Here are some small daily changes you can use to send less trash to our landfills

Documentarian explains how she made changes to live a ‘zero waste’ life

We can make small day to day changes to send less trash to our landfills. It’s all about the six “R’s”.

SAN ANTONIO – Heather Gustafson has made drastic changes in her life to go zero waste. She is even making a documentary called “Trashy: A Zero Waste Film” that follows her life for a year, where the only trash she sends to the landfill for one year fits into one plastic bin. Yes, one bin, one year.

”I have my big clear bin,” Gustafson said. “This is all the trash I’ve thrown away since Jan. 1st.”

So how does she do it? She admits, it’s not easy and she doesn’t think everyone can do what she and other zero wasters are doing. But she says we can make small day to day changes to send less trash to our landfills. She says it’s all about the six “R’s”:

  • Refuse: Refuse the plastic bag. She say opt for taking your own or if you forget ask for paper. We’ve heard over and over again how plastic bags are not good for the environment and that they are difficult to recycle. You can read more about what is actually getting recycled in our landfills by the EPA here.
  • Reduce: “One of the steps of zero waste is just reducing your shopping habits,” Gustafson said. “If you see something online that you are like I have to have it put it in your cart, wait 30 days. And see if you still feel the same way in a month.” She says a lot of our waste comes from packages from Amazon or other retail stores. By reducing how much we order, this can help you send less of that non-recyclable packaging to the landfill.
  • Reuse: For example, let’s say you order take out and it comes in Styrofoam or plastic bins. You can reuse them a handful of times by washing them and filling them up with some other food. Gustafson says reusing materials is one of the most helpful ways to be zero waste.
  • Recycle: Heather says she recycles 90% of the things she used to throw away. Every community is different to what it does and doesn’t recycle. You can check out what you can and can’t recycle in San Antonio by clicking here. Click here to find what you can recycle in the surrounding San Antonio communities.
  • Rot: This means composting your food scraps. So why not just throw them in the trash, they’ll decompose naturally right? Think again. ”There was a study done and it said that a head of lettuce would take 25 years to breakdown in a landfill. It’s just not it’s natural environment for decomposing. And because of that, it set out this gas and the gas is really bad for the environment,” Gustafson said.
  • Refill: Refill your glass or plastic jars. She says shopping at bulk item stores that allow you to refill mason jars with things like peanut butter, grains and beans can help you reduce your trash output.

“It’s all about just creating that circular loop and one of the best benefits is you feel a lot lighter and freer, but you also save a lot of money,” Gustafson said.

To read about the importance of going zero waste and the impact waste and plastics are having on our environment, you can read the first part of the series by clicking here.

About the Authors:

Sarah Acosta is a weekend Good Morning San Antonio anchor and a general assignments reporter at KSAT12. She joined the news team in April 2018 as a morning reporter for GMSA and is a native South Texan.

Azian Bermea is a photojournalist at KSAT.