Eartha Steward: Holding out for a zero |

Eartha Steward: Holding out for a zero

Eartha Steward
Special to the Daily
Summit Daily/Ben Trollinger

Dear Eartha,

I’ve volunteered for many of your Zero Waste events this summer. I love it! I am wondering how can I bring the Zero Waste mentality home to my family?

— Devin, Breckenridge

A Zero Waste home is a great goal for any family. It involves awareness regarding items you’re purchasing, how to use them, and what to do with them when they are all used up. It shares the same basic principal as our local Zero Waste events. The first step in going Zero Waste, whether it is for a community barbecue, family get together, or even every day at home, is knowing that Zero Waste is a goal, one that you may not always reach but something that you can strive toward.

The more you practice going Zero Waste the easier it will be and the closer to zero you can get.

On your journey toward a Zero Waste lifestyle start with reduction. This means thinking about what you buy before you buy it. Shopping consultants recommend avoiding impulse buys by waiting three days to decide if you really need something new. Check out how items are packaged at the grocery store. Could you buy something in bulk rather than buy something that was wrapped in six layers of plastic and boxed in a factory? Replace your disposables with reusables. Items such as batteries can be replaced with rechargeable batteries, paper coffee filters can be exchanged with a cloth filter, plastic sandwich bags can be replaced with super cool snack taxis. There are lots of great ways to reduce the waste you produce in fun and inexpensive ways.

Next on the Zero Waste list of good habits is reusing what you, your family, friends and neighbors already have. The easiest way to join the reuse cycle is by purchasing used items instead of new. This can be much less expensive and a great way to get what you need while making the most of what is already out there. Try shopping for clothes at a secondhand store. The FIRC in Breckenridge and Dillon get lots of new clothes with the tag still on. It’s a steal! Check out consignment furniture shops for that unique piece your living room is missing. Online sites such as, and have a plethora of items used and in good condition. Don’t forget to give back too. That shirt you haven’t worn in forever or those shoes that are just too tight and always will be, are perfect for donation.

Last, but not least, think long and hard before you dispose of something. Make sure there is nothing you can do with it again. Pasta sauce jar herb planters? Table cloth outdoor pillows? Wine cork stamps for kids? There are so many great ideas out there. Once you are truly left with your small amount of “trash” you want to make sure you dispose of everything correctly. Collecting compost from your home is a great way to keep food scraps out of the landfill. You can start a worm bin at home or join the compost drop off program starting in Frisco. Recycling can be a breeze if you separate at home and utilize a curb side service or bring it to one the five recycling centers in Summit County. If you’re not sure what you can recycle, check out There you can find out what is recyclable in Summit, where to take those hard to recycle items, and directions to all the recycle centers.

It’s a lot to think about, but these decisions are a part of our lives regardless of outcome, so why not consciously choose what aligns with our values. I try to live zero waste because less waste frees up lots of mental space that I would otherwise spend lamenting the fate of society and my inability to make a difference. What a boring way to spend the day. Why not waste less, party more and sleep well at the end of the day? We can all go Zero Waste in the home and out. It starts with building good habits and gets easier from there. We can set good examples for our community and children to help make a difference for generations to come.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at

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