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What it means to live a zero-waste lifestyle

If you’ve seen a woman walking around the neighborhood recently with a big trash bag and gloves, it’s probably Carrie Corrigan. She makes it a habit to walk around and pick up cigarettes from the sidewalks in her spare time. “People may think I’m a weirdo,” Carrie said, “but one of the biggest threats facing our environment—and perhaps one of the most preventable—is our production of waste.”


She is a “zero-waste” proponent – someone who incorporates environmentally conscious decisions to reduce his or her waste footprint. Carrie incorporates principles of minimalism and environmentalism to reduce how much she contributes to the waste polluting Lake Eerie.

“Not only does going zero-waste keep our waterways and our drinking water clean, but by not consuming so many products, we are saving water used in their production,” she said. “While recycling is a good way to go, plastic can only be recycled so many times and recycling takes a lot of water. The best way to save water is to find a reusable, sustainable option.”

Carrie observes Meatless Mondays to decrease her meat consumption due to its environmental impact, and implements some other practices like vermicomposting, using a Cortical travel coffee mug instead of a plastic-lined one, and using bamboo sunglasses. In her purse, she carries a titanium spork, a stainless- steel straw, and brings her own to-go containers when she goes out to eat. She also recently started using handkerchiefs instead of Kleenex.

“When I need to replace something, I try to not buy more plastic,” she explained. “I try to either buy something of quality rather than whatever is cheapest, or search for a used item.”

She credits much of her environmental support coming from online communities and beach cleanups put on by the nonprofit Drink Local. Drink Tap.

For the past several years, she’s also volunteered with the organization’s annual event, 4 Miles 4 Water, a free, zero-waste festival featuring a 4-mile race/1-mile walk. This year’s event will be held Saturday, May 6, at Jacob’s Pavilion at Nautica on the West Bank of the Flats in Downtown Cleveland.

She champions the event’s “Zero-waste Committee,” a group dedicated to ensuring the waste from the event is minimized as much as possible. Last year, the event produced 43 pounds of compost, 7 bags of recycling, and only 4 bags of trash. Food vendors for the event, who are required to abide by the zero- waste principles, will be serving brunch-themed food options, including a Bloody Mary Bar. For example, this means you won’t see plastic cups, plastic bottles, or plastic straws at the event, and you won’t even miss them!

Anyone interested in learning more about a zero-waste lifestyle or for those looking for more information about the event, visit