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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 06:32 PM
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Meet the Zero-Waste Zealots
Meet the Zero-Waste Zealots

Juli Borst freezes her kitchen waste, carries bottle caps across two boroughs, and knits her own washcloths. And she's not the most obsessive trash blogger out thereby a long shot.
By Elizabeth Royte

May/June 2009

ON A CHILLY midwinter Saturday in New York City, Juli Borst shoulders her way into a bustling Whole Foods supermarket. But Borst isn't here to buy stuff; she's here to divest herself of consumer goods. Into a cardboard box near the front window she drops some batteries (not hers, she's quick to inform me). At the customer service counter she hands over her expired Brita filter, then scrutinizes the 14 bottle caps at the bottom of her canvas tote. She's collected them on the streetnot to beautify her neighborhood, she says, but to raise awareness when people ask what the hell she's doing.

"Whole Foods will take the No. 5s," she tells me. Who knew that bottle caps were stamped with recycling numbers? "Look," she says. I squint at the tiny white digit on the tiny white cap. "This is a 2," she says. "I'll have to bring that one uptown to Aveda. They take any rigid cap with threads."

A classical singer, Borst, 38, lives with a roommate in Astoria, Queens. She became concerned about her use of plastic, and all that it signified, during her year of The Compacta yearlong commitment to buy nothing new except for food, underwear, and health and safety items. (The Compact was established in 2006 by a group of San Francisco friends concerned with the environmental impact of consumerism.) Borst formally Compacted through 2007 and continues somewhat informally today, shopping at thrift stores, carrying reusable bags and containers ("the low-hanging fruit," she says), and scouring local markets for meat and cheese unsullied by low-density polyethylene (a.k.a. wrappers).

"I was raised with a disgust of single-use packaging," she explains. As the youngest of nine children growing up in Kansas, Borst diligently composted and recycled. Recreational shopping was unknown to her. Keeping her consumption in check is still about saving money, but now it's also "about simplifying my life, it's about the environment, and it's about healthbecause the effect of these plastics is only beginning to be studied."

Across the country, a vanguard of tormented souls is coming to the same conclusions. For some, the trigger was learning about plastic-befouled oceans. Others had epiphanies after learning about freegans, who encourage dumpster diving for food and household goods. Others took action after reading the No Impact Man blog or Alan Weisman's The World Without Us or screening documentaries like The Story of Stuff.

Frustrated by government inaction and a culture of waste, the hardcore embark upon zero-waste challenges. Some, like Borst, try to send nothing to a landfill or an incinerator. Others take plastic-free vows, or weigh and photograph the plastic that does sneak into their lives. In Los Angeles, one father of two saved a year's worth of his family's waste (except for food, which he composted) in his basement.

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Kali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:32 PM
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1. good for them
it's pretty damn hard to avoid plastic even if you aren't a "consumer".
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Beartracks Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 07:33 PM
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2. This is intriguing...
We can learn a lot from their commitment and discipline. "Learning new habits" is a good way to put it.

And The Story of Stuff is entertaining, funny, educational, and spot on.
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handmade34 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat May-02-09 08:03 PM
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3. Zealot?
I hope that word is used in the most positive sense... We are(collectively) so far removed and ignorant of how all of our actions affect the environment and each other... very, very difficult, but we should all strive to create zero waste.
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Blue_Tires Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-04-09 03:59 PM
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4. kick for later reading
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