Steve and Amy’s zero waste challenge

Filed in Blog by on July 20, 2009 1 Comment
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Steve Mandzik - a man on a zero waste mission

Steve Mandzik - a man on a zero waste mission

Today, I’m leaving you in the capable hands of Steve Mandzik.

Steve is author of ‘A clean life‘ and tweets as @robotchampion. On A Clean Life, Steve talks about his two passions – trash and food!

He believes we have the technology and the means to develop a completely sustainable trash system. He is also an advocate of eating local, fresh food as a key to a more sustainable (and healthier) way of living.

But is Amy; the lady of his dreams, on a zero waste path too or is she a bit of a dustbin demon on the quiet?

“Lately, I’ve become something of an in-home trash guru. I have moved several times for a new job and a new love. At each stop I can’t help but push forward the ideals of my non-profit, A Clean Life. No housemate is left alone until they understand all the benefits of local fresh food and a zero waste lifestyle.

My current home is a medium sized one bedroom apartment. It has no furniture in it but it does have my love. Amy has forsaken her belongings for a minimalist lifestyle. This means that all we have is a chair, dining room table, TV with no cable, and a blow-up mattress. Since I am also a minimalist or wannabe hobo nomad, I love it.

Within a few days of my arrival I had taken the lay of the land. I had watched Amy’s trash habits, visited the recycle bins for the building, and observed her food purchases. As a guru I know how important it is to wait and be patient. Or, another thought is to think like a military commander and only strike when victory can be complete. Either way the guru soon went into action.

My first steps were to locate three trash bins. Use the tiniest one for landfill. The other two for recyclables and compost. I did this one day while Amy was gone. I set-up everything in the kitchen and since we had no other rooms with trash cans that was all. Of course, being a natural digital being I immediately tweeted about this and soon Amy, her parents, my parents, and our friends were aware. My tweet:

From Robotchampion: It’s official and serious now. Started our indoor compost bin, paper bin, and very tiny landfill bin. @sengseng and I are going (zero) waste.

Amy, or SengSeng, knew about this and had all day to prepare for my radicalism. Thankfully I have been blessed in life and she is fully supportive of all this. Upon arriving home all she wanted to know was how to participate. It was as if she was used to me being this way or had expected it. Women have that sense.

I explained to her that the point of the tiny landfill bin was to highlight the trash we produce. It forces us to reduce otherwise it fills up quick and we have to take it out. It also forces one to pay very close attention to sorting the trash. Studies show that the biggest source of waste in our society is through lazy sorting. Folks just don’t know, don’t care, or plain old forget. All this really means is catching yourself when you throw paper into the landfill bin.

In this way we began our journey towards Zero Waste. Now it is important to point out that I am already Zero Waste, or more like Sub-Zero since I often take in trash for raw materials. So, this was more a journey to turn Amy and establish a two person Zero Waste household for the both of us.

As I type this four days have passed and I had to empty out our landfill bin yesterday. I was sad to to do it but it was full. Amy had purchased some salad items that all came in large plastic containers. In some cities those items are recyclable, but not in ours. We also like to drink milk or soy milk with our coffee and those containers are also unable to be recycled in our area.

The good news is that’s it! That is all of our landfill production. If we can just replace those two purchases with recyclable products we will be producing zero waste. Our recycling bin is yet to be emptied but is enjoying much more use now. My indoor compost is going but having trouble. I have no starter to get it going and so it’s going very slowly. I hope to get it heated up soon so the real speedy compost can begin. Until then I have to deal with fruit flies. Note to self, keep starter around or find local stores that sell it.

I think the reason why this is so easy for Amy is that I have also introduced her to the perfect fresh food diet. That is the second item I focus on for A Clean Life and I call it the Clean Lifestyle. Through this diet we eat nothing but fresh local food, whole grains, and quality meat. Amy is loving this diet for so many reasons including the great tasting food, a natural loss of 3lbs in the 4 days, and she feels much more energetic. Check out her tweet on it.

This diet also seamlessly works into a zero waste household since the by products are purely organic. Nearly everything we eat, except for the aforementioned items, are fruit rinds and other organic stuff that can all be composted. Further, composting a thin apple core is much easier to handle than large plastic containers.

Everything seems to be working. Our lives and health are improving. Our abuse of the environment is reducing and we will soon be zero waste. There have been no fights and no enormous hurdles. Just a few easy changes.

Now, I am travelling home to my parents and leaving Amy to her desires. Are four days long enough to build a habit (research says it normally takes two weeks)? Will she stay committed?”

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (1)

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  1. Layla says:

    lol!! Interesting to read about this!!

    Do tell how it goes!! 🙂

    It’s much harder to make/inspire others to do this, but when it works, it feels like bliss & results are greater than imagined!! 🙂

    Are you on an all-raw food diet or just fresh un-pre-cooked ingredients?

    Wishing you & Amy good luck!! 🙂

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