Living Zero Waste is a slow process, especially if you live with people that don’t practice the same lifestyle.
You watched the news. In the news, you saw some phenomena such as the wildfire, typhoon, and plastics on beaches, landslides, drought or some animals choked by plastics. For instance, you also read the article about the melting of ice glaciers in Antarctica. You heard that they were all linked to the volatile changes in the environment. The environment has been degraded for so long because of the amount of wastes that go to the bodies of water, land, or air and human exploitation of natural resources.
Given the huge environmental crisis that the planet is facing, there are ideas sprung to address the issue on waste management. These ideas are used to avoid additional negative environmental effects. One of these ideas is living zero waste.
Living zero waste
If you are the person who frequently watches the news, use the social media or surfs the internet for some information about the environment to keep updated, you probably came across the terms zero waste, zero waste movement or zero waste lifestyle. The Zero Waste movement is an advocacy of reducing waste on the environment. The zero waste lifestyle aims to help each person produce waste in the smallest amount possible. It does not totally mean to have a “zero” or no production of waste. Rather, it’s living “darn near zero waste”.
This means a person who is practicing zero waste is basically doing the 5Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. You refuse what you do not need, you reduce what you need, you reuse what you have, you recycle what you have, and rot those you do not need to become new products. This sounds familiar, right?
Someone you know or a friend maybe is already practicing zero waste. The common things that you can observe with them are reusable bags, bamboo or metal straws or reusable water bottle. And if you happen to have a conversation with him or her regarding products that he or she uses for his or her bath, you would actually get an answer about shampoo bars and other zero waste products.
And when you go to have shopping with him or her, you would probably notice that your friend would avoid those products in plastic packaging or you would witness your friend buying in bulk to avoid unnecessary packaging. All of these are made possible with efforts aim to lessen wastes.
When you start thinking about the environmental impacts and how these impacts affect your life for better or for worse, you probably consider going zero waste. Having that in mind, you are now determined to change your lifestyle. It starts with your awareness on your consumption. It is basically not just about food but also about the things that you buy. You try to eliminate the things that you perceive necessary at a glance but actually not.
Of course, you also make changes for those things that you eliminate, for example, switching plastic bags to cloth bags for shopping. You also do not buy more like buying more clothes, fashionable bags and the likes. You avoid unsustainable items and practices. It means you do not anymore patronize single-use plastics or packaging, no matter how convenient they could be because you are aware that your lifestyle can impact the environment.
Also, you may want to start practicing the 5Rs that has been mentioned above. You begin to refuse the freebies like ID holder or free pens and decide to return those because you already have one. You reduce your consumption by eating more vegetables and less of meats or by using only one cleaning agent for the whole household. You reuse your things that have been kept for a long time and you do not bother yourself anymore if it looks old as long as it is still useful.
And for those stuff that you think you cannot be used on their original form but can be recreated into another products so that it can be useful, you segregate them for recycling instead throwing them off or sending them off to the landfill. While those food scraps and other compostable materials can be rotten into compost which is good for the plants while avoiding fertilizers with harmful chemicals.
When going zero waste, you start rethinking of your meals. You prepare your meal plan to avoid the temptation of getting caught up by fast food. You consider all the meals that you can make for the whole week to avoid spoilage of food, and to prevent those you keep in the refrigerator to end up as trash. With your meal plan comes the thought in your mind to buy food in bulk or food that has less packaging. You try to avoid as much as possible those in the plastic packaging.
But what if you live with non-zero waste people?
You are making changes in going zero waste. Of course, you like these changes because they give you the sense of fulfillment as you exert effort in making your waste lesser and lesser each day. You can have that feeling of balance between yourself and nature. Sounds good, right? But, what if you live with people that do not have that lifestyle? It will not be so easy, right?
Going zero waste requires changes. Like any other changes, they are easily accepted by those people around you, especially when they do not get the importance of your effort. This is not about their resistance to living zero waste but it is all about how they can keep up with the changes brought by such lifestyle.
Some people who do not practice zero waste are not aware of the wastes they produce. They usually think that the moment they throw their wastes, somebody will take care for them such as a garbage collector. Some people do not have access to information about the impacts of waste. They think that these wastes will eventually compost and degrade without any harm to the environment. And some people do not like products such as shampoo bars because they feel that it does not suit them as much as bottled shampoo of the brand they fully trust.
So, if you live with these kinds of people, you may end up feeling frustrated. And you may think that your efforts on living zero waste are not making any sense to them. Perhaps, there were times that you encountered misunderstandings because they were not able to grasp what you were pointing out because they could not resist the convenience that the conventional lifestyle that they used to. Thus, making your zero waste lifestyle a tough and challenging one.
Hard Truths about Living Zero Waste
Living with non-zero waste people comes with hard realities. To be able to identify with these hard realities will help you to deal with your frustrations. This will lessen the stress you feel and make you more determine to have push for those changes to have a sustainable lifestyle. Having this, you can avoid further misunderstanding. Here are the five hard truths that you have to remember when dealing with none-zero waste people:
You cannot do everything perfectly.
This is not because you are not doing enough in living zero waste, but there are things that you cannot avoid of producing such as your own waste. Even if you are mindful of your wastes, there are still those small little things that you cannot prevent from coming such as your junk mail, a plastic seal of jar lid, receipts of your groceries or metal straw that going undergoing chemical reaction after several use.
You cannot please everyone.
You are not everyone’s cup of tea. And no matter how you live your life, there are people whom you cannot please. This not because you are doing wrong things, but they just have their own preference in doing things. According to Wanderlust Wander, there are ten reasons why you cannot please everyone:
- everyone will always have their own opinion no matter what,
- right and wrong can often be subjective,
- we are all the unique product of our own experience,
- people will always talk no matter what,
- outcasts and scapegoats are common theme throughout history,
- people usually frightened by things they don’t understand,
- if your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough,
- when you try to please everyone, you end up attracting negativity,
- you begin to sacrifice who you really are deep down inside, and
- you will lose the sense of your identity by trying to please others.
You can only do so much.
There is no assurance that you can avoid dealing with unpleasant experiences while living zero waste. You cannot control what other people think or do. You cannot dictate them to the same and practice zero waste because they have different reactions and opinions towards it. Their priorities are not the same as yours because they have different goals and aspirations. You can only control yourself. You can only make decisions for yourself. And you can only realize the zero waste lifestyle by doing it on your own self.
You should not be too hard on yourself. While it is a fact that you cannot decide for others, it does not mean that you have to take the blame. In fact, your decision on living zero waste is a good choice. It does not mean that you are the reason why they do not like the idea of living zero waste. Their choices do not speak about how you live your lifestyle on going zero waste but a reflection of what they can do. So, instead of feeling frustrated while living zero waste, you should be happy because you are allowing changes that are beneficial both for you and the environment.
Changes do not happen overnight. Although non-zero waste people don’t seem interested in living zero waste, it does not mean that they are not capable of changing. And this change is just a matter of when it is going to happen. It is a process where it allows time to give way to people to realize of what they can do to help the conservation of environment. It takes patience to finally see the changes that you are hoping to happen.
Provided the circumstances of the hard truths that you encounter in living with none-zero waste people, it is important for you to compromise. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines compromise as a way of reaching agreement in which each person or group gives up something that was wanted in order to end an argument or dispute. In other words, when you compromise some of your zero waste practices, this can help you bridge the ideas that you want them to apply while removing that feeling of remorse or resistance. On the other hand, you realize that they are also willing to embrace some changes.
This way, you are able to strengthen your relationship with these people. This is also a first step to make them understand why you are changing your lifestyle. By compromising, you have the chance to have a dialogue with them. The conversation can be personal and deep making them think and realize that your decision of going zero waste is not based on what is trendy but of what is necessary. They may not fully grasp all your reasons of going zero waste but at least they will have an idea of why you are starting doing it. They may not always agree with you; however they can somehow support you.
Set by example
According to Mahatma Gandhi, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.”
The adage from Gandhi is basically telling us one thing; we have to set as an example to do that aspiration such as going zero waste. Since you can only do much, you can start showing the people around you that you are serious on going zero waste because you are practicing what you want to happen. It is important that you do the action rather than just narrating how you want to apply the zero waste habits in your life.
When you set yourself as an example of a person going zero waste, you allow others to reflect on their own way of life. They can see the effort that you do every day and somehow they may rethink on their choices in the lifestyle that they have. Human as we are, the tendency of comparing things comes naturally, thus they cannot avoid comparing the amount of waste that they can create to the amount of waste that you accumulate.
Moreover, as you practice zero waste habits every day, people can have the perception that it is possible to live a life you choose. Oftentimes people think that they cannot live a zero waste lifestyle because it is impossible and difficult for them to handle. Seeing you setting an example for them, make them realize that it is doable and they can actually do it if they want to.
And if ever they find challenges along the way as they decide to go on zero waste lifestyle, they can always refer to you for ideas and skills that they can apply. If ever a question crosses their mind regarding zero waste, they can always talk to you to discuss things that they want to know.
Showing them on how to live with a zero waste lifestyle is like setting a standard of what they can follow (at least for a start) in living zero waste. In other words, you become their real life reference when it comes to zero waste.
Sharing is caring. This sounds cliché but this goes the same with sustainable living.
Sharing resources can lessen the over-consumption that is happening in our present day. It reducing the tendency of buying those materials that someone can only use for a certain occasion. Sharing will make use of these underutilized resources. It can maximize the function of the resources that you have.
For instance, if you have a car at home with four seats and you are only three members in your family, you can invite one neighbor to hitch a ride. This way you are not only cutting carbon emission but also helping a neighbor to save the money and make use of it on other things.
Another example is when you let non-zero waste household members of yours to try some of your reusable such as your shampoo bar. The person can actually experience how it feels when one could use zero waste items, and who knows it could be a turning point to decide on living zero waste.
Lastly, sharing your resources is a concrete and effective way of letting non-zero waste people directly participate in living zero waste.