A few months ago, I came across an email from Hennepin County seeking households for its next Zero Waste Challenge. Reduce waste? Make some lifestyle changes? Sure, why not! We were an environmentally aware family, but definitely had tons of room for improvement. I applied, and quickly forgot about it.
In mid-August, I received our confirmation email that we had been selected to join the next challenge group! Our tasks and expectations for the program:
- Attend one introductory training and one low-waste topic workshop
- Adopt actions to reduce the amount of waste created in their households
- Track and report the waste their household generates for four weeks at the beginning and end of the challenge
- Commit to the entire 8-month challenge
I found myself wondering, “What did I sign up for??” How would our family of five be able to make long-term changes? Would we be counting every ounce of waste we produced, and finding ourselves feeling guilt over conveniences that left a large carbon footprint (carefree errand running, Amazon ordering and online shopping anyone?)?
I posted about our challenge on social media and that’s where accountability set in. Many friends were intrigued. Many wanted us to share what we learned. We were also met with some skepticism, but that’s where the learning and sharing part comes in. I also think the term, ‘Zero Waste’ is a bit lofty and intimidating.
Our kids, ages 6, 8, and 10, all understood the concept of the challenge. We had already established a mid-level green lifestyle that includes: properly disposing of hazardous materials at the Environmental Center, recycling, using reusable shopping bags, having a Nest programmable thermostat, cloth diapering when the boys were younger, bringing plastic bags to grocery stores for recycling, using beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap, limiting single-use water bottles, consigning or donating to The PROP Shop and most recently, purchasing an electric vehicle.
Our first challenge: Track our waste output for four weeks – all while maintaining status quo with our habits. We weighed and reported all of our recycling, garbage, donated, and borrowed items. This would be the baseline for our challenge before we attended our introductory training! Thank you for following along in our journey to become better stewards of the environment!