Since moving to Idaho, I've become even more passionate (read: fairly obsessed) with the idea of creating a zero waste home.
This is somewhat ironic considering that I just left the epicenter of green living for a state that bleeds red. The godmother of the zero waste lifestyle, Bea Johnson, lived just ten minutes from me in the Bay Area. Grocery stores were optimized to reduce packaging. San Francisco set a goal that as an entire city to send NOTHING to the landfills by 2020.
They made this habit easy on residents and stores by providing recycling and compost bins which they picked up weekly alongside our dwindling trash bins.
So how fitting for my stubborn, rebellious little green soul to decide now that I live in a city that doesn't recycle glass that I want to seriously zero waste-ify my home.
And yet, of course, the timing really does make sense. Part of why I loved San Francisco so much was being surrounded by people who shared my environmental sensibilities. It was made easy for us all to live lightly. Heck, an entire terminal at San Francisco International airport only served food in compostable containers -- "If you bought it here, it can be composted" read the signs.
But part of what happens when you are surrounded by compostable, post-consumer recycled objects in a city of hippies is that you get lazy. Or at least complacent. You don't necessarily have to try that hard to live lightly. And you get to be a judgy little a-hole when you go to a *gasp* non-coastal city who isn't quite as innovative in the green arena. Long story short, it's easy to eco-friendly in the Bay Area.
I figure that if I can be zero waste in Boise, Idaho -- a state equally known for it's love of potatoes, the second amendment and fly fishing -- then it can be done anywhere.
First up on my list of things to tackle: Mail.
It appears that the absolutely lovely people who owned our home before us liked to shop by catalog as a new one pops up at our door daily. Literally, every single day. While my specific goal is to produce no trash and paper can of course be recycled, it nonetheless feels obscenely wasteful to get a hundred pages of paper in the mail each day to only be placed straight in the blue bing.
It also appears that USPS must have sold our new address info to a million and one home goods and supplies stores, because we are getting non-stop flyers and coupons for every store in town.
And on a related note, the ultimate asshat award goes to: Restoration Hardware who sent me TWO separate thousand-plus-page catalogues, all wrapped up in plastic. Apparently they've been doing this since 2014 and have continued even after receiving repeated complaints. #nevergettingmybusiness #notthaticouldaffordyouanyways #dicks
HOW TO ZERO WASTE: YOUR MAIL
1) Catalog Choice. This amazing, free service allows you to create a profile for yourself (and any past residents of your home) in order to rapidly unsubscribe from catalogs and other mailings. I've been using this service for years, but it's come particularly in handy with our most recent move. (Pro tip: create profiles for "Current Resident" and "To Our Friends At" to stop those generic mailings as well.)
2) Call them up. There are a couple of companies whom CatalogChoice isn't able to help with unsubscribing from. For those companies, simply find their number on the back of the catalog, call them up and ask to be removed from their mailings. When asked why I no longer wish to receive their company's catalog, I usually say something along the lines of, "I do all of my shopping online and don't want to waste precious paper." The super sweet workers at L.L. Bean seemed to appreciate that:)
3) Fill out change of address forms for former residents at the Post Office. If you, like us, have really kind former residents and you happen to know their new address, you can do this for them. Otherwise you can write "no forwarding address." The good news is that this tends to be implemented rapidly (unlike catalogs which can take 6-8 weeks). The bad news it that this only applies to First Class mail, while Third class mail often doesn't get forwarded.
4) Get it by email. For mailings that you still want to receive -- not that you want to get your bills, but you know what I mean -- sign up for electronic mailings. Every single one of my providers in Idaho has an e-delivery option, even the city's recycling program. It takes a minute or two to create an online profile and account, but it's worth it. You can also often sign-up for automatic payments ensuring that you never miss a bill in the future.