We’re nearing the end of my 30 day challenge (only 5 days left!) and I’ve come to the conclusion that in many ways, I’m doing it “wrong”. It isn’t that there aren’t as many ways to go zero waste as there are people, because it is just this fact that escaped me!
What do I mean? I sort of acted as though zero waste living were a checklist. While the actions I took were largely valuable, they weren’t tailored to my lifestyle, mentality, and interests. The main problem with this approach is that I would be forever comparing myself to others and “keeping up with the Johnson’s” (See what I did there? Shout out to Béa Johnson!). I actually found myself buying more stuff to accommodate a whole new lifestyle instead of tweaking my own.
So, now it’s time to do something a little different. For today’s action, I will clarify my own zero waste approach.
Zero Waste According to Me
Technique for the stuff I own already:
(1) Wait until something runs out or is broken before thinking about replacing it. For instance, if I throw out my plastic Tupperware in a hurry to switch to glass to be more “zero waste”, I’ve actually created waste. I need to be more comfortable with transition.
(I could see making exceptions in the case that continued use poses more environmental impact than replacing an object. A possible example would be switching from a battery-operated MP3 player to one that could be wall-charged.)
(2) When something runs out or breaks, consider whether it needs to be replaced. Is it integral to my life? Or just one more thing?
(3) Consider how to replace those things I value in a more sustainable fashion (maybe a bamboo cutting board over a plastic one or bulk rice over bagged).
When out and about:
Refuse what I do not need: yeah, it took me this long to get here. Refuse receipts, freebies, business cards, plastic straws, etc.
While I’m refusing what I do NOT need, I get clearer on what I DO need. Which I think will naturally lead to reduction. This process has the added benefit of helping me with my minimalist goals.
When I find those things I do need, I find a way to meet the need through re-use options. For instance, clothes are a necessity so buying used is a neat re-use method. Also, borrowing is a viable re-use strategy that doesn’t get enough attention. Go for the library card over buying even used books. I can always buy a book (used) if I decide I would really like to have it.
This comes down to the three “R’s”. You know, Re-use, Recycle, and Rot.
* More than anything else, zero waste is a philosophy of conscious consumption. Being aware of all the acts of “use” is an ongoing process, not a destination one can reach, check off, and be done with.
How About You?
Have you unconsciously found yourself wanting to collect zero waste trinkets or remove stuff prematurely to up your zero waste credentials? Or is this just me? Let me know how you keep your head while pouring your heart into the idea of cutting down waste in the comments below.
A Year Later…
When I first wrote about zero waste, I had not yet read Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home. I had begun reading it about the time I had written this particular post and was just beginning to digest her more revolutionary approach. I definitely recommend this book, if you have not read it already. It is on my “if the house burnt down repurchase this list”.
The thing is, it had not yet occurred to me how central simplifying and minimalism really was to the whole zero waste package. You can’t really know what you’re buying out of habit and what you’re buying from true need without examining the areas of your life and making decisions regarding what is really important to you. This is the work of minimalism.
I am currently in the beginning steps of minimalism, picking topic after topic to re-examine and to revamp. I’ve begun the process with my clothes, hygiene, books, and kitchen, but I don’t feel that I’m “done” with these categories – I’ve simply brought more awareness to my choices and in the process made them more zero waste.
Until next time, keep that talk walking!