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  • Viroqua Plastic Free

A Zero Waste Journey

A Zero Waste Event Initiative is Viroqua Plastic Free’s latest project.  But…what does that even mean? 


Well, you have no doubt had this experience…you attend a meeting or event and are greeted with tables holding a plastic water bottle or coffee in a Styrofoam cup for each participant, paper plates, plastic utensils, paper napkins, and snack bags holding chips and crackers.  Each of those items is headed for the trash.  


Contrast that with a refreshment table holding ceramic cups for coffee, glasses for water, reusable snack plates, stainless steel utensils, cloth napkins and a light meal or snacks served buffet style.  With a small amount of effort, these items can be washed and reused.  No trash can required!


If you have attended one of the recent Viroqua SOUP events sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, you have already seen Viroqua Plastic Free’s Zero Waste Event Initiative in action.  VPF brings ceramic plates, bowls and cups, stainless steel utensils and cloth napkins to the event.  Volunteers help serve the light meal, gather the used dishware, and assist in washing everything so it is ready to go for the next event. 


If an organization you belong to is interested in hosting a Zero Waste Event, just contact Viroqua Plastic Free at  We are happy to offer suggestions and help for easily achieving events without waste.


However, the idea of going zero waste in your daily life may be more daunting especially if you read blogs on the Internet about folks being able to store an entire year’s worth of waste in a one-quart Mason jar.  As Lily Cameron, author of Simply Sustainable, says, “We need a whole lot of people reducing their waste imperfectly rather than a handful of individuals fitting a year’s worth of trash into a jar.”


Bea Johnson is a pioneer of the zero-waste movement and recommends the following five principles to begin your journey. 



The first line of defense is to refuse to bring into our homes items that we don’t really want, certainly don’t need, and end up discarding.  Things like junk mail, single-use plastics and freebies that are handed out at many events. 



Did you ever notice that many, maybe even most, of the clothes in your closet are seldom worn and that several of the items in your kitchen cabinets are never used?  It may feel like a giant step to donate all the items you do not use, so how about this baby step?  Put the things you never use in a box (or boxes) and store them for a few months.  If you cannot remember what is in the boxes, it is a pretty safe bet that you can get by without them.  Share what you do not need with others by taking unused items to a local thrift store.



Now that you are living in a less cluttered environment, start swapping out anything that is disposable for a reusable alternative.  Take paper towels off the shopping list and start using cloth rags instead.  Rather than having a different cleaning product for every room in the house, look for some homemade cleaners online that use basic ingredients like vinegar, castile soap and baking soda.  Check out the VPF blog “Break up with Plastic – Have We Got Some New Life Partners for You!” for some of our favorite recipes.  And don’t forget about shopping first at a local second-hand or thrift store when you do need an item.   



Recycle only what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse.  While certain items like aluminum, tin cans, paper and cardboard are routinely recycled, plastic is not.  Not only is it poorly recycled, but most of what is recycled is actually downcycled into a product that is no longer recyclable.  It is destined for the landfill.



Don’t forget to compost your vegetable scraps to keep them out of the landfill where they contribute to methane production.  Expand what you might think is compostable to include coffee grounds, paper scraps, hair, paper towels, food-soiled pizza boxes, egg shells, shredded newspaper, and twine.



It isn’t a race; it is a journey.  Whatever you can do is an improvement.  Progress, not perfection.


Bea Johnson’s website -


Check out these related VPF blogs that you may have missed!

Break Up With Plastic: Have We Got Some New Life Partners for You

The High Cost of Convenience


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