Janell Says: Working Towards a Zero Waste Life

Janell Schroeder is the Document Control & Certification Specialist at IN. She loves spreading the word about sustainability, tending to her urban garden and sailing in the summertime.
November 09, 2015

Janell Schroeder is the Document Control & Certification Specialist at IN. She loves spreading the word about sustainability, tending to her urban garden and sailing in the summertime.

Have you ever heard of zero waste? It’s a philosophy that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused. It’s also gaining steam as a lifestyle movement – blogs like Zero Waste Home and Trash is for Tossers have become popular guides for living trash-free.

It might sound daunting to switch to a zero waste lifestyle, but maybe less so when you consider this: the average person in the U.S. creates about 4.3 pounds of waste per day–about the size of a very cute and very small dog.

We work really hard as a company to compost and recycle everything we can at IN HQ, effectively diverting 88% of our waste out of the landfill / incinerator. We do this by focusing on eco-friendly alternatives. Rather than foam peanuts, our products are shipped with Geami paper, which is an eco-friendly alternative to standard, less sustainable shipping materials. And we also choose the highest post-consumer recycled content for all plastic packaging, including tubes.

That’s why I was so excited to attend the 1st annual Zero Waste Summit this past September, hosted by Eureka Recycling in Minneapolis. The speakers ranged from recycling industry leaders to businesses that make products exclusively from recycled goods–so cool!

I really appreciated that each individual speaking at the summit discussed a different hot topic they found to be a problem, and then figured out a way to be the change they wanted to see. Here are a few amazing companies and projects that are doing a lot of great, important work in the Twin Cities:

Andy Papacosta of Gandhi Mahal spoke about the tilapia aquaponics system in the basement of their restaurant. Using this system, they grow some of the herbs used in their restaurant in addition to partnering with 14 local farmers. This past year they even added beehives to the roof of their restaurant! Talk about talking the talk and walking the walk. These folks are going all out for sustainability. It’s also open for a tour any time–highly recommended.

Tech Dump is a non-profit organization that recycles and refurbishes electronics. In 2014, 41.8 million tons of electronics were discarded globally. Tech Dump recycled 4 million pounds last year. They encourage folks to ‘see the value of stuff’ meaning that there is value in electronic waste. They also give permanent jobs to at-risk people.

YOXO toys in St. Paul makes cool toys using recycled wood. All of the toys are made of material that can also be recycled or composted. The key take-away from his speech is: We are right, so be bold and just keep doing it!

Perhaps the most important idea I heard at the summit is that small efforts collected together make a big impact. Which got me thinking–we all can really make an immediate difference in the waste we produce just by changing a few small things in our daily lives. Here are three easy ways to reduce your waste:

1. Shop bulk at co-ops and embrace reusable containers. You’ll be more inspired to make your own lunch for work at home, which will save you money AND reduce waste. Win win!

2. Refuse plastic disposable drinking straws and Styrofoam to-go-ware at restaurants. Instead, go straw-free and ask for foil when you want to take food home–all commercial kitchens should have this available. Milo Cress, a 10-year-old who started a campaign against disposable drinking straws after seeing them create so much waste, inspired me to ditch straws for good. It may not seem like much, but 127 school buses full of drinking straws go to the landfill in the US each day. Cutting out straws–and encouraging your friends and family to do so too–can make a huge impact on the environment.

3. Bring your own reusable cup when meeting friends for coffee or tea. Reduce the use of the plastic hot cup to-go lids, as they are usually made of resin code 6 polystyrene plastic which is generally not wanted on the used commodities/ recycling market. It means that even if you put the lid in the recycle bin, it will not be re-used, as there is no real use for the recycled material. These plastic lids will then end up either in a landfill or an incinerator.

Make sure to share this post with friends and family so we can all work towards living a zero waste life.