Dumping convenience, reducing waste

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MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KJCT)-- Think about how much trash you throw out each day? Do you think you could eliminate all of it?

There is a movement underway involving people who are trying to not produce any trash at all.

"Everything that you buy comes in a package because it has to come to you that way,” said Brandy Remy, a Grand Junction resident.

Once we are done with the product we purchase, it usually ends up in the landfill.

Mesa County dumps more trash than the national average of four pounds each day.

Mesa County Public Works said each resident produces, on average, six pounds of trash each day, but one Colorado woman reduces the amount of waste to fit in a mason jar for the entire year.

For most of the people we talked to, it seems like a nearly impossible feat, but Andrea Sanders is doing it.

"Oh wow,” "for me I don't think it’s possible,” and "cool but crazy," is just some of the reactions we got from Grand Valley residents.

“There are so many products out there that are so unnecessary. We have a product for the counter, the sink, the windows, for this and that,” said Andrea Sanders a Boulder Resident.

It’s a lifestyle called zero waste. She even started her own non-profit surrounding this idea called Be Zero.

"Zero waste referring to a type of economy that we don’t live in yet. A zero waste economy is one the designs produces and manufactures, without waste as an end product. Whereas we live in a linear economy, which means we currently design things to go to the trash. We design things so it breaks, or goes out of style, or you can’t fix it, or you’re kind of forced to rebuy it again,” said Sanders.

It's not always easy, but Andrea said there are a lot of misconceptions about her mission.

“People think I live in a tree house and wear hemp clothes, and churn my own butter and weave my own fabrics and I’m not!” said Sanders.

Her ultimate goal is to greatly reduce her plastic and waste footprint.

"Most days I go by without making any trash,” said Sanders “This type of lifestyle doesn’t mean you just recycle more; it actually means you recycle less and that’s because you are consuming less.”

Sanders says the hardest part is not giving in to modern day conveniences.

“So these kind of things that we have been told we need to buy, like disposable things, we just do the opposite. We don’t buy paper towels, we don’t buy plastic baggies, we don’t buy tissues we use our own, reusable tissues. So we cut square of old t-shirts and cloths and put them in a jar and we have a little system for that,” said Sanders.

She thinks of it as having one foot in her grandparent’s generation and going back to the basics, while also having one foot in the modern world, and using 21st century resources to protect the future.

“It’s not about not consuming; it’s not about don’t go to the store and buy stuff, it's about being more thoughtful with your purchases. Thinking more about what you are actually buying. Who is it coming from and who is it made by and how long is this really going to last me?” said Sanders.

County employees recognize that this is a tough lifestyle to maintain, and it isn’t for everyone.

They are taking their own measures to reduce what goes in the local landfill.

“We are trying to limit that footprint by compacting it, diverting and recycling, and good management. Compacting as much as we can, the large piece of equipment you see behind us, that's exactly what it’s doing. That allows us to put more trash in a smaller space,” said Pete Baier, the director of Mesa County Public Works.

The state already bans certain types of materials from the landfill.

“Landfills are highly regulated by state of Colorado, we have to follow those rules and one of the most recent ones was a ban on electronic waste. So we collect it here although on the West Slope there is not a recycle center, we actually have to ship it to front range now to be recycled,” Baier said.

Mesa County said it has reduced their waste by 20 percent.

“We are limited in the West Slope because of where we are located. It’s a little bit difficult to have those markets available to fully recycle,” said Baier.

“We learned more about recycling because a lot of the stuff we put in our bins doesn’t magically turn in to something else." Sanders said. "It’s a business so a lot of it ends up going into the landfill, if there is not a market for it.”

To make a difference, Sanders said start small, because every little bit helps.

She suggested shopping at farmers markets, buying hand made products, or using reusable water bottle, coffee cups and grocery bags.

“So we look at what are we throwing away, what is a reusable counterpart to that?” said Sanders. “One thing can help you feel empowered and know that you are making a change.”

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