Staying at Home Waste Piles Up


Courtesy of  Austin Downs is the Global Cleanup Co-ordinator USA 

With coronavirus forcing shutdowns and bans, much of our attention has turned inward. We’re learning a lot about ourselves, as well as our habits. That includes how much waste we create.

My housemates and I have quarantined at home for the last month, and I’ve suddenly realized how fast we’re filling our trash container. Sure, more waste is expected — each of us eat every meal at home, and we’re trying our best to responsibly stock up on food and supplies to limit grocery trips. 

But aside from these changed habits is a bigger problem: Almost everything we consume comes in plastic wrapping and containers. And determining what can or cannot be recycled is a labyrinth of confusing rules and regulations. In the end, we contribute more to the problem than to the solution.  

Here’s where you come in

As we near the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, I invite you to join me for a zero-waste challenge.

The first step is to commit yourself to logging each and every item of food for a whole day. Start with breakfast and include everything, even the bowl of cereal you eat at 2am because time doesn’t seem to exist anymore. 

Compile all of your packaging and food waste, and then take a hard look at what you have: Is there a lot of plastic? Are any of your food scraps compostable? Are your leftovers stored in plastic or glass containers? 

Once you know your food habits and the waste you produce, you can start making some adjustments. For one example, I recently swapped out my daily yogurt cups for one larger container to reduce the total plastic used. 

But don’t stop there — keep going! We have some recommendations to support your waste transformation. 

If it helps, think of this challenge in the contexts of cleanups. More often than not, the most common items in shared public spaces and waterways are not the car mufflers or fishing nets, but rather small food wrappers that wedge themselves between rocks (talk about being between a rock and a hard place). The same applies to our choices at home: Small choices, amplified enough times, have big impacts.

On April 22, the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, join us for the largest online mobilization in history. And remember that individual actions — like reducing plastic consumption and waste — can collectively lead to change.

Read more 

Austin Downs


A California native, Austin is the cleanup coordinator for the Great Global Cleanup™. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in politics with a minor in education from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Master of Science in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Before coming to EDN, Austin interned at Win Without War in Washington, D.C., and the University of California Office of State Government Relations in Sacramento. A pun aficionado, Austin is best known for ‘punishing his colleagues with his wit and humor, ranging from the bad to the very bad

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