Climate activists like Lauren Singer are opting for a zero-waste lifestyle. Oftentimes, these activists show off the amount of trash that they have gathered in a small mason jar.
The two years’ worth of scraps that fit into these glass containers are very impressive. We have no choice but to aspire to the lifestyle that these activists and influencers have created. But how attainable is the zero-waste lifestyle? How do we actually take on such a lifestyle as a beginner?
What is a Zero-Waste Lifestyle?
The U.S Environmental Protection Agency defines zero-waste as “conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery” of any materials. This movement is created to combat pollution by limiting the burning and discharging of trash into the air, landfill, and water.
The zero-waste lifestyle has been popularized by many climate activists and internet influencers starting in the early 2010s. I first discovered the zero waste lifestyle back in 2015 when I watched MSNBC’s documentary on Lauren Singer, a sustainable serial entrepreneur.
Singer’s work with zero-waste, on the surface, looks very admirable. She brings her fabric bags and mason jars everywhere, substituting for plastic bags and utensils. Singer only produced a tiny amount of trash that fits into a small mason jar within 2 years. But are such actions effective to the zero-waste movement?
Zero-Waste Lifestyle is not so Attainable
As much as we love the intention behind the zero-waste lifestyle, there is no way that a person can limit all of their waste. Environmental activists like Lauren Singer oftentimes promote their products like metal straws and glass jars to their beginner zero waste practitioners. But there are shortcomings to the purchases required to become “zero waste.”
Direct and Indirect Wastes:
Going zero waste may reduce one type of trash but may increase another. Even though a person may not produce as much waste directly, certain purchases do increase the waste that the buyer is not aware of.
When a person has decided to go zero-waste, they need to purchase new tools like utensils, glass containers, and fabric substitution to any disposable bags. After all, activists promote these types of products to the beginner “zero wasters.” There have been online discussions regarding how these purchases will still produce wastes that we are unaware of.
At the end of the day, the purchases that come with a zero-waste lifestyle contradict the overarching goal.
Transforming to Ideal Zero-Waste Lifestyle is a Privilege:
When we talk about an ideal zero waste lifestyle, we often see people with fancy stainless steel straws, expensive oatmeal, and dozens of mason jars. Many zero waste influencers ascribe to this ideal. They show off their cool wooden toothbrushes, naturally disposable tooth floss, and many more.
On top of that, these influencers make it seem like their entire lives revolve around zero-waste. Other than focusing on going zero-waste, they seem to have nothing going on in their lives.
Of course, for average people, this is not achievable. People who don’t have higher incomes might not be willing to pay a lot to afford the new lifestyle. After all, in our current system, being sustainable is – most of the time – quite expensive. And many people also don’t have the time that allows them to make a drastic difference in their lives.
But don’t feel discouraged! We are here to offer you feasible solutions to going zero-waste.
Changing Your Mentality
Transforming into zero-waste seems like lots of work. Commitment and a certain amount of money will indeed be involved in going zero-waste. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
The effective way for us to go zero-waste is starting small and slow.
A zero-waste lifestyle is not an overnight achievement. It is a journey. By pushing us to attain a zero-waste lifestyle in a short amount of time is very overwhelming. It will eventually discourage us to go zero-waste at all.
Always remember, a small change is important just as much as a big change. It is good to push ourselves out of our comfort, but doing something is better than doing nothing!
Retain and Reuse
One of the zero-waste beginner guides that we found effective is from Kathryn Kell. Kell suggests that we look for zero-waste tools that are already within our reach. For instance, we may already have reusable plastic Tupperware. We can use those as a container when purchasing food outside.
Second-hand or exchanging is also a way Kell offers. Instead of buying new mason jars from a store, thrift stores could provide used jars that are clean. Both of these methods will allow us to attain a zero-waste lifestyle. They also limit indirect waste such as production and packaging waste.
Doing Your Research and Vote with Your Dollars
We believe that zero-waste is not limited to the trash that is created at home and grocery stores. As we’ve mentioned before, waste can also be created in a space that we don’t see.
That is why we must do our due diligence research on companies that we support. Instead of supporting corporations known for their harmful behaviors, we should always look for sustainable alternatives. Zero-waste should not only be about our personal space. It should contain our everyday actions to limit the overall wastes.
To know more about corporate responsibility that could help direct your zero waste lifestyle, check out our article!