The average American throws out about 4.4 pounds of trash per day, which can be amounted to about 1,584 pounds per year, per person.
According to National Geographic, 79 percent of America’s trash — especially plastic — end up in landfills across the United States.
With all that trash sitting around at landfills, greenhouse gases such as methane are emitted, which are bad for the environment and people in general, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
One woman in Maple Valley is trying to change those statistics.
Tiffany Perkins recently created a zero waste group on Facebook called “Zero Waste Maple Valley.”
The zero waste movement is a lifestyle where people aim to eliminate their trash output, according to Planet Aid. This means no plastic, no wrappers and almost no garbage or no garbage at all.
Perkins said she is new to this whole movement and started the group to help her and others get the support and information they need to be successful at going zero waste.
Georgina Garretson, a member of the Zero Waste Maple Valley group, has been a big contributor to the group since she has been doing zero waste for more than 20 years.
An example of her zero waste habits that have gone a long way started when she had her first child.
She came up with new and innovative ways to save not only money, but the environment with reusable diapers and second hand almost everything (aside from a crib, stroller and carseat).
Garretson said she started zero waste because when she was in college she spent a lot of time in Germany, which is where she was introduced to Green Dot recycling, which got her thinking about how much “needless packaging” there is in the United States.
Perkins said she and her family started the zero waste movement when she had an eye-opening experience one day.
“The thing that really kind of made it click is a few months back we had to get a second recycle bin because we have so much to recycle every two weeks when it’s picked up. And our garbage can is full every week, and I realize that’s just insane,” Perkins said. “How is it that a family of six is creating so much garbage and waste that we need to fill two of these large recycle cans every two weeks and there’s so much in there, that they’re over flowing? They’re not even just half full, I mean they are absolutely full.”
That’s when she decided to do research into the zero waste movement.
Perkins said she started joining Facebook groups that were about going zero waste and became inspired.
So, she decided to inspire others locally and make her own Facebook group for people who live in Maple Valley.
“I wanted to create it not only as a local group to support each other in making those changes for our families, but also to support local farms and other vendors who have the types of items we buy regularly, but there’s a lot less waste attached to them,” Perkins said.
For the past year, Perkins and her family have started to introduce zero waste into their lives, and so far she said it’s been a lot easier than she expected.
One of the first steps Perkins said she took was to reduce her plastic waste. To do this, she started using reusable grocery bags and produce bags every time she goes shopping.
She said she uses reusable mesh bags for her produce, which are much more durable than the thin plastic bags provided at grocery stores.
Another way the Perkins family has gone zero waste is they shop locally whenever they can.
Perkins said when someone buys something overseas, it creates a large carbon footprint on the earth. So she tries to avoid produce from other countries, for example.
To combat shopping solely at big name grocery stores, Perkins has been trying to find local farms that are willing to sell produce, eggs and or meat products.
Unfortunately, this time of the year makes it hard to shop local since a lot of produce is out of season and animals like hens are not laying as many eggs.
That’s when Perkins resorts to the bulk section of Fred Meyer.
“I am now buying as much food as I can in the bulk section and using my reusable bags to buy it there. I’ve reduced a huge amount of plastic and cardboard and things like that by buying granola, flour, sugar, rice, trail mix, dried fruits, beans, spices — you can even buy loose leaf tea — all in the bulk section,” she explained.
She also said if someone wants to buy meat from the butcher counter at Fred Meyer, the one in Maple Valley lets you bring your own reusable containers to put the meat in. That way you are not using the plastic or wraps they provide.
When items such as eggs are not coming from farms as often as she would like, Perkins said she looks at the label of the eggs sold at Fred Meyer to see how locally the hens are raised and how they are raised in general.
Perkins said with four kids, it means going through a lot of clothes in a short amount of time.
That’s when the word “reuse” comes back into play.
She said she tends to shop at places like Goodwill to get clothes for her and her family, that way clothing items are not going to waste. She also buys certain kitchen supplies there as well.
Along with growing a lot, kids can be picky eaters. Perkins said a lot of what her and her family were wasting was food.
“Oh my gosh, the food waste because my kids don’t finish their food, so much of it goes in the garbage. And food doesn’t properly biodegrade when it makes it to the landfill, it creates more methane and more greenhouse gases,” she said. “(I) realized that I can sit there and dwell on it and feel poorly about it (while) reading these articles and feeling so sad about what is happening to the planet, or I can try to make changes in my family and hopefully inspire others to do that same.”
To keep food waste to a minimum when throwing it out, Perkins said her family has resorted to a food compost.
Composting food is a natural process of decomposition and recycling organic material to reuse as soil.
Perkins said she uses a tumbler compost, which is completely enclosed. She said a lot of people are concerned with pests or there being a bad smell, but her compost is completely off the ground and does not smell when it is shut.
Her four kids have really taken a liking to composting and zero waste, Perkins said.
The goal is to teach her kids about how to be environmentally friendly, but in a fun as possible way.
After sharing her experience with zero waste on her Facebook group, others have joined in the conversation.
Garretson said so far she has shared her best eco purchase she’s made.
“I would say this is the best investment for eco freaky people who eat out unexpectedly. It’s a multi-tiered (not leak proof on its side, but fine upright) food container that lives in the trunk of my car with the rest of my “zero waste” kit. Looks like a nuclear fusion core, but fits Indian food and donuts alike,” Garretson said in a Facebook post.
So far, the group itself has had more than 100 people join within the last couple of week, according to the Facebook group page.
“I’ve just really been trying to keep the group engaged and having them invite friends who have similar ideals. The whole premise of the group is that it’s not just for one specific level of zero waste, it’s for anyone who wants to learn about it or who hasn’t even started up, to people who have been doing it for a very long time and are very knowledgeable in zero waste,” Perkins said.
Perkins said she hadn’t thought much about doing anything with the group beyond Facebook, but one of her future goals is to have an informational booth at the Maple Valley Farmers Market if people in the group are willing to help make this happen.
She said the farmers market is in line with the zero waste ideals because all the produce is local and none of it is packaged.
“Perfection should not be the enemy of good.(It’s) really difficult to be 100 percent zero waste. In our society it’s not a realistic goal to try to be 100 percent zero waste. I want people to feel encouraged that you don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to make everything in your life zero waste, but every little bit that people do when you add it up over hundreds of families, or thousands of families, it makes a huge, huge impact,” Perkins said.
To join the Maple Valley Zero Waste Facebook page go to facebook.com/groups/zerowastemv/.