By valuing and making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.
This Principle continues the practices of using renewable resources and further closes the loop.
As our consumption patterns change and we adopt more efficient business practices, we evaluate what remains and go deeper.
The more that we practice thinking this way, the more we can find usefulness in what we once considered waste.
Current research shows that among the 251 million tons that Americans throw into the landfill, besides the 20% food scraps that we could compost instead, our landfills are filled with nearly 50% of paper waste products.
Also, much of what is in a modern landfill is plastic bags. It is estimated the US uses 380 single-use plastic bags per year, and there are as many as 1 trillion used annually across the globe.
By reducing our waste, reusing, or sharing what we can, composting, recycling, and stuffing what’s left into bottle bricks, we can eliminate a tremendous amount of waste that goes into landfills.
Did you know that it takes as long as 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to degrade?
Everything that we send to the landfill should be considered part of the legacy we are leaving for our descendants.
How Do You Want to Be Remembered?
In this Principle, permaculture designers consider how to be frugal while maintaining an abundance mindset, caring for and maintaining what already exists.
Preventing and remediating pollution, as well as looking for resources opportunities, are other ways to make more efficient decisions.
The truth is that everything you produce can have value. The trick is to figure out how to best use it.
Every output from one system has the potential to become the input to another system.
By thinking cyclically rather than linearly, we begin to imagine unrealized possibilities.
Simple But Effective Ways You Can Help Protect the Environment
An excellent place to start is using the suggestions laid out in this document to reduce wasted effort in your day-to-day life. Some other steps might be:
- Composting. It’s another zero-waste system that turns trash into treasure and is easy to set up. Just do it already!
- Properly clean and sort your recycling so that you’re not overburdening the recycling centers with having to take non-recyclables out of the mix. The hard truth is that you are honestly better off not recycling than recycling carelessly and putting an unsustainable responsibility on the centers trying to provide the service. Most municipalities have a downloadable guide for what they can recycle or not. Take a minute to look it up and read it. It could prove enlightening.
- Shopping locally can save immensely on transportation costs and emissions, as can ordering in bulk. Look into a local food-buyers club.
- Keep your cloth bags in your car, rather than in your house, so that you remember to use them.
- Electric cars are an excellent way to reduce your transportation’s consumption of fossil fuels. Install solar panels and you can create a near-zero waste output! This is huge, considering that cars are one of our greatest personal contributions to creating greenhouse gases. A nice side-effect is that electric cars end up being much, much, much cheaper to own and operate. If you’re in the market for a new car, and you aren’t addicted to road trips or driving Uber, I strongly suggest you consider looking for electric or plugin hybrid options!
- Speaking of greenhouse gases, did you know that conventional livestock practices account for even more toxic waste in our atmosphere than cars do?! Yup, our modern-day beef addiction is one of our planet’s and our pockets’ most prominent enemies, not only in air pollution but in waste and pollution of freshwater. Many have provided evidence that over-consumption of beef is also detrimental to our bodies. I’m not saying that we all have to become vegan. However, it is crucial to take into account that the current trend of beef production is having one of the most significant negative impacts on our environment and chance for survival as a species as any other practice that we’re caught up in. We need to come closer to something that can be recognized as moderation with this one.
- Working from home, or allowing your employees to work from home when possible, has proven to be a significant waste & cost reduction measure for many businesses.
- When doing a project and you need to move something, think about where it’s going to be used or stored and put it there, right away. A lot of time and effort can be wasted, moving things more than once.
- Keep in mind that many things that are commonly considered waste products end up becoming assets for those looking at the problem as a solution. Take, for example:
- Dry composting toilets that create humanure, in turn, provide fertilizer for the trees that produce the food that we eat to refill the toilets. Flushing it down the toilet into the sewers and septic systems conversely serve to pollute our drinking water, nothing more.
- Greywater from our sinks, showers, and even laundry (when biodegradable soaps are being used), can be run through simple plant-based filtration systems and used to water our gardens.
This is Part 8 of a 15 part series, pulled from the Permaculture Lifestyles Explained eBook, which contains over 100 tips for how someone might apply the permaculture principles to their life for greater efficiency, impact, and happiness.
If you'd like to get the whole book to download and read offline, drop your email below and I'll be happy to send you a link.
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