“No Straw please,” “ I brought my own bags,” and “ no plastic please”; these are usually the remarks that follow someone that living a zero-waste lifestyle. Zero-Waste is defined as trying to make as little waste that go to landfill or incinerator, creating new uses of everyday products and adhering to circular economy. I am pleased to say that the zero-waste lifestyle is becoming more common in today’s society. Just think about it, now your waitress asks you if want straws. Being zero-waste is a journey, a constant trying to become; not just a one and done. Becoming zero-waste takes a self-reflection to think if you really need that item.
Let me tell you as a zero-waster: Life is not a perfect event, and even zero-wasters still make waste. A quote that has been around the zero-waste movement is “we don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions doing it imperfectly.” These are the unexpected lessons I learned while trying to become zero-waste.
4 Lessons I Learned From Starting A Zero-Waste Lifestyle
1. Be Prepared
Like the Boy Scouts motto says: be prepared. So many times we head to the checkout lines and realize that we left our reusable bags at home. Tip: after you use your reusable bags, put them back in your car. Carry a set of reusable silverware in your purse, backpack, coat pocket, anywhere and everywhere. It helps cut down on the plastic silverware that would be going straight into the landfill. If you are someone that needs a straw to drink liquids, bring a reusable straw with you. They make some that fold up to the size of a U.S quarter and some that they can go on a keychain so it’s always with you. Reusable coffee cups are also something that takes little effort that makes a huge difference since the paper cups are not recyclable. I know first hand that you save $ .10 if you bring in your own cup into Starbucks. Plus it stays hotter much longer. Local coffee shops are also likely to fill your own cup. For my Canadians friends, Tim Hortons does. For the coffee shop to fill your cup, may I suggest going during a slow period and actually ordering inside the coffee shop, not the drive-thru.
2. Do your research
If you are someone like me, you can’t go into anything without doing some research beforehand. One important thing to research is what kinds of plastic your local recycling facility accepts. This is very local-specific since my hometown can recycle plastic tubs while the town my summer job was located in could only recycle #2 plastic after it was really rinsed out. At the start of my zero-waste journey, I started to look up zero-waste alternatives to my everyday products. For deodorant, I found that I can make my own out of a couple of ingredients around my house or that I can buy some out of a glass jar from Sephora. Lush is an amazing store full of zero-waste options and inspirations. They sell shampoo and conditioner bars, toothpaste tablets, and body lotions. When I go inside Lush, I find what I can do at home. Another key bit of information: find out why you want to be zero-waste. People will keep asking you why you are doing it, so find out why. There are a lot of amazing resources out there representing zero-waste lifestyles.
3. Be Vocal
It is important to use your voice since it is the best way to spread your message. I have learned when I make a drink order to follow up with a “and no straw,” most servers do remember that and deliver you a drink without it. It also is helpful if you learn it in many languages, so you can always ask for no straw. In other places, you can always give the wrapped straws back. Another thing I learned is simply asking. I recently went to a coffee truck at a tree-lighting ceremony that was full of people. I was scared that they were not going to fill my cup, but they did. My best friend always reminds me by asking, what is the worse they are going to say—no? Additionally, you can state how much of something you want, like the number of napkins. My next tip is to help spread your message. More people can understand if they know what your stance is. Most people even start to think about themselves and how they can reduce their waste.
4. Forgive and Try Again
My last lesson is one of the things that I have been working on ever since I started my journey. In a perfect world, you will always have everything you need and everything will come with no waste. But we don’t live in that perfect world. I recently went to a football game and the only option for water was a plastic water bottle. You couldn’t even bring a reusable bottle in. I made the decision to get a plastic bottle, so I could refill my bottle up again and then recycle when I get home. Like I said in the beginning, it is a process. Just because you had to throw something away, doesn’t mean you aren’t still trying to eliminate waste. It is a reminder that you can only do what you can do. Every day is a new day and every swap is a swap.
Have you tried living a zero-waste lifestyle?
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Photo: Matthew Henry on Unsplash