Consider this: all the ants on the planet, taken together, have a biomass greater than that of humans. Ants have been incredibly industrious for millions of years. Yet their productiveness nourishes plants, animals and soil. Human industry has been in full swing for little over a century, yet it has brought about a decline in almost every ecosystem on the planet. Nature doesn’t have a design problem. People do.

Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough & Michael Braungart

My new year’s resolution for 2015 is to discover, on a personal level, how to effectively and creatively *change* my ecological footprint. I say change because the coined term “reducing ecological footprints” does not seem to include the possibility of eliminating these footprints completely, or even changing the way these footprints are made in the grassy fields or sandy beaches on this TOTALLY AWESOME planet. Why not be like the ants, and instead of reducing the footprint, ensure that our footprints include spaces for shrubs to grow between the toes, and mushrooms to flourish in the heel. This year I’d like my feet to help me balance my life in a whole new way.

For the first 4 months of 2015, I’ll try my hand at the 5Rs, inspired by sustainability consultant Bea Johnson (Check out Zero Waste Home).

5Rs: Refuse what you do not need, Reduce what you do need, Reuse what you consume, Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse, and Rot (Compost) the rest. 

What does this mean on a day to day basis? There are many factors to consider in deciding where, and how to draw the line. To live completely waste free seems daunting to me currently as I am limited in my surroundings. Firstly, and most importantly, I am still living (with much gratitude, might I add) under my parent’s roof. This means a shared bathroom, kitchen and laundry room and a multitude of shared products furnishing each. It would be wasteful to not use what has already been procured. However, here are a few of the steps I plan on taking (in addition to those habits I have already):

  1. Continuous use of reusable water bottle, multiple grocery totes, a few cloth bags will be packed along for the ride in my backpack at all times. No more plastic wrap or Ziplock bags. Reusable jars and bottles for the grocery store/snack buying days.
  2. Kleenex, Q-Tips, tampons or sanitary napkins will be left behind in 2014. Hankies and menstrual cups…welcome!
  3. Refill bottles with bulk shampoo and conditioner, or shampoo bar. To go longer between washes, substitute dry shampoo for cornstarch. Instead of hairspray, switch to lemon water in a spray bottle.
  4.  For body/face soap, find a package-free solid soap.
  5. Switch from toothpaste to homemade tooth powder (use dependant on communal supply).
  6. Use an alum stone, powder or baking soda as antiperspirant.
  7. Reducing cosmetics and consider homemade substitutes such as cocoa powder as bronzer.
  8. Packing cloth napkins at all times for eating out etc.
  9. Reuse single-side printed paper for making notepads.
  10. Buy ONLY second-hand clothing/accessories/gifts/trinkets if needed.

Keeping in mind that there are a total of 2 stores in proximity to my suburban home which MIGHT offer my needed waste-free products, and 2 others a 1.5h bus ride away, I will need to improvise to meet these goals.

The reason why this resolution plan is scheduled over a 3 month period and not longer, is out of experimentation and scepticism. I’d like to put this “no-waste” lifestyle to the test. Does using water to wash the hankies, grocery totes and cloth bags use more or less energy and waste than simply disposing of a Kleenex after a sneeze? Or are there maybe habits that can be formed in daily systems, such as collecting the water from the shower as you wait for it to get warmer, and then use this water to wash these small items?

And what items are absolutely necessary, and still have not yet been re-engineered (in their packaging for example)? What non-compostable, non-recyclable waste will be inevitable? Taking inventory of these less obvious daily expenditures will hopefully help guide me in understanding what may need re-thinking. I hope to be able to fit the “waste” in my 1.9L jar. This will help monitor my purchasing habits and filter the unnecessary items that contribute to my footprint.

May your Christmases be white, and your New Year’s resolutions very, very green!