Harm Reduction: Garbage Edition

Harm Reduction: Garbage Edition
Ever heard of harm reduction framework before? If you haven't, it's generally an approach to meeting people where they are, usually in the context of addiction, where people are oftentimes denied the support they need short of complete abstinence.

In so many ways, our sustainability POV at Goldune is similar—we think there's a lot of power in a bunch of people showing up to do little things as they are now instead of waiting for a few people to magically become environmentally perfect. 

The average American tosses out 4.4 lbs of trash every day, and municipal solid waste landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.—which might sound stressful, but is a great reminder that changes to your consumption habits or behavior totally do make a difference. 

A lot of folks won’t be able to go from a lifetime of generating trash and sending it to landfills to never creating a scrap of trash again, but there are so many things you can do without shifting from one extreme end of the spectrum to the other, which is what we mean when we talk about sustainability through the lens of harm reduction. 

Here are some steps in the right direction that you could take on your own at home:

  • Saying no to junk mail! 5.6 million tons of junk mail end up in landfills each year, and stopping it from reaching your mailbox takes about 2 minutes (and full transparency… $2.) Start with dmachoice.org, which allows you to opt out of several categories of junk mail at once. Two minutes of work to save some trees? We like it.

  • Thrifting / Secondhand Shopping. The average American produces 82 lbs of textile waste each year, and we can reduce that number by donating to and shopping at thrift stores. We know nothing beats fast-fashion prices, but these items are made cheaply, thrown away faster, and greatly contribute to the doubling of textile waste in the last twenty years. Plus, the global fashion industry actually emits 1.7 billion tons of CO2 into the air each year, more than air and sea travel combined. Not to mention, thrifting is what all the cool kids are doing. How else are we going to survive the incoming *vibe shift*? 
  • Composting. The food scraps that rot away in landfills, generating methane emissions, don’t need to be there! You can send those to your compost bin instead, where they’ll actually end up nourishing soil down the line, and hopefully helping our agricultural system drawdown carbon instead of making more. (Way better, eh?) This is probably the easiest, cheapest, most consistent way to reduce your household’s footprint–compost your food scraps instead of throwing them in the trash or down the garbage disposal.  (Into getting started? We wrote a whole guide to composting here.)
  • Recycling E-Waste. E-waste (electronic waste) is the fastest growing municipal waste in America. We all want the latest iPhone or tablet, but it’s what we do with our old ones that matter. While it currently only makes up for a small percentage of overall waste in landfills, it produces 70% of the toxic waste originating from said landfills. E-waste is melted and incinerated, releasing toxic heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and cadmium into the atmosphere. (Our livers and kidneys are especially extremely sensitive to cadmium.) The good news is large retailers such as Staples and Best Buy offer free electronic recycling drop-offs! If that doesn’t work for you, reach us at hi@goldune.com, and we can tell you the best place to drop off your items. 

    As always, we could use more good ideas! Got any tricks up your sleeve that help you send less to landfill? Drop ‘em in the comments or shoot us a note at hi@goldune.com.



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