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Menomonie Market Owner & Zero Waste Expert, Hannah Gullixson

7+ Tips for Reducing Waste

My interest in the environment and sustainability started about five years ago when I took a year to travel and volunteer. I saw how others lived and how climate change and deforestation is affecting the poorest and most vulnerable around the world the most. I learned that caring about the environment was to care for people.

My biggest realization came to me while in Haiti. The deforestation in Haiti has caused the soil to erode into the ocean, polluting the water, sending away and killing sea life, leaving nothing for fishermen to catch to feed their families. The deforestation has also left the soil quality poor, making it difficult to grow crops. In addition, the land and water is polluted by plastics, trash filling the streets, families burning their trash on every property. When we abuse our earth, the people who call it home are just as beaten.

When I returned to the states, I began to see just how much garbage I personally produced. I had a fridge full of plastic packaging, threw away disposable coffee cups, used a plastic toothbrush, and food waste filled my garbage bin. I couldn’t escape it. I knew I couldn’t change the world, but I could change how I personally affected it. It was then that I took responsibility over my garbage and began my journey on a zero-waste lifestyle.

Zero waste is the effort and lifestyle that aims to send nothing to the landfill. Its sustainability methods are focused on reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting. The average american produces between 4.4-5 pounds of trash each day. When we throw things away, it doesn’t go away. The plastics we use will outlive us and the generations after us. Our children and their children will hold us accountable for our pollution.

The first step to creating less waste is to know what you are throwing out. When you know what you’re throwing out and you are able to find alternatives. Here are a few tips to reduce common waste: 

Food Waste: Find a local composter or make your own backyard compost.

Food Packaging: Buy in bulk, or buy naked produce.

Clothing: Donate used clothes and buy used.

Toiletries: Find DIY recipes for things like toothpaste, dry shampoo, and lotion.

Soap & Shampoo Bottles: Buy bar soap and bar shampoo.

General Plastic Packaging: Opt for paper, cardboard, metal, and glass packaging over plastic.

Menomonie Market Food Co-op has been a big help in reducing my waste. Here, I am able to buy spices and dry goods in the bulk section, avoiding packaging all together. I am also able to buy bar soaps, my DIY toiletry ingredients, and package free produce. Early this year, I taught an Intro to Zero Waste class at Menomonie Market Food Co-op and am looking forward to future teaching opportunities.

The biggest advice I give to people looking to reduce their waste is to start small. The climate and pollution crisis of today can be very overwhelming! It’s important to know that all efforts are appreciated and making new habits takes time. Find one area of your life to start with and form a habit. This could be bringing a reusable cup each time you go to a coffee shop, buying bar soap, or buying yourself a bamboo toothbrush. Just like any goal, when we start small, we give ourselves the energy needed to expand.

What you do for the environment does matter! When each person does their part it creates a big difference.

For more information and weekly tips, follow me (@hannahmarielee) on Instagram or visit my website at stagingsage.com.

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