A version of this article appeared on Model 4 Green Living.
This year, for Earth Month, I decided to experiment with going zero-waste. I began with the simple idea that anyone can do it and, by doing so myself, that I would make the world a “greener” place. Some prominent zero-waste influencers suggest that this is a possibility for all of us, so we should all try. And to some extent, I agreed. I quickly discovered, however, that a complicated set of corporate and institutional structures prevent most people from ever coming close.
All the twist-ties and rubber bands for vegetables, stickers on produce, tofu wrap etc I created in a month can barely fit inside this mason jar….And this isn’t even counting the recycling (tetra pack for non-dairy milk, cans, etc).
I saw first-hand that waste-free living is nearly impossible if you aren’t extremely diligent and privileged with free time to do so in the first place. Is striving for zero-waste on an individual level the best way to use that privilege for the betterment of our planet and society as a whole? Or should we also be demanding governments finally get involved with us?
“I saw first-hand that waste-free living is nearly impossible if you aren’t extremely diligent and privileged to be so in the first place.”
It’s way past due that our institutions start doing their part. If governments enact policies that ban the use of single-use plastics, require extended producer responsibility, and provide proper compost and waste disposal regardless of neighborhood economic standing, the environmental movement could be truly inclusive. Then and only then can we finally create lasting, positive change.
Although it became increasingly clear that our current systems of waste disposal and consumption make it incredibly difficult to live a waste-free life–even when you do live a privileged life, there are still some fairly simple things almost everyone can do to avoid single-use plastic:
- Avoid plastic water bottles and opt for a glass or steel reusable bottle you can fill up at home or when you’re out and about.
- Ask for coffee to stay at your favorite café to avoid being served coffee in a disposable to-go cup. If you need coffee while on the go, bring a reusable coffee tumbler.
- Don’t use straws–or if you really enjoy them, use glass or stainless steel straws at home. When you’re out, be sure to tell the server “no straw, please” before your drink order comes to avoid being served a plastic straw.
- Reusable grocery and produce bags. Use ’em.
- Pack your own cutlery and utensils if you’re out and about to avoid having to resort to plastic forks and the like.
See the results of Renee’s challenge plus waste-reducing tips here.
Have you taken any zero-waste challenges?
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Photos: Renee Peters