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38th Zero

I turned 38 today. I celebrated with thousands of people in a most unusual way.

I helped them all compost, recycle, and experience the joy and magic of zero waste. I've been doing this for nine years and still can't believe I earn a living with this work. For me zero waste never gets old - it is what I do, what I believe, and what I know.

Zero waste isn't recycling and composting (a common misconception) - it is a different way of looking at the world where instead of seeing waste you see resources used well and resources used poorly (wasted). You see stuff designed well and stuff designed poorly (designed to be wasted). And when you see the world this way you can't help but compost and recycle when possible. Conversely, by helping people recycle and compost I open up a space for them to also see that what is left in the trash can is just crap that was poorly designed.

And this matters to me because as soon as I started asking deep questions (sometime between the ages of 8 and 14) I realized there is no "away". It sounds metaphysical but really it is just physical. All the stuff that we have dug up, created, molded into this or that, is still around in one form or another. That said, despite there being no "away" death is real and it happens ALL the time. In order for us to live each day and enjoy the world, many animals and plants die.

With zero-waste I take something sad (death and waste) and turn it into something beautiful (or at least giving it the potential). When items are designed for reuse, recycling, and composting, death leads to life in a zero waste circle. This is extremely easy to see regarding meat. If an animal had to die for us to get nutrition and joy the least we can do is ensure that the parts not eaten are composted so that it can nurture future plants and animals!

But as a vegetarian I know that animals die for my meals too. And as an environmentalist, I know that there is a lot of death and destruction to create that beer can (and that beer), that newspaper or paper boat, or even compostable cup. In working towards zero waste not only do I get to remember this but I get to express my thanks to the world by helping other people not let these deaths be wasted either.

I am so thankful for this life, not only for getting to work in an area that I feel passionate (and with amazing other people who share this vision) but also for all the deaths that allow me to live each day. A birthday where I get do all this AND contemplate about it is a good day indeed.