Zero-Waste Workshop (April 6, 2019)

I hosted a workshop and Q&A in Baton Rouge on April 6 at White Star Market. I was grateful so many people attended and many of those were already living waste-conscious lives. It was so cool to see people in South Louisiana deeply care. Even with a fire alarm in the beginning of our conversation, everyone was super nice and down to learn more.


Quite a few people told me they wanted to come but had work / other obligations and had to miss the workshop. I’m posting the notes from the presentation here, along with a link to a google sheets that has links.

What is zero-waste?

“zero-waste” describes a philosophy where all products are reused. The goal is to make no trash. Other ways to describe this movement are by calling it, “waste-conscious,” “low-waste,” or as the “low-impact movement.”

A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.

  • In 2013, Americans generated about 254 million tons of trash and recycled and composted about 87 million tons of this material, equivalent to a 34.3 percent recycling rate.

  • Every year, each American throws out about 1,200 pounds of organic garbage that can be composted.

The problem with plastics:

  • They don’t go away: According to NOAA, the most commonly used plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces called microplastics that never fully degrade in the ocean. Instead, they exist indefinitely, and their negative impact on the ecosystem continues in a neverending nightmare

  • According to a new report launched by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation at the World Economic Forum, new plastics will use 20 percent of all oil production within 35 years, up from an estimated five percent today.

  • Over 40% of all plastic is purely single-use.

What is the meat industry doing to our planet?

  • In order to meet the demand for meat, countries across the globe are bulldozing huge swaths of land to make more room for animals as well as crops to feed them.

  • Water usage - a single pig consumes 21 gallons of drinking water per day, while a cow on a dairy farm drinks as much as 50 gallons daily.

  • Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. Producing a little more than 2 pounds of beef causes more greenhouse-gas emissions than driving a car for three hours.

Food Waste

Food waste that ends up in landfills produces a large amount of methane – a more powerful greenhouse gas than even CO2.

Accessibility: Can everyone live a “zero-waste” lifestyle?

When talking about pursuing personal sustainability, it’s important to include the discussion about privilege and agency because not every single person can choose to live this kind of lifestyle. Lack of education, access to resources, geographic location, class, race, and ability all factor into the ability to make choices, make choices for the environment, and to even know that you should (or could) make different decisions.

This is one of the many reasons why it is not the responsibility of the individual consumer to change the market. It is the responsibility of large businesses, and the government, to make changes that benefit everyone.

What can you do?

  • You can carpool, or use public transportation / bike or walk and use your car less

  • You can eat less meat. You don’t have to give up eating all meat to just eat it less.

  • Use energy more consciously! Turn out your lights, etc.

  • You can eat real food and avoid food wrapped in plastic

  • Try eating for here at restaurants instead of taking food to-go, if you don’t want to bring a reusable container around with you

  • Refuse single-use plastic. Decline shopping bags, straws, cups, plastic utensils, etc.

  • Bring your own water bottle and don’t accept plastic water bottles / drinks in plastic.

  • Cook more! If you hate cooking, try getting together with a friend

  • Shop more frequently for less food.

  • Buy secondhand and try to mend, reuse or trade/borrow instead of immediately buying new

  • Avoid synthetic products like nylon, organza, faux leather, faux fur, polyester, elastane, polyamide, nylon, viscose, spandex and lycra. Buy natural products instead like: silk, organic cotton, wool and linen. If you’re vegan for ethical reasons, maybe consider buying wool secondhand, or not at all based on your convictions.

  • Try shopping differently: gravitate away from plastic and toward loose foods (bulk sections!!), cardboard packaged and glass packaged-items

  • Compost! Find a compost bin, build one, use worms, etc. Freeze scraps too.

Below is a link to a list of zero-waste stores where you can buy items to help live a zero-waste life. These stores are owned by real people who package thoughtfully and deeply care. This is a great alternative to buying items from Amazon. The spreadsheet was built considering Baton Rouge, LA as the location where people are looking at it. The states of the stores are included. Anything in green is closest geographically to Baton Rouge.

Emily McCollister