When I became aware of the zero waste movement, I didn’t look at it with the perception that it’s limiting, I found it simpler – less cluttered and more conscientious of our purchases and actions. The less packaging used, being more mindful about what food we buy (spending only on what we need and will use) we can reap better benefits. Enter any market or shop and the pervasiveness of plastic is inescapable be it food, home, personal care items. And truthfully we’ve become to used it. It’s commentary reflects that we are a primarily packaged society. In North American alone about 55 percent of 220 million tons of 55 percent of 220 million tons of waste end up in one of over 3,500 landfills each year. However, its not just a packaging problem, when it concerns food waste, about 1/3 of all foodstuffs—about 60 tons is wasted by retailers and consumers every year.
What if we made simple steps toward minimizing our waste? What If we didn’t look at the zero waste movement as unattainable or hard. Lauren Singer, the woman behind the blog Trash is for Tossers and her business The Simply Co. told me that :
“I like to remember that we cannot change people, but we can inspire them to think about things in a different way. If they like what they see, they can decide to make changes in their life if they want to. I have found that to be the best way to talk about zero waste with people, is to invite them into my own life, let them see how I live, and if they like it and ask me more, be open to showing them what I do. “
Kathryn of Going Zero Waste offers her own easy tips for reducing your trash:
“My top tip would be to compost! Composting is the easiest way to cut 50% of your households waste. Then the basics, remember a reusable water bottle and bag. Keep them by the door - even hang it on your door so it's always right there when you're heading out.”
The zero waste lifestyle doesn’t limit experiences. It doesn’t mean you cant do the activities you love, it just means you are more conscientious about your spending and choices. It’s not just about plastic but food waste: making the effort to reduce, reuse, & recycle. It means investing in reusable cups or bottles, bringing your own tote bags to the market, opting for glass/paper packaging instead of plastic, if you have the time to meal prep your breakfast and lunches to eat more whole foods and
Holly of Leotie Lovely sums up the issue with recycling plastics perfectly: “The recycling process itself releases toxins and chemicals into the air. Third, it never biodegrades. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces." Unfortunately this means that all those coffee cups, both for iced or hot will not recycle nor do they biodegrade. Styrofoam never goes away. Stickers and labels? Forever. When we consider fashion there are "fast fashion' companies that quickly create clothes for "seasons" that are typically cheaply made and what happens to the clothes that don't get bought? Theres already a large number of recycled items that get sent overseas, and the rest go to landfills. Which isn't to say we shouldn't appreciate fashion or expression of it, but we can support companies that go about it ethically and are made to last as well as shopping secondhand. When I wrote to Holly about how to avoid feeling like we “cannot do it” or that we aren’t capable she offered these words of advice:
“Any growth, personal or otherwise requires work - and any work you do on yourself, whether it is your character, your spirituality, your habits, or your body, they all pay off in the end and make you a better and more fulfilled person. What I try to remind myself is to do my very best and be forgiving when I make mistakes - on any level - with sustainability or otherwise - I think that's a good sort of mantra to carry around - because it is hard work, and you will make mistakes, and it will take time, but it is most certainly always worth it, and that should be enough drive to keep you trying until it doesn't take any effort and just is the way you are”
So what are four “deeper” ways to live a zero waste lifestyle?
· Encourage companies to adapt more sustainable practices and ethics. This means asking your favorite brands to create recycling or biodegradable packaging, asking stores to offer more bulk bin items especially that are safe for those with food allergies
· Making a guide to what is available in your area, can you compost somewhere nearby? What recycling services are offered near you? Making a grocery list that will prevent food waste or expired items from going to waste, If you brew coffee can you cast the grounds on your plants instead of down the drain? Do you shop online? Create a signature to ask seller to not add excess or any packaging/receipts to your purchase(s)
· Discover a positive community. This is so important, find a community of zero waster or minimalist (if that’s what you’re after) who are non judgmental, who will encourage or offer feedback on questions you may have. Surround yourself with positivity and Recognize everyone is on their own journey.
· Influence others with positivity and passion! I used to think others would see me as odd for bringing my own cups, straws, utensils, etc. I felt like others would judge me and then I realized I am doing this myself. In fact you are more than likely to encourage others with your own actions whether it influences someone to get a stainless steel water bottle instead of single use water bottles, invest in a lunchbox, sop in the bulk aisle. By speaking positively about your experiences others will not only learn but also consider their own impact instead of viewing it as “impossible.”
There are no expectations. Release any expectations that you must be a purist or that you "must" make changes overnight to see results. That’s not the case nor should it be because that is creating limits. We’re better off investing in reusable coffee cups or water bottles, buying only what we will consume instead of mindlessly doing it. Planning ahead and clearing space can offer us more clarity. Going on your own pace and figuring out what you do and don’t need yields better results and positive experiences. If you believe someone is making you feel negatively about yourself – release it. Someone else’s projection shouldn't harm your journey. Be kind to yourself. I believe that people who want to follow a zero waste lifestyle, or minimize their trash in general, want to do it to be kinder to the planet. Enhance that – Be Kind.