I’m not usually a New Year’s resolution kind of guy but this year I’m making a huge one. For all of 2017 I won’t buy anything new. That’s right, nothing new at all.
I should say this won’t be nearly as challenging for me as it would most people. I’ve been simplifying my life for about 5 years now and have drastically reduced my needs and consumption during this time. I own fewer than111 possessions, have anet worth of just a few thousand dollars, and practice amostly zero waste life. Because of this I already buy very little stuff and I’m very happy and comfortable this way. However buying NOTHING NEW FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR will be a whole new ball game for me. Nothing new for a week would be easy. Nothing new for a month would take a little preparation. But nothing new for a year is uncharted territory for me. I’m raising my sail up and sailing far away from consumerism. I’m not sure if I’ll be 100% successful in this endeavor but I will be 100% transparent. For those who want to stay informed I’ll be posting a monthly blog and will let you know if I make exceptions or mistakes. I will list out every single new item I purchase if I do.
Trying to go zero waste in a low income area neighborhood vs. a wealthy neighborhood can result in two very different stories. To read a guide written by someone in downtown posh Manhattan that only sees zero waste through their own lens could prove to be a little disappointing for someone living in a low income area. I often hear that going zero waste is only something that wealthy people can do. For the most part I disagree with this statement however there is some truth in it. In certain ways going zero waste is much easier for people who live in wealthier neighborhoods that have more options. For example many low income areas don’t have easy access to a grocery store with a bulk refill section and thus have to buy more packaged foods. This one variable alone makes it much more difficult to zero waste grocery shop.
Phew, the first two months of Green Footprints have been a whirlwind! My name is Austen Hughes, and just in case you’re dropping in for the first time, let me tell you a little about myself. I’m traveling around the country in my green VW van named turtle, planting 50 trees in every state and running a mile for every tree planted– a total of 2,500 miles and 2,500 trees! The goal of the project is to inspire everyone to take small ‘steps’ to make their environmental Footprint a little more Green. I’ve been on the road since early September, and have seen and learned a whole lot already! Here’s what we’ve accomplished so far.
I want to give a huge thanks to Christine Messier ofYour Voice, Inc.For those of you who have read my book,Dude making a Difference, you are already a little familiar with her work. Without her the book may never have happened!
Back in 2013 I embarked on my first bike ride across America with intentions to live as environmentally friendly as possible while bringing attention to environmental issues. Almost every night of the 104 day ride I spent a few hours writing in my tent, on a picnic table, or sitting on the couch of whoever was hosting me for the night. I shared that writing in blogs and on Facebook throughout the summer and by the end of the ride I had more than enough to put together a book. The problem was that I actually had too much content and that it would take a lot of work to cut it down and patch it together into a book.
Welcome to the FAQ for Trash Me. Here I cover all of the questions people have been asking. Before diving into the questions though I’d like to explain the project in a little more depth to help you understand what I did and why.
For 30 days I wore every single piece of trash that I created while living like the average American in terms of consumerism. The average American creates 4.5 pounds of trash per day and I aimed to live the lifestyle that results in this. Normally I aim to live a near zero waste lifestyle so this is not a lifestyle that I am accustomed to. But for the 30 days I went about life in a manner that is very normal in the USA. I ate, shopped, and consumed like so many of us are accustomed to in this country. The only big difference is that I had to wear every piece of trash that I created instead of putting it into a garbage can.
Most people never think twice about their trash. Once it’s in the garbage can, it’s out of sight, out of mind. Many of us have seen photos and videos of overflowing landfills, oceans littered with trash, animals with plastic stuck around their bodies, and dead animals with stomachs full of plastic, but few of us see past these visuals to our personal connection to it. By wearing all of my trash for 30 days the idea is to create a shocking and unforgettable visual of how much trash just one person creates so that people can understand that they are actually a part of these issues. Once the conversation has been started and people are thinking about it I hope to inspire people to make positive changes in their lives to create less trash.
We live in an era when it’s so easy to have no idea of how any of our daily actions impact our community, humankind, other species, or the earth as a whole. I’m always looking for ways to get people to think about how their actions affect the world around them both near and far. I try to keep things very entertaining so that it reaches people whether they care about the environmental or social issue that I’m focusing on. Because we live in such a visually oriented generation I look for visual ways to make a point or grab people’s attention. For bringing attention to how much trash we create I thought what better way to than to wear it on me everywhere I go. No out of sight out of mind mentality is possible that way!
I’ve dived into over 2,000 dumpsters in over 25 states across the USA. By now I’ve pulled out tens of thousands of dollars worth of perfectly good food. Most of it I’ve given away but I’ve also lived solely off food from grocery store dumpsters for months at a time. My mission is to raise awareness about food waste and to reduce food waste and hunger in the USA. I don’t see dumpster diving as THE solution to food waste or hunger but at the same time I figure if the foods going to waste right now, why not eat it? Dumpster diving is not a global solution but for thousands of people it is an individual solution to reduce their environmental impact and feed themselves. So for those of you out there interested in saving a ton of money on food, reducing your environmental impact, or sharing a huge bounty of food with your friends and people in need I’m here to help with that. After 3 years of dumpster diving here are my top 10 tips to dumpster diving success.
Meet Austen Hughes. He’s about to embark on an epic adventure.
Starting this month he’s setting out to travel to each of the 50 US states, running 50 miles and planting 50 trees in each state. That’s 2,500 trees and 2,500 miles of running. And he’s doing all of this while producing less than one pound of landfill waste per month and generating zero edible food waste for the entire trip.
Today is day 30, the last day of my month in Bankhead of eating healthy on just $4/day. The idea was to see if it is possible to afford healthy food in an area where accessibility and cost are great issues. For the sake of this particular blog I am focusing solely on the issues of cost and accessibility and leaving aside the other issues such as time. I will get into that still in other blogs and in the guide that I make but I think it is wise to just discuss the issue of money in this particular blog which is a big enough barrier in itself for many people.
The following are photos of almost all of the food that I purchased this month. Some is missing but this comprises about 90% of it and represents it all very well. The photos show the cost, the store I purchased the food at, and the date purchased.
I’m excited to announce that I’m cycling across the USA for the 3rd time. But what I’m really excited to announce is that YOU ARE INVITED. The first thing that might come to mind is “I couldn’t possibly keep up.” Well, great news for you, my partner, Cheryl Davies, is the co-host of this ride and she’s never rode more than 30 miles in a day. If she can do it, so can you!
This isn’t any old bike ride though. We are the Green Riders, cycling in the service of the many good people of our nation. All across the country we will be helping others to grow their own food and live more sustainably. We’ll be starting gardens at people’s homes, at schools, and in the communities of small towns and urban cities in every state that we pass through. Plus we’ll be Freestyle Gardening all over the country! Each place that we pass through will be left a slightly better place than we found it.