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Zero Waste

10/20/08 5:55PM By Deborah Luskin
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(HOST) The three "R's" used to refer to Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. But lately, commentator Deborah Luskin thinks that the three R's have come to stand for Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

(LUSKIN) The first time I heard the term Zero Waste was when my kids returned from their summer farm camp and licked their plates clean. At first I thought Zero Waste was Newspeak for the Clean Plate Club I'd grown up with - and loathed. But when they took over the recycling - right down to their clothes, I gave the concept of Zero Waste a second look.
    
It turns out that Zero Waste is Newspeak - for an old philosophy that goes, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."  According to the Grassroots Recycling Network, "Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace."
   
It turns out that humans are the only species that create trash, and what we need to discard is the idea that trash is okay.
    
Zero Waste is also a new way of saying "If it ain't broke, don't fix it; if it is broke, don't throw it out." In a Zero Waste world, we'd never have to take out the trash  - because we wouldn't create any. We would recycle, reuse and compost whatever was left over - from food to clothes to packaging.
   
Those same kids who introduced me to Zero Waste by licking their plates have now introduced me to "thrifting," Except for underwear, they shop at "Salvation Armani" and other second-hand stores for everything from their everyday jeans and sweaters to glam clothes for prom night. If the threads aren't bare when they're done, the kids re-donate them.
   
When we buy "new" products, we can still support Zero Waste by reading labels about content and packaging. We look for whole grains and natural ingredients in our food; we can choose non-food products with the highest percentage of recycled content. Equally important, we choose products lightly packaged in recycled material that can be recycled again.
   
The best way to reduce our trash is to keep it out of the house in the first place, and one of the easiest ways to start is by stopping the junk mail. Once the junk mail is out of the way, bringing a reusable grocery bag to the store will seem easy, and filling it with unprocessed food a no-brainer. Other, simple, zero waste practices include carrying tap water in a reusable thermos, keeping a coffee mug in your brief case, wrapping your lunch in waxed paper and wiping your nose with a handkerchief.

There's another synonym for Zero Waste. It's the old fashioned, New England virtue, called thrift.
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