Be a Zero Hero
Preventing Waste in Minneapolis
Zero Heroes strive to have Zero Waste. They do this by working to first prevent waste, and then by recycling all they can of the waste that remains.
To lower this amount of waste we need to take a step beyond recycling: waste prevention. Waste prevention is reducing the amount of waste and the toxicity of waste. Waste prevention saves natural resources, energy, and may even save you money.
Consider posting on a Free Market site in the area like: Northeast Minneapolis Free Stuff on facebook or the Twin Cities Free Market. One customer said "I post bags of fabric scraps from my sewing businesses all of the time, and people snap them up. They are good for rags, quilting, crafts, etc…
Buy Products with Less Packaging
A Zero Hero looks for products with the least packaging. Here are a few things to look for to purchase less packaging.
Avoid extra packaging by buying non-perishable products in large sizes whenever possible. When you buy in bulk your money will be spent on product instead of packaging. A one-pound box uses less packaging, and therefore results in less waste, than two half-pound boxes.
- Buy larger sized household products for things you use regularly like laundry soap, shampoo, dry pet food and kitty litter.
- Buy the largest container you can if you can use up the product before it spoils. Good products to buy in larger quantities are flour, sugar, grains, pasta and coffee. Be sure to properly store the products to protect them from spoilage.
- Stay away from products packaged in single servings, like microwave dinners, soups and beverages.
Remember concentrates! With concentrates, water that is available from your own tap is not being packaged and shipped by the manufacturer.
- Buy beverages, soaps and cleaners in concentrate form.
- Juice bought in concentrate form uses up to 36% less packaging and costs 41% less than juice in plastic jugs. Check the labels of juice in plastic or paper containers and you will find most say "Made from concentrate".
Some products have extra packaging for display purposes only. Avoid these and buy products with the least packaging; these are usually less expensive, too.
Just say "No Thanks" to a bag when you purchase a few items, or plan ahead and bring your own re-useable bag.
Buy It Durable and Maintain It To Last!
Long lasting, durable goods cost more at first but save money in the long run. Zero Heroes find that durable products break down less often too, meaning fewer repair bills.
- Follow manufacturer's instructions for use, up-keep and repair. Proper maintenance will help your durable goods last longer.
- Preventative maintenance will make products last longer. Vacuum the coils on your refrigerator every six months. This will make your refrigerator more efficient and will extend its life.
- Check the track record of products and manufacturers before buying. Many publications are available which rate products and companies. Check your local library for more information.
- Buy electronics and small appliances that are repairable. Some watches do not have replaceable batteries and must be thrown out when they run down, and some appliances like coffee makers have sealed plastic bodies that cannot be repaired.
- High quality shoes can be re-soled.
- Maintain tire air pressure to get better gas mileage and reduce tire wear.
Zero Hero creativity can play a big role in preventing waste. There are many things around the house that can have new uses. Use some Zero Hero Creativity to come up with ideas to add to the list below.
- Use the comics as wrapping paper (reuse the humor). Use a box with a cover; wrap the box cover and the box separately so the wrapped box can be reused on the next gift-giving occasion.
- Use paper from bills or other mailings that are printed only on one side for scratch pads or message slips.
- Reuse greeting cards, fabrics, and plastic containers in craft projects.
- Use an erasable memo board for messages at home and at work.
- Often toys made at home for kids and pets are enjoyed just as much as those purchased. For example, place a paper clip or marble in a 35-mm film container for the Zero Hero Kitty.
- Use old concrete blocks or wood pallets to make a compost bin.
- Make building blocks with your kids from scraps of wood. Paint them with left-over paint from your projects, or obtain free paint at the Hennepin County Free Product Centers.
- Rent, borrow or share things that you use infrequently. These items could include everything from party decorations to audiovisual equipment, to chain saws, rug cleaners or garden tillers. You should also consider repairing or maintaining items you already have, particularly large appliances and electronic equipment. Large items take up a lot of space if sent to a landfill.
- Bring a mug to work for your coffee or tea, a simple act that could save pounds and pounds of paper, styrofoam and plastic waste over the course of a job.
- Consolidate your purchases into one bag rather than getting a new bag at each store on your shopping rounds.
As a Zero Hero you have more power than you think. Whether you are giving good or bad feedback it is important to make sure your voice is heard.
- Use the power of your consumer dollar. Buy products that are environmentally sensitive.
- Use prepaid envelopes, postcards, and "800" telephone numbers to request that your name be removed from direct mailing marketing lists (junk mail).
- Use "800" telephone numbers provided by manufacturers for feedback about their product and its packaging.
- When ordering magazines, signing up for classes, taking seminars etc., be sure to specify that you do not want your name to be sold, given or traded to direct mail companies.
- Write to companies with a good environmental track record, and express your thanks.
- Ask retailers to stock products that prevent waste.
- Encourage local schools to implement an environmental curriculum.
Have a great idea? - Please share it with us.
If you have great ideas that you have created and wish to share with all Solid Waste & Recycling residents, maybe we can help by adding it to our Zero Hero website. Please send your suggestions by e-mail to the City of Minneapolis.
Your suggestion will be forwarded to our office and we will consider adding it to our website.
Last updated Dec. 6, 2011