time on a non-toll route?

When it comes to vehicles, I drive one of the most fuel-efficient cars on the market. My 2017 Ford Focus has a 1.0 EcoBoost in it. I’ve got over 50mpg in it and get mad when I get under 30mpg. Typically if I’m under 40mpg on the highway, I start questioning if something is wrong.

I may drive a ton, but I drive in the least wasteful (in my opinion) manner possible. My car is as efficient as many hybrids, but half the cost to buy. I’ve eliminated both waste in how much fuel I consume and also the money spent on a car.

When it comes to physical waste, I take a little stricter stance. I’ll reuse water bottles and refill them. I try to recycle when possible. I often buy in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging needed. For the most part, I try to keep physical waste as low as possible.

There are times when it’s not practical to minimize physical waste. There might not be a good spot to refill water bottles, but you need water anyway. Maybe it’s in a rural area that doesn’t recycle or have an easy place to refill the bottles. I still need water and don’t want to let the garbage pile up in my car. I’ll buy new water bottles and throw out the old ones.

Some physical waste is going to happen. That’s the reality of being human. Even in non-consumer societies, there’s still waste that’s chucked into the environment. You can’t fully eliminate physical waste.

Where I take my strictest stance is food waste, especially with meat. I’m no animal rights activist, but I feel if a living being was killed for food it better not go to waste. To me letting meat go to waste is disrespectful. Something had to die to be on my plate, and I feel that wasting meat is letting it die in vain. I personally try to finish all meat on my plate if I know I won’t be able to eat everything.

When it comes to non-meat food, I also do my best to minimize what goes to waste. I feel fortunate to live in a country where there is an overabundance of calories. Our food-related issues do not stem from starvation and lack of food. They stem from too many calories leading to things like diabetes and heart disease.

Sometimes it’s not practical to eliminate food waste. As I said, the overabundance of calories leads to insanely sized portions. These portions are often enough calories for an adult for a day or two. Trying to down them all in one meal is sometimes impossible.

I try to get to-go boxes, but when you travel, there’s often no refrigeration. I’m not going to create a health hazard for myself because I don’t want to waste food. It’s also not worth spending $5 on ice to save $1 of food to keep it in a cooler. I’ll try to eat everything I can, especially the meat. Unfortunately, some of the food will get tossed. That’s a reality of traveling and eating out.

When it comes to sampling local products, I try not to waste anything. I will often buy the smallest sample sizes I can. I sample a lot of different things and make it my goal to consume the entirety of what I buy. I will do this whether or not I like the product. If I do like the product, I can always buy larger quantities later.

When I buy local products, I mainly focus on non-perishable foods. If I do buy perishable foods, I will prioritize and consume them first before they go bad. For foods like salsa that become perishable once opened, I will wait until I’m at home or in a hotel with a fridge. I will then make sure to consume all of it.

When I’m at home, I have close to zero food waste. I make a conscious effort to make sure everything I buy is consumed before it goes bad. It’s rare any food gets tossed. Besides being physically wasteful, it’s wasting money to throw out food.

When it comes to generating waste, I’m not perfect. I know I generate waste and sometimes more waste than I could be. Sometimes not wasting time or money takes priority over physical waste. It’s a delicate balancing act.

I try to always be aware of where I’m generating waste and look to minimize it. While some people strive for “zero waste,” I think that’s an impossible goal. There’s always going to be waste in one element or another. My goal is to dance that fine line of balancing the different elements of waste. I still want to function normally in modern society but do so in the least wasteful way.

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