Why I’m Not Zero Waste

found in low waste | 28

I’m all for reducing waste, and I think that lowering your impact and waste is an important part of living sustainably. I also make a habit of sharing low/zero waste products and solutions. However, I can’t see myself adopting a zero waste/plastic-free lifestyle with the way things currently are. Here’s why:

 

Garbage is not my top priority

Focusing on “zero waste” means prioritizing waste, but sustainability-wise I think other things are more important. I try my best to find products and brands that have a sustainable and ethical focus throughout their supply chain, production and use. Things like sustainable materials, quality/longevity, ethical manufacturing, low impact production, versatile styles, and supporting small, conscious businesses all come before waste for me.

For example, given the choice between an ethically-made garment from organic, fair-trade cotton shipped in a polybag or a regular cotton garment from a non-transparent brand that I can buy without the bag, I will always choose the first option. This is because I feel that supporting the first company has a much greater impact throughout the supply chain, than the impact of saving a plastic bag. Also it’s important to note that most clothes are shipped in plastic bags; even if you buy the item in store, it still likely came to the store in a bag, and therefore generated the same waste. Of course; sustainable brands should be trying to reduce their waste and use sustainable packaging, and most do a very good job. However, as People Tree explains in their post, things like the use of polybags can be very difficult, and brands often have to weigh the importance of a lot of different areas to decide on the best packaging to use.

Beauty products are another example. For me, supporting a cruelty-free brand that uses high-quality, natural, non-toxic ingredients, and makes effective products is the most important. There aren’t a lot of plastic-free options with makeup or care products; even glass containers almost always have plastic lids. If there are comparable products, I will choose the one with less packaging, but I prioritize ingredients and responsible brands over less plastic.

 

The guilt is real

I don’t think sustainability movements should be motivated by guilt, and I talked about this in my video on guilt and judgement. When I tried out Plastic Free July, my motivation shifted from wanting to do something positive to trying to avoid the guilt. A garment with plastic on the tag; forgetting to ask for no straw; having to buy certain groceries that aren’t available package free; the plastic packaging for medication; these things all made me feel bad. And this was only something I had to consider for a short time; I didn’t have to replace my makeup or beauty products during that month.

What keeps me motivated to live greener is knowing that I’m trying to work towards positive change, and that I’m learning, growing and improving. While I did learn a lot from trying a month of plastic-free living, instead of feeling like I was doing something good, I always felt like I was messing up, having to weigh difficult decisions, or being reminded of my “failures” by holding onto a jar of my plastic trash. Maybe over a longer period of time living this lifestyle, the feelings would’ve changed, but I definitely didn’t feel very good or motivated.

I believe in a “do good” approach instead of a “do no harm” approach; I find this positive perspective to be more effective. Usually when I talk with people who are struggling, or feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, they’re focusing on all the negative and harmful aspects of their lifestyle instead of looking at where they can make changes and have a positive impact.

 

Zero waste living is very dependent on access/specialty stores and also time

Some cities are amazing and have lots of bulk options and easy access to zero waste products. We were lucky enough to have a package free store (now two!) open up in our city about a year ago, but before, there was no way to buy things like rice, dried beans/lentils, pasta, and other staple foods without plastic. Now, even though the zero waste stores are pretty great, they still have a limited selection of items and we can’t find everything. While one is luckily not too far from me, it’s still a 30ish min walk with heavy glass containers and limits how much I can buy. If you don’t have one in your neighborhood it mean carrying tons of glass jars and big bags on the bus and train which isn’t possible for everyone, or driving which of course has other sustainability issues.
Also, while traveling, we’ll often try to save money and cook where we’re staying, but unfortunately at most grocery stories you can’t find foods plastic-free. If you don’t have access to stores that sell bulk, it’s just not a realistic lifestyle.

Additionally it often requires more time. A lot of things need to be DIY’d and it basically means the majority of pre-made, packaged foods are off the table. I really enjoy making things myself and cooking, and things like my DIY deodorant are definitely doable for me, but the reality is that making everything can take a lot of time that I (and most people) don’t always have.

It can conflict with eating vegan

I have been vegetarian for over 10 years now and eating vegan/plant-based is important to me. Now that we have a package-free store we’ve been able to reduce the amount of plastic that comes with our groceries, but for some items, this is still unavoidable. For example, plant and nut milks are a staple in our fridge and we have no plastic-free options or time to DIY them. Another big one for me is vegan faux meats. Especially in the summer, when we’re barbecuing with friends, I want eating vegan to seem “normal” – i.e., I want to show that you can eat the same foods and they can be really delicious! For a lot of meat-eaters, realizing that they can still eat the foods they like and are used to, is a big part of being open to and incorporating more plant-based meals into their diet. Introducing my friends and family to meat-free options is much more important to me than avoiding plastic and giving the impression that plant-based diets are very difficult and restrictive when they don’t have to be.

 

So while zero waste is not where I choose to primarily focus my attention, I’d love to hear if you live zero waste or have tried it!  Have you encountered similar issues or conflicts?

 

 

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28 Responses

  1. Courtney Engel
    | Reply

    Really good honesty. A lot of the zero waste people either live in rural farming communities that naturally support local, bulk, etc because that’s always been the lifestyle.. OR they live in NYC– where you can get any specialty item you want at any moment. Anywhere in between can be difficult, and I think like every other lifestyle improvement, there is balance, and there are choices.

  2. maria c
    | Reply

    I love your post on sharing this. I also tried the zero waste movement in July here in Hong KOng and indeed it’s an eye opening, as i did lots of research, and also tried to get inspiration from all others. I was having same difficulties. I actually think living in a sustainable way, leaving less carbon emission is more important than just ditching the plastics. Some of my thoughts and observations are :
    (1) There is only one zero waste store in Hong Kong (newly set up around 4 months ago) and frankly everything is imported from overseas and expensive to majority of the HK local people. It’s popular in the rich circle though. So the local are saying it’s only for the Rich people to do.
    (2) there are indeed many local bulk store, where you can definitely buy plastic free – but as a person living in HK long time – I questioned the source of their products – maybe they are plastic free – but they surely not from sustainable sources.. Will i buy them for the sake of plastics free ? – no.
    (4) some people support or buy something just because it’s made in Hong Kong – but i found out many of the products itself are not sustainable in its production process. Example those pure/sustainable soap bar where there is no regulation.
    (5) I opt for less carbon emissions than just ditching plastics. I read somewhere there was research, saying the top 10% richest contribute more than 50% of the total carbon emissions in the world whilst the the poorest 50% contribute only 10%. I am questioning someone who fly often on private jet, flying often. and enjoy time in the most luxurious places and are publicly criticizing people who use a plastic straw. There is a small group setting up some green movement educating people to stop using plastic straws and bags. Dont’ get me wrong, I applaud their movement. But talking about impact for greener environment? No I think stop using plastics can’t save the environment. Their luxurious carbon emission far outweighed using a steel straw to replace a plastic one

    When majority of the HK people are working 16 hours per day, it’s quite impossible to ask them to ditch plastics in all aspects, when there is no reliable affordable bulk store nearby. Lots of critics on those common people who use plastics bags/plastic straws…. … if the supermarkets and the stores/restaurants can use less plastics – I am sure the people are fine. The common don’t have a choice.

    I think it’s personal decision to go green but don’t judge or push others to do it. I would never call myself a zero waste. Yes I use tote bag to buy vegetables in the market (because they are cheaper), bring recyclable bottle (indeed for 5 years already) all the time. That doesn’t make me a zero waste as I am also travelling 2-3 times a year.

    Thank you.

  3. Theresa
    | Reply

    Hello:) Thank you for a great article. I am s vegan living in Athens Greece. When it comes to veganism and sustainability, I think Greece is like a third world country. However, my family and I try our best to live a kind and gentle life. I think zero waste is probably not realistic for most people. “Minimal waste” is probably a more accurate term. There are no bulk stores where I live. Farmers markets are a great option but are only once a week and I struggle to pre-plan all my shopping. I am an artist and use markers and paints that I have no other option for, it really frustrates me. However, the whole zero waste movement has certainly opened my eyes to being much more selective about what I buy. It also helped and inspired me to substantially declutter our home. We are a 90% plastic free home, we don’t use paper towels, serviettes or tissues, but we refuse to give up toilet paper. We reuse and recycle as best we can and I think my children are aware that their daily actions have an impact on our environment. I find I do spend more money on some products that are glass or wood, but at the same time I spend a lot less on other things that we never buy. I do dedicate time and effort, making a lot of my own cleaning products and cosmetics, but once you embrace this way of life, it seems time well spent and for good reason. It takes time to go to the store, choose products and bring them home. Equally, it takes time to mix some ingredients together and make your own natural, wonderful products. So in the end, it’s a matter of choice and being open to changing your routine for a better one.
    ‘’

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      You’re doing so many great things! I think ultimately it’s about trying your best and growing/improving instead of trying to be “perfect”. 🙂

  4. Tegan
    | Reply

    Great post, and I feel much the same way to be honest. I am making more of an effort to choose loose vegetables and fruits without plastic packaging, but it is not the top of my priority list, even from a sustainability perspective. Like you I choose veganism, ethical sourcing and low-carbon over waste. But waste is still important, I’m glad it’s getting more attention lately and to be honest I feel guilty for not doing more! I will get there!

  5. Sil
    | Reply

    I’m Brazilian and unfortunately still living in a country that I sometimes have attacks because people still use that carbon paper. Another day I just started to point the finger in a air company people because he, EVEN AFTER I ASK ABOUT 5 TIMES, printed another travel ticket for me just because. “But your mobile can die” he said laughing at me. So I picked my other phone, my iPad, my extra battery and my plugs that I carry in my purse put in the balcony and said “Well I think that’s is a little bit difficult, don’t u?” And I still fighting for the rights to not print a ticket to go to the movies! But it’s what you said, if I’m in a date with my hubby, and we both came from work, probably we will be hungry and there’re no options for a snack without garbage.

    And I have a two more problems
    1- I use some over the counter medication and here they came in blisters. So I produce a LOT of waste just there, but I need my pills, so is my health vs the planet… I wish I could take a case t the pharmacy and they just gave me a refill. But not it’s that simple.
    2- I’m so damn allergic! Like I only can use latex band aid for example, so sometimes, I have to choose my allergies or the planet and sorry people, but my health in first. The problem with manufacturers is that sometimes they don’t understand allergies, or they don’t try to talk to you to find a way to everybody be happy. One time I asked for a girl that did a body cream to do without a fragrance and I was paying even if it wasn’t very good, but I was allergic to that fragrance. But she said NO WAY, and lost a client…
    And I’ll have a no say in buck shopping, because we’re years behind you guys here. But I try, at least I start to carry my straw around 😊
    And maybe someday it won’t be so difficult! But do SOMETHING is better than NOTHING, right?

  6. Marisa
    | Reply

    Hey! Thanks for sharing this perspective. I LOVE the insight about doing more good and less harm. It’s so key to eliminate feelings of guilt and overwhelm in this journey of living lighter… whatever makes that work for you. I can totally relate to Plastic Free July feeling a bit surface and random … I think it’s real potential is drawing people into this conversation from an easy entry point. For someone who has never considered the waste they create by using disposable everything, a challenge like this can be transformative.

    For the rest of us, it can bring up interesting conundrums.

    A thing that I’ve heard a lot in the Plastic Free July conversation is the emphasis on eliminating disposable plastics, not necessarily all plastics. Cause that might take someone years!

    I live in Vancouver, BC where it’s normal to be vegan, vegetarian, plant based, low waste and zero waste. Sometimes I forget how easy we have it, with social norms supporting all these lifestyles that seem like a hardship in other places.

    I think it’s interesting how the ‘zero waste’ movement comes across as so extreme. I’ve found when I really get to know zero wasters, it’s much more about the direction than “achieving” some arbitrary goal of making no waste. What I find so exciting about the process of eliminating waste is that it’s kind of about building systems … once the decisions have been made once, it become easy. I think it’s takes time to cut out all the fluff and find what simple + satisfying means for you. And where the easy wins are!

    I love trying new special foods like vegan meats but when I’m avoiding plastic, a grilled portabello is cheaper and somehow feels more luxurious than any field roast or jackfruit.

    Gotta say though – while the vocabulary of zero waste can be confusing and annoying to wade through… the core of the philosophy is gold. When we begin to explore circular economies as consumers, everyone wins.

    • John
      | Reply

      Hey ! “[zero waste is much] more about the direction than “achieving” some arbitrary goal of making no waste [at all]” I totally agree. This is the way I saw it since I heard about it !

      Around the negative feelings of guilt, my way is be to distinguish between emotion and action. I think nobody can toss away an emotion just by deciding to think about something else. AKA you can’t decide to *not think about something* – because it means thinking about it. ^^

      So, the solution to an emotion is only “action”. Action drives emotion, not the other way around. Motivation is an emotion, that’s why it’s unstable. It’s undergone. Emotions are signals of states.
      A way would not be to shake off the guilt, but to digest it and accept it. Yeah, guilt is pain but I don’t believe thoughts can change thoughts.
      Let’s just feel actions changing our state. : D

      Maybe this is just what Erin and you are saying here, but I just wanted to try put it with these other words.

      Marisa, you just made me discover grilled portabello… Wow ! I’m definitely gonna try it ! Thanks for talking about it.

  7. Stacy Anne
    | Reply

    Zero waste is tough and it was refreshing to see a well written, logical approach to sustainable living. A few years ago, I wrote a basic boilerplate letter to express my feelings about sustainable business and manufacturing processes and how this influences my purchasing decisions. Now when I purchase a product where I see room for environmental or sustainable improvements, I simply fill in the company name, product I would like improved and send them an email. Industries won’t change the way they do things in the way we want unless they are told by consumers exactly what we want. The more times they hear it, the more effective the message and I encourage everyone to speak up and be heard.

  8. Janine
    | Reply

    I really enjoyed your post. I recently started making changes towards embracing a zero-waste lifestyle. Whenever I talk about it, however, I don’t call it “zero-waste”. I prefer the terms “low-waste” or “low-impact”. The reason for this is I’ve discovered that most people I’ve talked to take the word “zero” in a very literal sense. Through a lot of reading, I’ve come to understand that this is not the case. From what I understand, zero-waste aims at being a conscious consumer, asking yourself about the pre and post life of the product you’re about to buy. But more importantly, trying to avoid things that have waste as an end. I recently read a blog that talked precisely about how impossible being zero-waste is, but why we should still do it. There is no humanly way possible that anyone will produce zero waste. It’s impossible. But I also don’t believe that’s the goal. I live in the US, in a small city in Southern California. I’d have to drive out to LA, San Diego, or maybe somewhere out in Orange County (all of which are AT LEAST one and a half hours away from me) to have more access to bulk/package-free. I have chosen to not let that discourage me. I understand that there are limitations to living zero-waste, but I do what I can where I can. But the key for me has been taking baby steps. I started with taking my own grocery bags. Then I also started taking my own produce bags. I still don’t have a compost bin, I can’t afford it right now. That will come later. I still separate my trash and I put my organic waste in my yard waste bin. I’ve found really good package free stores from out of state and I buy from them. I know that I’m creating waste in the shipping process, but I used to buy online anyway, I’m doing it a lot less now. I think that you’re already doing an amazing job. I think even being aware of the different areas in your life you’d like to improve is amazing. Most people don’t even think about that. We’re all doing the best we can, and that’s awesome! I personally am not vegan (or even vegetarian), but I found your thought about conflicts super interesting. Ever since I began making changes I felt that being vegan would actually help in reducing waste. Mainly because meat and dairy products can’t be composted (not that I have a compost bin anyway). Maybe I just think that because the grass is always greener? I do cook a lot of vegan food because I have A LOT of vegan/vegetarian friends. And I do love cooking vegan. I’m also one of those weird people that like making a lot of things from scratch. I don’t always have the time, but I do whenever I can. I’m rambling now, but my point is, you’re already making such a wonderful job and are a positive influence on others (as evidenced by the comments on this post). That’s awesome! We do what we can, when we can, how we can, why we can. And we can’t, nobody can fault us. Such a pleasure reading this post. Keep spreading the love.

  9. Ashley
    | Reply

    Great post! I definitely went through the “wake up phase” and quickly was going against all the “bad” things; especially when it came to waste in whatever form that may be. Out of no where I was burried deep in diy’s I couldn’t keep up with and was loosing it. I became depressed and literally worthless to myself, family, community.. Now I do my best with a new prospective of “going for the good” instead of focusing on “going against the bad.” Now my vibration is high and I’m able to do and share all things vegan/plant based and sustainability focused. My energy now goes towards things I can help/improve and not towards how terrible everything is. Again great post gal🙌🏼

  10. Abbie
    | Reply

    I so agree! It’s funny that I stumbled across this so soon after writing something similar- I have items that I’ve decided to be ‘relaxed’ with, because at the end of the day stressing over every ‘mistake’ doesn’t make for a sustainable lifestyle choice! I do what I can, and work every day to do better. That’s enough for me at this stage!

  11. Dawnica *ZeroSac*
    | Reply

    I agree that trying to be zero waste can lead to a lot of guilt if you’re not careful! I think it’s important to try your best, and aim for progress not perfection. Not using single-use plastic straws, bags and water bottles is extremely easy and perfectly sustainable, but I’ve had a lot of trouble reducing waste when it comes to personal care products, like shampoo and makeup. So I feel good about my reduction of waste where I can, and I just keep an eye out for solutions to my other waste problems if I find them.

  12. Sophie Sapienza
    | Reply

    That is so true! Thanks for a well written post and also reflecting what I’ve felt whilst trying to go zero waste – guilt every time I want something that is packaged and look at my trash can.
    On the plus side trying to reduce my waste production has been an eye-opener on where I can easily reduce my consumption with no side effects – the usual bring my own grocery bags, carry a reusable bottle or coffee cup when on the go, use soaps instead of shower gels etc. It has pushed me to question whether I really need something before buying, take better care of what I own already, find alternative for lots of disposable stuff, buy more fresh food instead of packaged foods (which is often packaged), and eventually reduce the amount of ‘stuff’ I own and look into simplifying my routine – which is amazing!
    However I also found it very guilt-inducing every time I crave a packaged snack or forget my reusable water bottle. And initially it stopped me from buying ethical products that came with packaging.
    Interestingly, in many cases, the packaging is the tip of the iceberg of a goods’ impacts. Your example of vegan burgers is a particularly good one – most of the lifecycle impacts of a piece of meat is in growing the feed (usually requiring fertilisers, water etc.) and on the farm (because of cows’ emissions, pollution from the manure treatment etc.). So switching from an unpackaged beef burger to a packaged vegan burger still drastically reduces the overall environmental impacts of your meal.
    That also applies to clothes as most of the environmental and social impacts are in their production, as well as during their use because of washing/drying/ironing.
    So if I need a product and I find one ethically produced AND unpackaged, fantastic! But if not and the choice is ethical/packaged, or unpackaged/not partically ethical, I try and go for the former. Ideally I should then contact the brand and ask them to reduce their packaging 🙂

  13. Sophia
    | Reply

    Thank you for addressing this issue, Erin! I remember watching your video that addressed this a while ago, and I completely agree that we should be focusing on the positives that we can do in the world. I think the zero waste movement requires such a high standard of perfection that no one can hope to achieve it! There is no such thing as absolutely zero waste, do people not realize this? We can only hope to do our best, and to not be so hard on ourselves when we don’t achieve the impossible standard. I really hope that high bar doesn’t discourage too many people from trying to live more sustainably, because it really is a great cause.

  14. Jailyn Dyer
    | Reply

    I agree. It’s the same issue I’ve run into with other ethical movements. I can only do my best, as Ky put it, and try to balance my priorities. I also know that even the big bulk stores have to deal with plastic in the products they buy, so the zero waste is just passed up the chain (just as it is buying clothes locally).

    Being conscious of waste is important and it is good to push businesses to reduce waste where they can. I love when companies offer end of life options to their products, but I have only found a few so far. Hopefully, this kind of thinking will become the norm as time goes on.

  15. Ky
    | Reply

    To me, no matter what the discussion—waste reduction, ethical shopping, clean cosmetics, sustainable living, it all boils down to being CONSCIOUS and DOING YOUR BEST. Making choices because they are thoughtful and intentional, and not because you are on autopilot or being complacent. Being aware of your waste and doing what you can to reduce it. Being aware of the shopping options and making the best choice you can based on availability, finances, etc. Realizing that there will never be a “net zero” in any resource exchange but making the best, most thoughtful choice that you can based on your unique circumstances. Can you imagine the global changes if even 90% of our everyday choices were made consciously, no matter what our unique circumstances?! Every person being thoughtful and doing their best. Perfection is an invisible dangling carrot, so we should just relinquish that ideal and simply focus on being aware and doing the best we can. Always striving, always looking for the better option, but also giving ourselves grace and patience. I personally describe myself as “low waste and striving to live more consciously and ethically in every aspect of life.” Great post Erin!

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Well said! 🙂

  16. Noémie
    | Reply

    I live a zéro waste lifestyle for 2 years now. I got around 150 to 180g of trash wich go to the incenerator per year. I live in France. The options to live this lifestyle are quite easy to find : Farmer’s markets every 2 days around my place or my work place, 4 organic bulk stores in my city for food and cleaning products. Once a year I go the city next to mine to buy beauty products that could refill. And for cosmetic products, I’ll buy what I need for a year on web site that sells french products in recyclable packagings and those products are sent in a reused paper packaging. I also some of my cleaning and beauty products, only when it’s take less then 5 min to be done! For me this lifestyle is really easy to live it and I don’t have to sacrifice other important things like buying local or ethical. I have to admit that I’m lucky because everything that I need is easy to get. I know that’s not the case for everyone.

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      That’s awesome! It’s wonderful you have so many great options available!

    • John
      | Reply

      Hy Noémie ! Living in France too, which are the organic bulk stores you go get groceries from ? May I ask the city it takes place ? This is really wonderful and as people living in Paris region – not Paris itself, it probably would be different – we don’t have as much sweet options.

      I agree that for food, some places make it easy. Yet for clothes, I think it’s still really hard to get a ethical-local-sustainable wardrobe.

  17. Nicole
    | Reply

    This is EXACTLY how I’ve been feeling. I discovered zero waste before the wider conscious movement and your channel and I ran up against the same issues of guilt and restriction being the priority rather than doing good. I’ve recently realised that there *really* is no perfect and there will likely *always* be compromise AND I do think the priorities can change depending on your region and it’s main issues and available options. And, as I’m now considering going vegan, i totally agree that I’ve noticed regular conflict between eating vegan (in particular as opposed to other vegan aspects) and trying to be plastic free. I also would like to show these better choices as being easy and accessible as a priority and while some plastic-free choices are easy and economical (carrying a cotton totebag;especially now that the UK charges for plastic bags anyway!) other choices like going for organic food often means going for plastic (because that’s how they’re separated from the non-organic food) or plant milks which won’t be delivered by a milkman in glass bottles like non-vegan milk could be.
    Anyway, not to ramble, I just find this really relatable and I’m still working on defining my priorities to help make my choices easier to make. I think I remember you posting s video about stuff to think about on this point, but do you have a blog post of any recommended reading or watching that has helped you or that might help someone else to continue to define their priorities?

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      It can be really difficult to figure out your priorities and where you’re willing to compromise. I set up a few activities about this for people who participated in the “fast-fashion fast” this summer (which I’m hoping I’ll also have available as an e-book soon!).
      I think it’s important to learn about the issues in different areas- labour, environment, animals, etc. and first see if there’s one thing that resonates with you more, that’s often a good starting point and most people have something that started them thinking more about the products they buy.

      If you want to refine it more start creating a hierarchy (and remember this doesn’t mean it’s set in stone). First list all the qualities you can think of that your “perfect” item would have (maybe it’s fair trade, from a natural, sustainable material, supports small businesses, etc.) and then slowly start removing one at a time- if you can’t have all of those things which one are you willing to let go of or comprise on. As you go you should see which things are top priorities for you.

      Another way to think about this is comparing them to each other- if you have choices of the same product with different qualities which would you choose? For example I ran into this recently when purchasing running shoes, there was an option made from sustainable/recycled materials but from an ethically questionable brand, or shoes from a brand than was pretty transparent and manufactured locally but using not very sustainable materials. I personally value the ethical manufacturing over the recycled materials.

      • Nicole
        | Reply

        Oh I like that exercise of taking away issues to see which are non-negotiable. I suppose we do that naturally while buying things but the comparisons would probably help make it clearer and refine what really are top priorities.
        Really looking forward to that e-book!! Sounds like it’d be really handy 😀
        In the meantime, I’m going to keep gathering information and find out more about some of the areas you mentioned.

  18. Melody
    | Reply

    I agree. I think ‘Zero waste’ is catchy but kind of unhelpful because it sets the goal as perfection, which is pretty much impossible in the modern world even if you devote a lot of time and effort to it. I also think other goals are important. Just now I ordered a good quality wool top for my daughter from a secondhand website. I know it will be posted to me in a plastic courier bag but I think overall it’s an ethical choice. I want to support a thriving secondhand market rather than having perfectly good clothes being thrown away. I’m also trying to move towards eating a more plant based diet and I’m choosing to relax a little on packaging while I adjust to a new area of life (e.g. almond milk in terra cartons). You can’t do everything all at once, I know with two small children I just don’t have the time or energy and I have to focus on the biggest areas. Using reusable nappies as much as I can eliminates more than the rest of all of our waste combined so I work hard on that.

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      I totally agree, the “zero” is very marketable but set a goal which just isn’t realistic for many people. I think it can cause a lot of guilt and also turn people off from the movement, which is unfortunate because reducing/lowering waste is something we can all work on without trying to achieve “zero waste”.

  19. Julia
    | Reply

    Thank you for this very interesting post!
    I try to avoid plastic as much as possible especially when buying groceries, although I also struggle constantly by having to choose between food that is unpackaged or packaged in recyclable material as cardboard vs. organic or fair trade products, which are packaged in plastics.
    Although there are several unpackaged/bulk stores in my city, I don’t frequent them regularly. What irritates me most about them is that things like dry goods such as beans, corn, pasta or lentils are a lot more expensive at these package-free stores than at the regular supermarkets, even if the bulk option is conventional and the packaged supermarket option is organic and/or fair trade. 🙁
    For me it turned out as the most convenient option to buy a lot of fresh produce at the weekly farmers market and stock up on dry goods in large packages. I just finished the 5kg bag of oats I bought in January and I’m very much looking forward to buying the next one soon and not having to worry about buying oats for the next 10 months 😀
    Things that I think everyone can and should do are little improvements like bringing your own bag, use a cloth napkin for wrapping your sandwich or swapping paper handkerchiefs for cloth handkerchiefs (although I can understand that this is not for everyone ;)) – you just do you! Every little step taken is good for our planet 🙂

    • Verena Erin
      | Reply

      Thanks Julia! Food can be so difficult, I think it’s great what you’re doing. Farmer’s markets especially are really wonderful to support, I wish we had better farmer’s markets near where I live, I really miss them! Like you said, there are so many little improvements we can make and I think those should be the focus instead of getting frustrated about trying to adopt a totally new lifestyle. 🙂

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