“Away” is a strange adverb to use in association with the garbage we are relentlessly creating, as in “I’m just going to throw this away.”

But where exactly is “away”? Where is all this stuff going!?

Today on EWC we will actually have some fun with the subject of reducing garbage!

Source: Flickr

[Preface from Dr. Lynda]

We are going to introduce you to an amazing – and growing – community of people who are changing what we think is possible when it comes to living well while living sustainably. And we are going to let a new “guest writer” for EWC, Andrew Verderber, share an exciting perspective that astonished our entire team here at Ever Widening Circles. There’s a new movement afoot that looks like it might transform us all eventually.


Let’s enjoy the insights of EWC Guest Writer, Andrew Verderber, bringing us to a new understanding of possibility!

Here’s Andrew’s article (remember – you too can write for us!) :

Image: Wait here

Source: Stanley Donwood : Far Away Is Close at Hand In Images of Elsewhere

“Away” is a curious word to use in context with throwing our garbage away.

For all of human history, throwing things away infers an out-of-sight/out-of-mind mentality. Any connection people have with their trash is carried away with the rest of the neighborhood’s weekly pick up. But how long can we keep that up?

When will we reach a tipping point for meaningful change?

Fortunately, many people are coming to terms with the fact that away, in the context of trash, no longer means “gone” or “not my problem”.

Consider an alternative reality: 

What if our household or business waste was collected on an annual basis?

Would people be more motivated to reduce their garbage after coping with the accumulated volume day after day for a year? I imagine this unsettling burden would inspire people to be more choosy about what they bring into their homes.

Enter, a woman named Bea Johnson from California who has saved her family’s 2014 waste stream. You may be asking yourself if she owns a large shed or rented a storage unit to contain the refuse. And there is the wonder in this story: floor to ceiling piles of unpleasant smelling matter turned out to be far from what she faced.

Her family’s entire annual waste stream, in the end, could be contained in a 32 oz. glass jar.

Before addressing any looming doubt we all have about this “too good to be true” claim, I want to ask if you consider the contents of Bea’s jar to be trash or art?

If your annual waste were stored in your living room would you be labeled as a hoarder or a kind of performance artist? There could be some fun here!

And here’s the cool part:

The Johnson family lives with their waste contribution to the environment, receiving a daily reminder to continue reducing their consumption of resources for the preservation of the natural world they deeply respect. The contents of the jar never go away, they simply become someone else’s or another generation’s problem.

Asking ourselves what we can do to reduce our impact begins with changing our concept of away.

Take a look at this short video from the fantastic YouTube channel, ZeroWasteHome, and then we’ll explore this interesting concept in much more detail…

Reducing garbage with Zero Waste Lifestyle?

  • Minimize clothing and other completely elective purchases
  • Bring containers to the grocery store and market for meats, fish, cheese, butter, vegetables, and fruit.
  • Practice the system of the 5 R’s: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot.
  • Compost all food waste

But what about all those nitty-gritty aspects of life?

How do you find time to make your own cleaning supplies? And what about non-recyclables like paper towels, tampons, plastic produce bags, plastic loops for price tags and stickers?

Let’s take a look another video with a lot more detail by another zero waste champion, as produced by MSNBC

Via: MSNBC  2

I realize this will require a paradigm shift, but more and more people are proving it can be done.

What would a world look like if all of us just reduced our trash by half?

After seeing these people speak, I think I could do that!

Or what if most of us made purchasing choices based on reduced packaging? I suspect manufacturers would very quickly change their practices. Imagine the impact on waste and landfills.

This is a definitely doable change, with an amazing long-term impact! And perhaps on the horizon, we can all move away from a future of beaches, rivers, streets, and countryside strewn with trash.

Make it a great day! Re-think: Reduce, Reuse, Refuse excess packaging.

~ Andrew Verderber

Image: February holloway

Source: STANLEY DONWOOD : Far Away Is Close at Hand In Images of Elsewhere

Dr. Lynda here…

I love this concept! Since we first looked at this piece of writing, it changed my thought process on every single thing I buy… in a great way!

Saving money?

Since Andrew Verderber sent us that article, I can’t seem to shop without considering every item and my options.

Even if a nice cold bottle of water seems tempting, I have been passing on it because that single-use container seems to haunt me a little.

I know I’ve also saved money by just passing on a lot of impulse purchases.

I’m also much more careful about what goes in the actual trash at home: separating the garbage from the paper, composting and recycling with new energy.

It takes just seconds more to do the right thing.

Andrew may be turning us all on to something very doable on some level, for any of us.

Even with things that you currently own that you don’t have a way of recycling, new methods of innovation are popping up all over the place to use that old trash. Here’s a phenomenal initiative where you can give your old cell phones, and they’ll help save the environment instead of polluting it from a landfill! Check this one out…

11 minutes

Saving the Rainforest with Old Cell Phones

How can we police large swaths of endangered rainforest with something we all have at home? The incredible startup Rainforest Connection is taking our old cell phones and giving them a second life as protectors of some of the most at-risk habitat on the planet!

Read More

If you’d like one more boost of details on reducing waste, I found Lauren Singer’s TED Talk on the subject. It will fill in a few of the remaining blanks.

In addition, I’ll refer you to the ZeroWasteHome.com website which has so much more in details. As well as this great read from Your RV Lifestyle, which has some practical tips on where you can get started reducing your waste even if you aren’t living a mobile life.

Lauren Singer has a fabulous website at TrashIsForTossers.com with useful tips and quite a few videos of her own. Her cleaning products can be found at The Simply Co.  All great stuff!

Unconvinced or still curious? Take a look at Lauren’s TED Talk…

Via: TEDx Talks  3

BONUS: In a strange coincidence, while I was looking for some great images for this article – and trying to avoid the standard images of our garbage burdened globe – I stumbled upon the work of artist Stanley Donwood. His exhibit was so aptly named for today’s article – “Far Away is Close at Hand in Images of Elsewhere” – that I couldn’t pass it by!

He does beautiful work and we encourage you to look at more by clicking here.

When it comes to trash, away and elsewhere seem to be getting closer and closer. This article inspired me to start doing something about my own impact here and there. Thanks, Andrew!

Stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

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  1. ZeroWastHome. “ZeroWasteHome Overview.” YouTube. ZeroWastHome, 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 June 2015 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl4jHrJ3G0yE5Al525YOL-Q.
  2. MSNBC. “How To Fit Two Years Of Trash In A Mason Jar | Shift | Msnbc.”YouTube. MSNBC, 12 Feb. 2015. Web. 19 June 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BMWQZkBgsM.
  3. Singer, Lauren. “Why I Live a Zero Waste Life | Lauren Singer | TEDxTeen.”YouTube. TEDx Talks, 27 May 2015. Web. 19 June 2015.

After graduating with his MBA from Illinois State University, Andrew develops solar projects for commercial and industrial customers. His role consists of the initial analysis, design, and product procurement for systems.