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For our final day, we gathered to assess the amount of recyclables and trash we had collectively produced, and to brainstorm ideas for avoiding future waste. Many of the solutions we came up with involved bringing your own container, utensil, bag, etc, as well as making things by hand at home. We also filled a few bottle bricks with our more flexible, non-biodegradable items. All in all, it was great to do this project with multiple people so that we could tackle the problems and solutions together. Everyone had a unique take and an area to improve on; the hope is that we can continue to improve and spread our newfound knowledge to others, little by little.

All the interns gathered for a meeting to wrap up the AWAY Project and discuss our findings. I was ready to see how the others had done throughout the week and hear their challenges. I was especially excited to learn how I might solve some of the waste issues that I dealt with myself. Our wonderful educator, Monica always has insightful tips on how to be more zero waste. An interesting point was brought up by one of the interns, Crystal, about how she was surprised at how much unsolicited waste was produced (i.e. junk mail, straws that were already in drinks, plastic utensils, etc.). It made think about how much waste would be saved if all disposable plastic products were only given out upon request (or better yet, not at all). I compiled a mental list of all the reusable items that I might need to keep reducing my waste and then came my favorite part…bottle bricks! I had worked on the AWAY Project with Monica before and I loved the idea of creating something new and exciting out of our waste. I hope to maybe continue making them with waste I collect so that it is being productively used rather than taking up space in the landfill. Overall, I think I learned a lot from the experience and really learned how to challenge my own consumption choices.

The last day was fairly easy to take on for a work potluck, home dinner, and no shopping meant no activities in which we usually get our trash from. The Away project forced me to address the amount of waste I was producing, and then made it seem much more realistic to manage it. I wish more people knew about easy adjustments they could make to very much limit their impact whether it be reuseable bottles, straws, containers, bags, or utensils. We need to stress the effects of too much trash disposal more in society and participating in the Away project was extremely influential.

When we met to discuss our findings I was interested to hear the challenges and ideas the other interns had. Crystal noted that a lot of things were given to her, like junk mail, straws, plastic utensils, and plastic bags. I was a tad surprised to realize how true of a statement that was. People are constantly giving us things! And it’s not just trash; last week I was given one of those plastic bracelet-for-a-cause things that every non-profit organization gives out. I was also given a T-shirt. And over the weekend, when I went to whole foods, I was given samples and pamphlets and a lot of jabber about another cool and exciting product. Do we really need all of that? I can’t help thinking that having a bunch of stuff that I’ll never use and/or probably throw away is pretty pointless. And all those different types of protein shakes and granola bars and crazy snack things? I kinda just like the simple joy in fresh fruit and vegetables, especially when they are made with care. Maybe that’s why so many people don’t like fresh foods-half the stuff we find at supermarkets is crap. Maybe if we had a better food system, we wouldn’t need to disguise the contents with more contents. That was a bit of a side track, but it just goes to show how it’s all related. When I eat fresher and healthier, I use less packaging and resources. I also feel better and healthier. It’s also pretty fun to come up with new ways to eat the same things. I honestly don’t think it’s so hard to simplify; just one step at a time is all it takes. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do this project.