Make your home a zero waste zone |

Make your home a zero waste zone

Colourful recycle bins
Getty Images/iStockphoto | iStockphoto

Dear Eartha,

I keep hearing more and more about the term “zero waste.” Here in Summit County, I know we have a number of Zero Waste events. Can you tell me more about zero waste and how I can begin applying it to my lifestyle? – Bradley, Silverthorne

Bradley, you are not the only one who is interested in zero waste. More people, businesses and organizations all over the country and world are moving toward a zero-waste philosophy when it comes to waste production, disposal and lifestyle. Zero waste can cover a variety of topics and can be applied to a variety of venues including your home, place of work, how you grocery shop or how products are produced and packaged. With Colorado’s recycling rate being one of the lowest in the country — yes, that’s right one of the lowest in the country — it has never been more important for citizens of our beautiful state to be more mindful of our waste and adopt zero waste practices.

According to the Grass Roots Recycling Network (GRRN), zero waste is defined as a philosophy and design principle that takes a whole system approach to the vast flow of resources and waste through human society. GRRN goes on to say that the zero-waste mentality maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace. There are many advantages to going zero waste (not all environmental), including: redesigning our current one-way system of production and manufacturing, challenging badly designed business systems based on using too many resources, addressing the wasting of resources through job creation and local civic participation, eliminating waste and helping communities achieve a local economy that operates efficiently and sustains good jobs.

Zero waste can cover a variety of topics and can be applied to a variety of venues including your home, place of work, how you grocery shop or how products are produced and packaged.

Zero waste is achievable in any room in the house. Beginning with the five — yes five — Rs is a great starting point and serve as reference for running your household in a more efficient, sustainable manner. The five Rs are:

• Refuse — anything you do not need. This can range from a plastic bag at a retail store, to free swag that you get at an event. Typically, free items are created from plastic that cannot be recycled or reused and will end up cluttering up a junk drawer in your house. Ask yourself, “Do I really need this?”

Reduce — what you do need. Do you really need that extra dress/throw pillow/DVD? Can you get away with having only one spatula in your kitchen? How many forks/glasses/televisions does one family need? Get an inventory of what you really need, and donate or sell the rest of the items sitting around your house.

Reuse — what you consume. If you use a jar of tomato sauce, for instance, reuse the jar for saving leftovers. Come up with creative ways to reuse consumed products or packaging in your home.

Recycle — only what cannot be refused, reduced, reused or rotted (composted). Recycling is a last resort for waste as the processes associated with recycling are consumptive of resources. Making an effort before-hand to reduce the waste sent to be recycled will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuels consumed.

Rot — or compost all food scraps and yard waste. This can be done a few ways — through backyard composting or enrolling in HC3’s Food Scrap Recycling drop-off program. For a small fee, you can drop up to 10 pounds of food waste at our drop centers weekly. Visit for more information.

Using the above steps as a guideline, anyone can begin to adopt a zero-waste framework for their homes. Other useful tips to point out include: bringing your own produce and shopping bags to the grocery store when shopping, buy in bulk and bring your own container whenever possible to reduce plastic bottles and containers, grow your own herbs and veggies in a container in a window, support zero-waste companies and practice waste-free gift giving by utilizing newspaper as gift wrap or canvas bags as a gift bag. By starting small, you can begin to adopt simple changes that will influence your family, neighbors and have a larger impact in your community. Zero-waste practices are the ticket to getting rid of wasteful practices in our society which, in turn, create jobs and an economy based off of sustainable practices. I applaud you for your interest in zero waste and hope you will begin to adopt some of these practices in your day-to-day life.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization. Submit questions to Eartha at

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Now more than ever, your financial support is critical to help us keep our communities informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having on our residents and businesses. Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.

Your donation will be used exclusively to support quality, local journalism.


Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User