Working Towards Zero-Waste

Photo curtsey of Hillside Solutions
Photo courtesy of Hillside Solutions.

Over Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion hosted by Heartland Woman’s Network. I heard from Samantha Nieman, a destination wedding photographer and a zero-waste advocate during this monthly luncheon.

Nieman discussed her travel experience as a destination photographer, as well as the sheer amount of waste that she witnessed everywhere she went. Her discussion inspired me to change the ways that I think about waste, and I hope this information does the same for you.

What is zero-waste?

The general concept of zero waste is the conscious decision to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. When we refuse products, we are eliminating what we do not need from our lives. If you don’t need to purchase more clothing, refuse that temptation instead of creating more clutter in your life. In the reduce phase, we are reducing the amount of stuff necessary for day-to-day life. This may be reducing the number of products involved in your hair or skincare routine. With reuse, this is simply reusing whatever you can, for as long as you can. In the recycle phase, we find the most appropriate way to recycle items that cannot be refused or reduced. Finally, In the rot phase, taking food scraps, peelings, and coffee grounds and throwing them into a compost bin can allow new life for these scraps. With time, old food mixed with yard waste will turn into nutrient rich soil.

Hillside Solutions

Hillside Solutions is a locally-owned business based out of Omaha, Nebraska. Working with other businesses in the Omaha metro, Hillside attempts to develop techniques that businesses can use to get closer to zero-waste. Hillside will do trash pickup like other haulers, but instead of taking it right to the landfill, they recycle and compost as much as they can. If the business needs the soil, they will get a portion of the composted materials back as dirt. If the business is not in need, the composted scraps are taken to community gardens in the Omaha Metro to fertilize the soil. As an organization, Hillside works towards sustainability guidance and encourages clients to start small by implementing basic recycling practices. It is incredible to see what a large impact small changes can make.

Composting is cool!

How can you make the shift towards sustainability? Composting is much easier than you think. Follow these simple steps from Hillside Solutions to create your own soil.

  • Compost the big 3: veggies, fruits, and yard waste.
  • Collecting inside: Toss food scraps into a bucket on your kitchen counter for later use – nothing fancy necessary.
  • Placing outside: In the backyard, toss scraps onto the ground in an area the gets lots of sun.
  • No smells, bugs, or animals: For every 1/4th of food scraps, throw 3/4ths of yard material or newspaper to keep any smells at bay.
  • Mix it up: around once per month, mix the scraps and yard waste around for faster compost.
  • When is it done? If the compost smells like earth it’s ready to use; if it has an unpleasant odor it needs more time.
  • Put it to use: you can use your composted soil to start a garden, or as a fertilizer on grass and outdoor plants.

Other resources

  • A free guide to zero waste: This guide from Hillside Solutions will provide you with a complete guide to zero-waste transformation.
  • The Wormery: Want to stay local? This Des Moines business teaches about the use of worm farms when composting fruits and veggies. You can even purchase worms directly from them.
  • Yard waste collection: The Compost It! program in Iowa collects yard waste and turns it into soil at local landfills. This Grow Gold Compost can be purchased at some Iowa locations.

If you found this information helpful, check out a few of my other blogs on sustainability!


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