Since coming across Ariana Schwartz’s blog, Paris to Go, sometime in 2015/2016 I’ve been dabbling in a few zero waste measures out of curiosity and, ok yes, because of my highly suggestible nature.
I think the zero waste concept is fascinating. The lazy side of me justifies zero waste as being wholly unachievable because it’s too convenient to be wasteful. When you’re tired at the end of a long day and you just can’t face cooking, you grab something pre-packaged and oven it until ready. Or you order takeaway and eat out of disposable containers so there’s no washing up. A spray and wipe cleaning routine with industrial strength solvent sounds much better than using a bit of elbow grease with soap and water. If something breaks, it’s less hassle to simply dispose of and buy again than to try and have fixed.
Easy. Available. Minimum effort and energy from you required. You buy. You consume. You throw. You buy again.
I get it. This has been my mantra for a long time and it certainly rang true when I was working full time and could justify the expense. Greenpeace says that an Australian household will generate and throw up to 1.5 tonnes of waste a year. That’s the weight of a car and a half. Food wastage is estimated at $8 billion annually.
And I am an offender.
Much of the staple foodstuffs in my life come packaged – bulk dried noodles, rice, condiments, emergency freezer food backups, seasonings. Then there’s my undying love for skincare, which of course you cannot buy in bulk. And also any online clothing purchases I make to swap out or update my seasonal capsule wardrobes.
Now I know say, with the clothes, that I can simply go op-shopping. But when I shop I take days, weeks, even months sometimes, to pinpoint particular items, consider them, look at my budget, determine whether it’s just my hormones making me go material crazy. With online shopping, I can take all this time. I can put items in my cart, and delete them, and put them in again. I’ve sat on purchases for months at a time.
With all this deliberation, I couldn’t practically do that in real life. The staff at a bricks and mortar store would think I was insane. They’d whisper “hey, it’s that lady again. All she does is come in, go round the store adding items to her cart, then look at them individually, then put some back, then take new ones out, then put those ones back and find the ones she took out originally again. And then she walks out after an hour having bought nothing. But then she’ll be back again tomorrow, or next week, and do it all over again!”
You can see the scene set, right? Cuckoo.
So yes, I am wasteful when it comes to online shopping and the packaging that comes with the purchase. But as Ned said in a recent Buzzfeed video – I mean I recycle. I’m not a monster!
[side note: who else loves The Try Guys?]
The thing is, we beat ourselves up at what we should be doing, because it’s the right thing to do, and if I don’t do it then I’m outright killing planet earth, and that makes me a bad person. But each of us individually only has a finite amount of hours in the day and energy to spend on making sure we are doing ok. I’m not talking brilliantly. I’m talking just ok. Operational. Managing.
For those of us lucky enough to have a bit of head space to do a little extra and the want to do differently, then it certainly doesn’t hurt to take that time and make those changes if so desired. And those actions can be itty bitty. It still counts.
I really enjoy bringing my own containers and bags to shop or take away food. My tiffin carrier has been a screaming success, housing everything from soups to tacos, cakes, fried noodles, fresh berries, baked goods, savoury buns, deli goods etc. I’ve never been denied using my own container so far, and most people think it’s vintage and retro so it’s a great conversation starter.
Zero waste doesn’t have to apply to absolutely every area of your life. Apply it to achievable areas first (or only), whether that be dietary, home and living, shopping, personal hygiene.
I think a general reduction in waste and a more conscientious attitude towards wastage is better than nothing at all.
So no, I won’t be saving the planet entirely in the mean time. I’m still pumping green house gases into the atmosphere because I own a car, I’m still emitting masses of carbon each and every time I hop on a plane to travel, all my electronics gadgets are still being manufactured in probably unsustainable ways, and I continue to lust after certain material items that are not wholly environmentally produced, but I am actively trying to reduce where I can, and do better in smaller ways.
Truthfully I don’t think I’ll ever be fully zero waste. There are many things that are non-negotiable in my lifestyle and diet that just do not come un-packaged due to my location and lack of any other option, or which I would rather take the convenience of throwing away than attempting to maintain myself. Who knows though, as times goes on I may be more bothered to take action than not.
Any successful part time zero-wasters reading? Drop me some ideas and comments below about the sorts of things you did to start off your transition.