We all need to start somewhere, right? Here are 5 things I wish I’d known before going zero waste, with lots of helpful links to my other sustainability content:
There is no such thing as “zero waste”
It’s an industry term and was never intended to be applied to consumer lifestyles. Our society cannot live zero waste. Even if you don’t bring plastic into your home, the items you consume still have waste in their production, transportation, and disposal. See my post on the definition of zero waste: Zero Waste and Plastic Free Living- Part 1.
You’re going to get emotional
I felt the guilt of having wasted things, over-consumed, and not done enough. I got angry every time I saw someone use single-use-plastic, every time I spotted litter on the ground (and still do!). We can equate our understanding of the environmental crisis to the 7 stages of grief. First you’re in shock and disbelief. Then you feel the guilt. You get angry. You feel hopeless (hello eco-anxiety [see What is Eco-Anxiety?]), you decide to take action, your actions become more meaningful and impactful on a larger scale, and then you accept the situation, and hope that it can change with clear action.
“Done is better than perfect”
This is a phrase I hear Angie from the YouTube Channel “This Gathered Nest” use and I think it perfectly captures living sustainably. We all just need to do something. Make any and all changes you can as an individual and simultaneously push companies and governments to do the same [see Companies Respond to my Feedback on Sustainability]. The point is that we need to do it together, rather than stalling in inaction, looking for a perfect solution.
We can’t buy our way out of climate change and the environmental crisis
Sure, you can make sustainable swaps when you’ve used up a plastic product and are looking to replace it. But generally, we only need so many bamboo straws, tote bags, and trendy coffee mugs before these items too just become part of the problem. The “Instagrammable” pantry is simply another sign that we are still trapped in the cycle of consumerism and one-upmanship. See my post on Zero Waste Essentials – Things I won’t be buying! (Part 3).
Changing my lifestyle to be more sustainable and lower waste is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
I consider myself a fairly accomplished person, but nothing has been more rewarding than making my life more sustainable for myself, and for the planet… even if those changes are tiny in comparison to our problems. Making changes for myself has made me attuned to the discourses on climate change and plastic waste. It has made me care. I search out more information, I champion change, I am proud to call myself an activist! See Ten Changes I’ve made in 2019 to live more Sustainably. As always, I’d love to hear about the changes you’re making so please share in the comments! 🙂