Harvesting Alaska: Getting close to 'zero waste'
Reduce, reuse and recycle: it's the mantra for people who are striving to create less waste in their lives and throw fewer things away.
Jess Johnson has been a believer for a while.
Johnson, a single mom who works full-time, says she's nowhere near "zero waste" because she still has garbage, but she has a lot less than she did before.
"I really take a moment and look at what I'm throwing away and think, 'Could I use it in a different way, or could somebody else use it?'" Johnson said.
At Johnson's house, reducing waste starts with buying less and reusing what you already have. She rarely buys paper towels or napkins, because she says cloth will do in most circumstances.
Johnson also chooses glass over plastic, whenever possible, particularly to store things.
"I try to get things in glass as opposed to plastic because it keeps better and you can reuse it over and over again," Johnson said.
For the most part, Johnson uses her own bags and containers when she shops and says she strives to find items with as little packaging as possible. When she does buy things in plastic, she repurposes their containers.
A plastic tub of what was once something from Costco holds rhubarb she harvested in her freezer. And commercial shampoo bottles have been refilled numerous times with local products Johnson buys in bulk.
Johnson said she does her best to reduce and reuse, but she doesn't do it alone. She relies on a network of friends like Courtney Munson, who lives just a few blocks away in the same Spenard neighborhood.
Munson has turned her lawn into a lush garden that produces more than her family can use. That includes a lettuce patch in her front yard that Munson plants mostly for friends and neighbors, inviting them to help themselves.
Munson doesn't buy a lot or waste a lot. She collects lawn clippings from neighbors that go into her compost pile and feeds other scraps to her egg-laying hens. She makes a point of sharing what she has, often with Johnson, who, in turn, helps Munson out in other ways.
"It's not like tit-for-tat trading," Munson said. "We are living in a gift economy, is what we call it. You trust that things will come back to you."
Both Johnson and Munson said working together makes it easier to live the values they both share, which they hope others will also adopt.
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