I’m trying to live as a zero waster, but my partner is skeptical. Any ideas about how to convince a person who is concerned about climate change but who gets frustrated by the idea of bringing cloth bags to the market or giving up paper towels? And don’t get me started on the chip bags!

— Annoyed with Non-believer


I think many of us are in the same boat (my dog still refuses to eat bulk biscuits!), but I have a few words of advice: baby steps, respect and compromise. Zero-waste living requires mindfulness above all, and if you lead by example, your partner may see the light. What if you popped some corn from a local purveyor and sat down together to watch “The Clean Bin Project,” a Canadian documentary about a couple who compete against each other to see who can produce the least amount of waste. Hilarity and understanding ensue. Your partner might come around, too.



I shop locally whenever possible, but it is simply not feasible to buy everything I need in rural Maine, so sometimes I shop online. Any tips for making that a more sustainable activity?

— Guilty shopper


As you suggest, it does not always suit our budgets, schedules or locations to buy stuff close to home, but there are a few ways to make online purchases a bit greener:

Look for used or handmade items from places like Etsy – you can even seek out local craftspeople by limiting your search to Maine.

If you must buy items from the behemoth Amazon, group them in as few packages as you can and, when possible, use their certified frustration-free packaging, which is recyclable and contains less packaging waste.

If you have acquired bubble wrap but have no use for it yourself, drop it off at a local repository for plastic film.

Write or call the companies from whom you buy things and give them feedback – good or bad – about packaging.

Lisa Botshon is a professor of English at the University of Maine at Augusta, where envelopes are routinely reused. Send her queries at [email protected]

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