Chances are if you’re here, you’re looking for ideas on how to make some concrete zero waste goals to kick the new year off right. Making big commitments, at least personally, has always been overwhelming so I try to choose realistic, concrete goals I actually have a chance of achieving. No: “I’m going to start a zero waste group in my city.” Yes: “I’m going to start a zero waste Facebook group and host one event next month.”

Below I’m sharing my personal zero waste goals for the upcoming year. Please feel free to steal them if they fit your needs as someone looking to get into community organizing.

Converting my lawn into a garden – and giving to those who need it

This is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s the first year of owning a house (with a frankly massive back lawn) and I have big plans for it. Namely, renting something that can dig it all up, planting a garden, and finding ways to distribute the excess to a few local families. This is at the top of my zero waste goals list because it’s also going to be fun for me. I hope.

I’ve been doing some research into creating mid-scale edible gardens and I’ve found a couple of books to be helpful:

Start a Community Garden: The Essential Handbook by Lamanda Joy: a bit too technical for what I need as this is first and foremost a personal garden and a personal project, this books has some great ideas about community organizing that have been helpful to think about.

Growing a Garden City by Jeremy N. Smith: using Missoula, Montana as a case study, this book explores how all ranges of people can benefit from urban gardens – in terms of actual food security, building community pride, and more. It’s not full of practical knowledge, but it would be a good reference point for someone who says “I can’t possibly do this.”

Midwest Fruit and Vegetable Gardening by Katie Elzer-Peters: Midwest-specific, duh, but this books has been helpful in planning out what I can reasonably plant and when to do it. I’d suggest anyone interested in doing more than a lazy garden pick up a local-specific guide like this to make your gardening effective.

I have big dreams of an informal zero waste CSA, but that all depends on yield. Whatever’s produced, any extras will be given (without excess packaging) to self-identified families in need by reaching out through local Facebook groups.

Using my online influence to solicit items for the community

Since February of 2017, I’ve developed Green Indy into an online space with about 8,000 unique visitors each month and over 6,500 Instagram followers. (Follow me on Instagram – it’s my social media jam.) My 2018 goal is to create some tangible changes in the community from my online reach.

Ideally, I’d like to partner with zero waste friendly brands to provide items to under-served folks here in Lafayette that would otherwise not be a priority. I’m thinking menstrual cups and period underwear for women. Lightweight thermos, containers, and silverware for the homeless or near-homeless population. Seeds for local classrooms to play with. Reusable produce bags that are simple to use at any grocery store.

If you are a company interested in participating in this initiative, please get in touch and let’s talk.

Creating community: ways I'm taking zero waste beyond just me - Green Indy Blog

Offering accessible workshops to share my knowledge

While I’m no expert (at anything, really) by any means, I do have a solid working knowledge of zero waste, zero waste practices, and how to utilize it all in the Lafayette community – and on a budget.

I hope to connect with the local community (I’ve started by creating a Zero Waste Lafayette Facebook group) and see what they’re interested in learning about. Once I know that, I’ve got to figure out ways to teach this content in places that are accessible to people without consistent transportation or disposable income or perhaps even an interest in being eco-friendly in the first place.

So, so simple, right?

But I’m excited to help everyone set some easily put-in-place zero waste goals that fit with their particular lifestyle.

Please see the workshops calendar page for a list of all upcoming events – some are free, some are not. Rest assured the money from the higher-priced workshops (like kombucha making) are funneled right back into purchasing items for free programs in the future!

Engaging with existing online communities in low-waste ways

In another effort to reach out to the local community, I’m engaging in online groups and finding ways I can

One of the big groups I’ve identified is the local Freecycle group. (If you don’t know, freecycling is posting items you no longer use so that others can enjoy them – all with no money exchanged.) First, I’ll do as I normally do and post items I no longer need and hope someone else will give it further use. Second, I’ll be posting about my free workshops to reach a wider audience.

Another source I’ll be leveraging is Nextdoor, a “private network for your neighborhood” where you can post and comment on neighbors posts. My neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods reach about 5,000 households on Nextdoor. I’ll be posting about workshops as well as any interesting information pertaining to zero waste in the Lafayette area.

Hopefully I’ll reach some zero waste interested people by interacting on these sites.

Sharing the reducing side of zero waste, rather than the consumption

I’ll be totally transparent: I absolutely have affiliate links throughout this blog as a way to make money. If I try items that I really like, I have no issue with sharing them here and getting a little kickback for my troubles to fund this site, community projects, and hopefully some of my grocery bills.

Still, I think it’s easy to focus on the consumption side of zero waste as that’s what we’re comfortable with. Buying items to create a lifestyle we dream of or to make our lives somehow easier or more perfect is second nature to us all. Nursing – even appreciating – a healthy sense of deprivation is not. It’s uncomfortable.

Zero waste doesn’t have to be an ascetic, monk-like existence, but it does by nature require saying no to a lot of the modern conveniences that make life so simple. (And so, so full of trash.)

So this year I’m committed to sharing more of the reduction side of zero waste. The kind of simple thing like refusing certain plastic extras (plastic grocery bags, straws, styrofoam cups and bowls, etc.) that absolutely everyone has the ability to do. Like tossing vegetable scraps into water and having them regrow on your kitchen windowsill – a hack that works no matter what neighborhood you live in. Like calling or e-mailing your local representatives and getting shitty that they’re not honoring your wishes to pas bills protecting local nature.

Here’s to showing eco-consciousness is not about an aesthetic Instagram feed any more than it relates to the size of your bank account.

Connecting with people of influence – and exploiting that

As an educated white girl, I have more access and privilege than many other segments of the community. I figure I damn well better put that dubious power to use. Some ways I plan to connect with people of influence:

Attending City Council Meetings. All town/city council meetings are open to the public and have built-in time for citizens to talk about their issues. Either go just to get face time, or bring up an issue that’s important to you. (My first issue? Why there’s no ability to refuse paper bills from the utility department – AND they send an envelope along with your paper bill!)

Emailing organizations to let them know I exist and would love to help them. Compile a list of environmentally-friendly organizations (restaurants, local conservation groups, local makers, etc) in your area and reach out! Offer them something tangible with a valuable (applicable) skill you have – a blog post, a workshop, a meeting with ideas for zero waste practices.

Going to at least two meetings of the local Democratic Party. All I know about Lafayette is that I lost the only Muslim representative in Congress who is as progressive and kind as one would dream of for a typical old white guy who wants to control my reproductive health. (And loves guns.) The local Democratic Party is a bit sparse here – go figure – but I’d like to meet other civic-minded, vaguely liberal folks who can open my eyes to what’s going on here in Tippecanoe County.

And that’s it! Six goals with a pretty simple way of achieving them, even if the goals themselves are not that simple. I’m looking forward to tackling them and seeing what I can accomplish.

What zero waste goals are you focusing on this year? Are your zero waste goals self-focused or looking to the broader community?


Green Indy is a blog about zero waste, minimalism, and generally being less of an a**hole to our Earth (Indianapolis, specifically) by me, Polly Barks. I’m a writer, teacher, and a natural-born researcher/experimenter.


Lisa · January 14, 2018 at 1:28 am

I really enjoyed reading about your bigger zero waste goals, Polly; what a wonderful vision. Your community is certainly very fortunate to have you there bringing this perspective to the table and actively making change. I think it’s great to go through the process of goal setting to give meaning and direction to the year ahead. I definitely got a lot of purpose and clarity from my own goal setting process for a more sustainable 2018. All the best to you for a great year ahead!

    Polly · January 16, 2018 at 10:44 am

    Thanks, Lisa! I’m honestly a very disorganized person, so I find the goal-setting very necessary to get anything done!

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