By now, you’ve probably heard about the Zero Waste Movement. It all seemed to start a few years back with the occasional viral video featuring different millennials who had somehow diminished the amount of trash they created all the way down to less than one mason jar full. At the time, it seemed almost unbelievable that someone could actually diminish their waste to such a small amount. But now, this movement has become more mainstream — and much more achievable.
The Zero Waste Lifestyle Movement: how it all began.
Just like most movements, the ideology itself sprung from many sources. But the French woman accredited with creating the moniker “Zero Waste Lifestyle Movement” — as well as popularizing the ideology — has become a well-known name in the green movement: Bea Johnson. Her zero-waste journey came to light when she decided to start a blog, Zero Waste Home, which chronicles her family’s path to producing as little waste as possible in their Bay Area home. She has since become one of the most prominent leaders in the movement and published her book, Zero Waste Home, in 2013.
What makes zero waste special? Although the concept of recycling isn’t new and continues to become more and more commonplace internationally, quite a bit of what we use still ends up in the trash bin. For example, in the United States, the average person produces three pounds of trash per day. And while the EPA says that “recycling and composting prevented the release of approximately 186 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2013,” recycling comes at its own costs.
Why? Even if your intentions are good, some products just aren’t recyclable. And even if they are, recycling on its own can still expend quite a bit of energy. Not to mention the fact that the biggest problem the recycling industry currently faces is what they call “wishful recycling” — attempting to recycle, but not taking the time to sort it properly. In this case, the waste just ends up contaminated, making it nearly impossible to recycle efficiently.
The key to truly decreasing your waste is decreasing your consumption.
While the mantra “Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle” has been around for decades, the core concepts of the Zero Waste Lifestyle Movement take this commitment a few steps further. “Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order) is my family’s secret to reducing our annual trash to a jar since 2008,” explains Johnson on her website. And while actually cutting on down on what feels like the inevitability of creating trash appears to be a big challenge at first, refusing to add more to the trash pile is getting increasingly easier as the movement grows.
Now, in 2019, while we’re still far away from zero waste habits becoming fully mainstream, we’re seeing more and more refusal to use plastic, more interest in minimalism, more avoidance of harmful and environmentally-damaging materials, and more general awareness from the public about purchasing ethically. There are more and more high-profile thought leaders in the field, especially among millennials. And while the average person might not be able to get their waste down to the levels Johnson and other movement leaders have achieved overnight, an important piece of moving toward a zero waste lifestyle is consumer consciousness.
Zero waste life: choosing an ethical mattress.
As the zero waste movement highlights, you won’t save the planet by going out and buying a bunch of new stuff. But with so much time spent sleeping, you’ll eventually have to find a new mattress, especially if you’ve been sleeping on a traditional mattress for years. Traditional mattresses are usually given a lifespan of only about seven years before experts say it’s time to look for a new one. Their synthetic materials offer much less breathability than natural materials, which means they trap bodily fluids, grow mold, and even become more toxic over time. The materials even produce off-gassing, which comes with a host of health side effects.
When it comes to finding the mattress that matches your zero waste lifestyle, Kathryn of the Going Zero Waste blog recommends a mattress made of all-natural materials that are easily cleaned, just like our collections at Soaring Heart. Meanwhile, Ariana of the blog Paris to Go recommends a shikibuton because of its durability.
Whether you’re fully committed to the zero waste movement or not, you can still apply Johnson’s mantra to your quest for a mattress: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. You can’t refuse a mattress altogether, and there’s a limit on what you should reuse for health reasons, so why not reduce the amount of synthetic materials you’re purchasing, choose a mattress you can reuse for over ten years, then recycle?
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Quarantined? Sheltered in Place? Home with the kids and looking for things to do? Here's a couple quick tips to help everyone sleep better - starting tonight:
1) Air your bedding. When cherry trees blossom its a great reminder to hang a temporary clothes line and air your winter bedding.
2) Do a thorough launder of your mattress pads, dust mite covers, pillow liners. Flip the mattress and catch up with those dust bunnies hiding under the bed.
3) Check your labels! C'mon - how long have you really had those bed pillows?
We green consumers may be a small portion of the economy - but we are growing and we can appreciate how nuts the rest of the economy can be. Our kids can teach us not to use plastic straws, or to avoid one use plastics at the grocery store - but who teaches us not to purchase a 300 lb plastic mattress? (How many thousands of recycled straws would that be?!)
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