I thought about calling this post “Zero Waste Fails” or “Confessions of Living Low Waste”, but those names suggest that I’m failing at considering the environment in my daily life. In actuality, there is no such thing as “Zero Waste” or “no impact”. Our modern Western world is not built to be sustainable, and it is a constant battle trying to make the best sustainable choices within our means, while balancing a busy life. There is also the omnipresent temptation of convenience and capitalism. Given that I have some new subscribers, I feel it is important to share the reality of living sustainably. Most of us have some areas of our lives that we proudly declare are “eco-friendly” — from recycling to meatless Monday. In other areas, we could do better but we are faced with individual limitations and choices. It’s about doing the best you can, and avoid shaming people or feeling guilty when our lifestyles don’t match up to the zero waste ideal.
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Here are some areas of my life that are not sustainable or “eco-friendly”. I will include explanations as to why I have made these choices, but I don’t seem them as justifications. I’m not perfect! 🙂
I own a car, and I’m also taking driving lessons so I’m using the car more that I ever have done in the UK. I commute using the bus, but driving certainly isn’t the most sustainable activity, even if it’s in a hybrid car.
I buy food in plastic packing. GASP! Of course, when possible I buy package free, but we made the choice last year to switch to grocery deliveries due to our busy work schedules. Given that there is no refill option with our delivery service, most items come packaged. Moreover, ever since the pandemic started, some package-free options have been limited. This is a case of choosing to prioritise time and convenience over zero waste options for work-life balance.
Our shower is leaking and wasting water. The plumber couldn’t easily repair it so we are looking at an expensive replacement job. At least the plumber was able to fix the leaking dishwasher hose!
We all do it. Sometimes we just buy things that we would like but don’t need. From that blouse on Depop to a second hand book, to chocolatey treats. I buy things from time to time that I just want (within my means), and I try not to be too puritanical about living minimally.
When we were digging over the allotment last spring, it needed a lot of compost to rejuvenate the soil. I’m sure we spent around £200 on compost alone and this was mainly economical bags of compost, given that bulk delivery wasn’t possible. The thing with bargain compost is that it has peat in it. Destruction of the peatlands is bad. This was a financial choice that was used to start a sustainable hobby, but had a larger negative impact on the environment.
We buy the dog and nieces and nephew plastic toys – stickers, chew toys, crafts etc. These aren’t sustainable, but they love them!
Synthetic Fabrics and Microfibres
A lot of my clothes and the dog’s bedding are made from synthetic materials. Microfibres find their way from our washing machine into the waterways.
We don’t eat take away very often, but I still buy packaged convenience food like crisps, chocolate etc. The chocolate industry isn’t sustainable, and often isn’t ethical either!
Meat and Dairy
Guess what, I’m not vegan! I eat lactose free cheese and yogurt, as well as plant based options. I also do love bacon and a Christmas turkey, which I view as a treat.
Clothing Drying Rack
For my UK readers, you know the struggle all too well of air drying laundry inside during the winter season. North American readers will likely have a dryer and don’t have this issue. I have sensitive skin with an allergy to mold and I find that clothes which air dry for a long time indoors end up musty and then I get very itchy. Our solution is to use a heated drying rack to speed up the drying. This uses a fair amount of electricity (though I’m sure less than a dryer), but it is still a less sustainable choice than line drying. I look forward to the warmer weather when we can use out outside line again!
Finish Detergent Pods
For our dishwasher, we bought dishwasher powder at the Zero Waste shop for a couple of years. However, we noticed that our dishes didn’t get clean, and the glassware always had cloudy residue (despite using rinse aid and salt). We ended up switching to Finish From From detergent pods (affiliate link) which I’m sure have more chemicals in them but we are only having to wash dishes once instead of multiple times. In the long run, I think these pods are better for the washer’s mechanisms and lifespan.
I’ll do another post soon of some of the areas in my daily life that I feel are the most sustainable choices I can make, and some of my best eco-friendly tips!