TerraCycle Zero Waste boxes allows you to collect waste and recycle it into new products.

TerraCycle Zero Waste boxes allows you to collect waste and recycle it into new products.

Mainstream conversations about “living green” or being sustainable usually revolve around reducing our footprint on the environment. (The idea that humans need to minimize our presence, as though we’re some kind of disease, separate from our environment, is another blog post for another day). I find it problematic because that way of thinking is inherently antithetical to sustainability: reducing the devastating impact of our current consumption simply means accepting the status quo and prolonging the inevitable. True sustainability means transforming our footprint so that it is not a burden to our environment.

I’ve written before about my desire to live a life of zero waste where nothing I consume or financially support contributes to the degradation of another person’s life. Part of the reason for writing this blog is to document my path and provide a resource to others seeking this same goal. So imagine my excitement when I recently found out about TerraCycle’s Zero Waste boxes. Let me say upfront that I have no financial incentive whatsoever in writing this and that these Zero Waste boxes are something that I personally discovered and am excited about. (I was hoping they would offer me a free box to review for this blog…but I guess I’m not influential enough for that!)

The basic idea is that you order one of their boxes, fill it with waste that would usually end up in the landfill, send it to TerraCycle, and they reuse the materials to create new products. I first learned about TerraCycle when I got an oversized wallet made from Capri Sun pouches as a birthday gift, and later bought some of their plant caddies (also made of Capri Sun pouches). TerraCycle offers boxes with varying separation levels, from cereal bags to no separation based on how much of a specific waste you generate (and want to pre-sort). I just ordered the Kitchen Separation box since the bulk of my non-recyclable waste comes from kitchen/food products. I plan to buy the No Separation waste box for my parent’s anniversary, because I know they need something that requires minimal effort in maintaining and what better way of saying “congratulations on your marriage” than a tool to help them live a sustainable life.

The price tag will probably scare off some people, but this is a project I firmly believe in and want (and can afford) to support as an example of what is possible. This Zero Waste project really should be something that is handled at the municipal level, and the cost built in to the regular taxes people pay along with trash collection and sewage fees. People might think this is expensive, but only because they don’t know the cost of dumping things into landfills—the actual fees charged and the impact on the environment.

TerraCycle has other waste-diversion initiatives, like their Brigades program, where schools collect specific kinds of waste for a donation (like the Box Tops program). I hope I can my workplace or even city to implement a program like this.

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