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Zero Waste and New Year's Resolutions 

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What do the Zero Waste philosophy and New Year's resolutions have in common?

They both come from hope for a better future.

Researchers say about 60 percent of us make New Year's resolutions, but only about 8 percent are successful in achieving them. In terms of reducing waste that contributes to global warming, this is significant. If eight percent of Americans (more than 26 million people) pledge to reduce by half their purchase of food and beverages in single use plastics, it would have a measurable difference in the marketplace. That eight percent can influence their friends, families, neighbors, coworkers and the stores where they shop. This is what is needed to reach the cultural tipping point to reduce waste, plastic pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

The Redwood Coast region's extreme natural beauty and the increasing damage that the climate crisis is causing worldwide drive Zero Waste Humboldt's mission urgency. New Year's resolutions for 2022 are a good start for reducing Humboldt County's annual disposal of 75 tons of waste. This is the year for average shoppers to become climate activists in their daily habits. Here are a few pointers to help you achieve your Zero Waste resolutions:

Progress not perfection

Behavioral scientists explain that one of the main reasons our New Year's resolutions fail is unrealistic expectations. In Zero Waste, it's all about progress, not perfection. Commit to replacing one plastic item at a time with a reusable, returnable or refillable package at the store, or food serviceware at a restaurant or for a takeout order.

Buddy system support

Zero Waste New Year's resolutions are more successful with the Buddy System. Resolve to adopt new waste reduction habits with the support of a friend by tracking progress and sharing ideas to put you both into the eight percent who have lasting success.

Set measurable goals

Photos are an easy way to visually monitor your consumption of single use plastics each month. How much space is in your curbside garbage container? Often less cost is an outcome of reduced waste. How much money have you saved? For example, water in single use plastic bottles is more expensive than using your filtered tap water and your reusable water bottle. The average plastic bottle of water costs more than $1.30. The water itself accounts for less than $0.00001.

Most important, have those essential conversations where you shop

Meaningful connections and learning to have difficult conversations with fellow human beings has become even more important since the pandemic started. I've been observing a slowly growing number of consumers having discussions with store managers and employees responsible for purchasing. If eight percent of a Humboldt grocery store's regular customers kindly made it known to the store manager they don't want to buy food and beverages in single-use plastics, it will eventually influence the store to choose less wasteful suppliers.

Here are a few good examples for Zero Waste New Year's resolutions:

1. I resolve to contact store managers when I have less wasteful and less plastic packaging alternatives to suggest for their store.

2. I resolve to replace purchase of beverages in plastics with returnable and refillable glass bottles. Several opportunities now exist in Humboldt for returnable milk, beer, kombucha, cider and other beverage bottles.

3. I resolve to keep in my car a bag of reusable Tupperware, water bottles, coffee cups and utensils for takeout orders, dining leftovers or bags for shopping.

4. I resolve to make my own toothpaste, yogurt and other items to eliminate these containers.

5. I resolve to make my own household cleaners with baking soda and vinegar, etc. Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly Clark have misled consumers that we need a different cleaner for everything — windows, floors, bathrooms, etc. — and each in different plastic containers.

Do you have Zero Waste resolutions on your New Year's resolutions list? Share them by email with Zero Waste Humboldt has more practical tips and support! Remember, reducing waste is climate action. In 2022, it's urgent.

Maggie Gainer is a Zero Waste consultant and is a co-founder of Zero Waste Humboldt.

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Maggie Gainer

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