Show/Hide

WELCOME!  Explore our Green Your Routine website and share your feedback and your own green success stories. We hope you will visit often and tell your neighbors. Please note that some of our features are still under construction. We appreciate your patience while we load more content about sustainable Fort Lauderdale.

Take the Zero Waste Challenge

Print

Our goal is to recycle three quarters or 75% of our waste by 2020. Right now, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, people who live in our area throw away 2.7 million tons of trash, and recycle or reuse a little over 1 million tons.  That means we are only half way to our goal. You can get us much closer by taking the City of Fort Lauderdale’s Zero Waste Challenge.

How it works

This is a 5-day challenge. On Day 1 you take a close look at how you normally handle your trash. On days 2 through 4 you begin to reduce your trash. On the last day you try to make almost no trash at all, and you make a plan for the future.

What you need

  • Zero Waste Challenge Permission Slip 
  • The worksheet from How Much Trash Do You Make?, plus the supplies from that experiment (gloves, a carry bag, etc.)
  • Our Trash Talk journal
  • Four (4) containers smaller than your family’s regular trash can to collect your daily trash. A plastic wash bucket or a small bathroom waste basket is the perfect size for Day 2. A large plastic bowl is good for Day 3, small bowl for Day 4, and a paper or plastic cup for Day 5.
  • Plastic bags with handles or a drawstring to stow trash that you collect during the day.
  • Designated space in your home to collect trash for each day of the challenge
  • A camera, phone or other hand-held device to take pictures
  • A scale
  • Access to a blue recycling cart, dumpster or other recycling container
  • Access to a green yard waste cart or other container for plant material
  • Optional: Access to a compost bin or kitchen compost container

Before you start

  • Decide who will participate. Will you do the challenge by yourself or with your family or friends or classmates?Any way is fine, but it might be fun to have company. 
  • Get permission. For some of this challenge you will be carrying your trash with you! The adults in your life need to know why. Print our Permission Slip and have it signed. 
  • Let your entire household know what you will be doing.
  • Read all of the instructions below.

Day 1: Get Started

This day requires the most work. You will complete the How Much Trash Do You Make? experiment. Follow the instructions exactly with one difference. Before you sort your trash at the end of the day, and before you take anything out, snap a picture of the whole bag or pile.

At the end of the day, complete the page marked "Day 1" in the Trash Talk journal.

If you want to get a jump start on Day 2, review the recycling guidelines tonight.

Day 2: Focus on Recycling

On Day 1 you learned a lot about different types of waste. On Day 2, we want you to concentrate on recycling.

Start by reviewing the rules. Check out the City’s Recycling Quick Reference Guide and be sure to review What Not to Recycle. If you want more information, check out the full What and How to Recycle section of this site.

Today you will attempt to limit all of your trash to what fits into the wastebasket or bucket-sized container simply by recycling. How is this possible? Just use your recycling bin. As you go through your day, look for recycling containers. You probably have them in school. (If not, bring recyclables home and toss them in the proper bin there.) Around town, you should find recycling containers in parks, at athletic fields, at busstops, on the beach and even around our sidewalks.

Any trash you make that is NOT recyclable goes in your wastebasket. If you are out of the house, temporarily store your trash in a plastic bag, then empty the contents into the basket or bucket when you get home. If you are participating with your family, everyone should use the same waste basket.

At the end of the day, snap a picture of your wastebasket. Did everything fit? Is it overflowing?

Complete "Day 2" of the Trash Talk journal, including weighing your basket full of trash.

Day 3: Add Re-use

Start by browsing through some of our ideas for Re-use. Things like Upcycling and Donating to Charity are also forms of re-use. You may want to do this review the night before to save time.

As you go about your day today, continue to recycle like you did yesterday, but now add a focus on re-use. You will attempt to fit all of your trash into the large bowl

As you throw things in the bowl (or your carry bag when you are out), consider whether the item could be re-used at least once or twice before being thrown out or even recycled. Set items for re-use aside in a separate bag.

At the end of the day, snap a picture of your bowl. Did everything fit? Is it overflowing?

Talk with your family (or teacher if appropriate) about the re-use items. Where should they be stored away? If they are going to be donated, where should they be given?

Complete "Day 3" in the Trash Talk journal, including weighing your large bowl full of trash..

A note about Day 3 - If your family or school composts, this counts as re-use.

Day 4: Reduce

Start by browsing through some of our ideas for reducing waste. Things like Reducing Paper Waste and Reducing Food Waste are important. You may want to do this review the night before to save time.

As you go about your day today, continue to recycle like you did yesterday, and to set things aside for re-use. You will attempt to fit all of your trash into the small bowl.

As you throw things in the bowl (or your carry bag when you are out), consider whether you can avoid using them altogether. For example, could you clean up a spill with a cloth dishrag instead of a paper towel? Could you use a real glass instead of a paper cup?  These are forms of waste reduction.

Don't worry if you make trash in the beginning of the day and then realize that you could have avoided it. The idea is to begin to think about reduction. It will get easier as the day goes on.

At the end of the day, snap a picture of your small bowl. Did everything fit? Is it overflowing?

Talk with your family (or teacher if appropriate) about the choices you made throughout the day.

Complete "Day 4" in the Trash Talk journal, including weighing your small bowl full of trash..

Day 5: Refuse, Grade Yourself, Plan

Today will be the toughest part of your challenge, but it could also be the most fun. Today, you will continue to recycle, to set things aside for re-use and to make good decisions about the things you use.

You will attempt to fit all of your trash into a single paper or plastic cup. (Don't worry, we won't count the cup as trash, but if you can work with a washable, re-usable cup, then certainly go ahead.)

The key to making this work is to refuse to accept trash from other people. What does that mean? A simple example is bringing your own bags to a store. When you do that, you refuse to accept the store's bags. Another thing you can do is to say "no thank you" to a lot of extras. Say no thank you to the straw and drink straight from the glass. Say no thank you to the paper receipt and ask for it to be emailed if you need it.

Don't worry if you make trash in the beginning of the day and then realize that you could have avoided it. The idea is to begin to think about reduction. It will get easier as the day goes on.

HINT: A lot of waste is in packaging. Look for things that don't have a lot of packaging or have none at all. When you choose to purchase those items, you are refusing all of the trash that comes along with packaging. So, buying cheese in a block with a single wrapper is better than buying pre-sliced cheese with individually wrapped slices.

At the end of the day, snap a picture of your cup. Did everything fit? Is it overflowing? Talk with your family (or teacher if appropriate) about what you experienced during the day. Was it sometimes difficult to get others to go along with your refusals?

Complete "Day 5" in the Trash Talk journal, including weighing your cup full of trash.. If it's empty, you don't need to weigh it. Great job!

Finishing Up and Moving On

You can do this at the end of Day 5 or on the day after, but don't wait too long because you want your feelings and experiences to be fresh in your mind.

Review your journal and all of the pictures you took. Complete the "Grade Yourself" page in the journal. Were you able to reduce your trash each day? Do you think you could continue to reduce your trash or at least keep it at this lower level?

Think about all of the actions you took and decisions you made to reduce your trash. Create your Zero Waste Plan page. If you want, turn your plan into a pledge and get everyone in your family or class or challenge group to sign it.

Then, START LIVING IT every day!

Ready for an Xtreme Challenge?

Add a day to your Zero Waste Challenge. On this 6th day, try to make no trash at all, not even one cup full. It can be done. You can search the internet for zero waste examples and see inspirational stories about people who live that way every day. They not only bring their own bags to the store, they also bring their own containers for things like rice or cereal. They bring their own re-usable tubs to the ice cream parlor for big orders, and they get the best container of all, an edible one, for the small scoops. They choose things packaged only in recyclable materials. They do old-fashioned things like use cloth hankies instead of tissues. 

We're not suggesting that being totally Zero Waste is right for every family. After all, we do provide twice-per-week trash pickup. What matters most for our City is that the amount you put in that black garbage cart of dumpster becomes less and less, and that what you put in the blue recycling cart or containers goes up and up. So pass the challenge along!

Share Your Results

We want to hear about your challenge. Click here to Share Your Success Story. We might publish it on our website!

View Full Site