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Earth Day webinar takes step toward greener homes with waste audits

April 22, 2021
<p>Laura Young and Katie Deska inside the material recovery facility of the MSU Surplus Store &amp; Recycling Center. Photo courtesy of SSRC staff</p>

Laura Young and Katie Deska inside the material recovery facility of the MSU Surplus Store & Recycling Center. Photo courtesy of SSRC staff

The MSU Surplus Store and Recycling Center is hosting a virtual Earth Day event for the MSU Science Festival on Thursday at 7 p.m. The event’s focus is educating the community on how to conduct a home waste audit to reduce their household’s environmental impact.

Laura Young, sustainability program coordinator, and Katie Deska, education and upcycle coordinator, are planning the event. 

“We all individually can reduce our waste and specifically shrink our trash footprint and find new ways to reuse what we would typically get rid of,” Deska said. “And then also cut back even further on our recycling by finding alternative ways to get those items.”

A home waste audit is collecting all items you want to discard over a certain amount of time and attempting to reduce your landfill waste as much as possible by sorting the waste into different categories like composting and reusing. Then you pick one day to sort through all of your landfill waste to see if you can shrink it down even more.

“It just helps you to see your waste from a bit more of a fuller perspective and then you can pick and choose maybe a couple things that you want to work to change,” Deska said.

Young plans to talk about her personal experience conducting a home waste audit and what she learned. 

“I’d say from my personal standpoint, it’s a really eye-opening experience,” Young said. “Some people might initially think, ‘gosh, that’s so disgusting, I would never want to go through my trash and really pick it apart.’”

Young and Deska hope that audiences will use the audit to notice items they might throw away regularly, like the ring on a milk jug, and repurpose or reuse them in a creative way. 

“I would just want to personally make that change for myself,” Young said. “And then even just thinking about what I am purchasing and bringing into my home in the first place. I noticed I had a lot of plastics and film, particularly plastic film materials that typically you’d throw away, ... that would be landfilled.”

Roxanne Truhn, the coordinator of the MSU Science Festival, is looking forward to reactions from this event.

“I hope the audience is really excited about how to learn about recycling and reducing your carbon footprint,” Truhn said. “Because we only have one planet so we need to take care of the planet, so future generations will have clean air and won't have a whole Earth full of landfill."

Every little bit adds up to make a home less wasteful. 

“It starts with a small change,” Truhn said. “One small change can lead to another change and then who knows? Maybe in a few years we’ll all be green and recycle everything, and we’ll have a much better Earth for that.”

Some people might be hesitant to work on this change in their own homes and Deska recognizes that it might be difficult.

“It is really hard to take the time out of your day to do something like this, put the extra effort in, but I guess it’s one of those things if we prioritize it, then we find time to do it,” Deska said.

Even if people are unsure about auditing, Young and Deska suggest finding some way to track their waste whether it be trying it for one day, or even writing down everything they throw away.

“What’s really just awesome about doing a waste audit, even if you just did it for a day, is you can take immediate action,” Young said. “Start somewhere is probably the best advice. You can just take one little small piece and figure out what that means for you.”

For families and even roommates, the waste audit can be a way to hold each other accountable and spark dialogue about their household habits.

“This is a really great way to just kind of start that conversation, see what’s happening and then use that as a way to educate one another,” Young said. “We need to figure out a better way to handle some of these things so we can help reduce what’s going into the landfill, or on the flip side, how can we just consume less in the first place?”

Young and Deska encourage the viewers to celebrate the changes they’ve made even on a small scale. They also hope they have some fun while conducting their waste audits.

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“I almost felt like it really got my creative juices flowing and almost like a challenge,” Young said. “I know I don’t want this particular item to go to the landfill, so is there something I could do with this?”

Deska believes there is a sense of empowerment that goes along with changing waste habits as well.

“I have to just be grateful that I’m even thinking about these things and be grateful for the changes that I have made and recognize that progress and go ahead and celebrate where I can,” Deska said.

Deska also recognizes not everyone’s financial situation can support consuming all sustainably packaged materials, but she knows progress can be made either way.

“It’s a worthwhile thing to get a little bit more in touch with the stuff that we consume and that we discard,” Deska said. “And it’s different for every person. I have the privilege to come at it from a bit more of a philosophical perspective.”

Looking at the small changes people can make in their household, Deska also reflected on the limited power consumers can hold and how environmental impact comes down to a systemic change.

“There’s always more that we can be doing, there’s always more improvements that need to happen, but until these changes happen on a bigger scale with the producers, the consumer only has so much in our power,” Deska said.

To make this systemic change toward a better environment, Young suggests using the findings from the audit to speak out. For example, calling producers of certain products with wasteful packaging and encouraging them to make a change.

“We, in the collective sense, do have power if we leverage our voice to do that,” Young said. “There have been a couple items where I might just pick up the phone, in the tiny little print with the 1-800 number, call or write an email.”

Young and Deska hope the waste audit webinar encourages people to take the extra step toward a greener home.

“It makes us feel a lot better to champion that cause when we are doing it ourselves,” Deska said. “You feel more aligned, and I think there’s a lot of value in that for anyone who is invested in this environmental movement to look at their waste.”


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