What is “Toward Zero Waste” Anyway?

By: Leigh Williams

So you’ve read Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home and it really resonated with you. I mean, it makes sense, right? Less trash is appealing!  But then reality hits… this ain’t California! Zero Waste living in my town will not be easy.

Indeed, when I first started uttering the words “I’m going zero waste,” was met with confounded looks. People simply didn’t know what I was on about. Was this about spending? Thrifty-ness? My figure? No. This is about garbage. And people just don’t talk about garbage!

At first I had the urge to relocate.

I’ll go to California, I thought, where my newfound lifestyle love wouldn’t get a second look, and where, hey, it’s easy to do! But alas I knew, #1) we can’t afford California, #2) I love life here in North Carolina, and #3) while moving would make my life easier, what difference would it make to the greater goal: to reduce the amount of waste going into the landfill? Indeed, running away to where they’ve already “got this”, while dreamy, was not the answer. I was going to “bloom where I was planted” and that meant right here in Cary, NC.

So, if I was going to be able to live this lifestyle without always feeling like an outcast, I needed to find some like-minded people. I needed to find my people. On Facebook, I found a community called Journey to Zero Waste where I could get support and ask the big questions of people who have been there.  But what about the answers to questions specific to my community like “where can I get bulk pasta?” and “which cashier at Earth Fare knows how to tare weight?”.  I also wanted to find just one person near me who was attempting to live this way, too! (I regretted for days not introducing myself to the older gray haired couple deftly filling their large circa 1970’s Tupperware container with flour at Earth Fare late one night.)

Then it happened, someone on the Journey group asked where everyone was from.  And I found some local Zero Wasters, among them, Dargan Gilmore. Tada!

I had already started a Meetup group that garnered lots of interest, but it was clear after our first meeting, interest was about all. Few had actually attempted to live waste-free. Many weren’t sure what “zero waste” really meant. But people were engaging, sincere and had lots of great ideas, and I hoped we would learn together.

At any rate, I had a Meetup group and a Facebook page, and Dargan had a Facebook group for Raleigh, NC and had been at it about a year longer than I.  So we decided to join forces, and Toward Zero Waste was born with the idea that, one day, moving “toward zero waste” wouldn’t be such a foreign concept in my town, or yours! We want to help folks ease into a zero waste lifestyle and feel good about the changes they are making.  We want to help people move TOWARD Zero Waste and enjoy the process. No guilt. Low stress. Just simple lifestyle changes, habits built over time, that matter.

If you are interested in building a “Toward Zero Waste” culture in your town or city, we want to help you do that, too.

Come along with us as we move #towardzerowaste!


About the Author:

I’m a wife and mom of two school-aged girls, living in Cary, NC. I started moving “toward zero waste” in September of 2015 after reading Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home. Bea’s single jar of trash a year for a family of four didn’t seem possible for my family of four, but I knew we could do better and was inspired to try.

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