Becoming an (almost) zero-waste family

Don’t panic: You don’t have to completely eliminate your family’s trash to make a big impact on the environment. Here’s how to get started.

When she was 15, Ava Langridge watched a YouTube video that explained how environmental activist Lauren Singer fit four years of trash into a 16-ounce mason jar. Inspired, the Bay Area teen embarked on a mission to help her family of five learn to live trash-free.

“Within three months we reduced our trash from three bags a week to less than half a bag a week,” says the now 17-year-old Langridge, who has more than 45,000 followers on the Zero Waste Teen Instagram account. “Too often people see zero waste as all or nothing. I want them to know that even small actions can have a massive impact.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American produces 4.9 pounds of trash every day. Although some of that gets recycled, the majority—including millions of tons of uneaten food and single-use plastic—ends up in the garbage.

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