Zero Waste Movement. Scroll down social media feeds. Ask Google, Alexa or Siri about it. Immediately, you’ll see names and faces of women such as Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer. You’ll watch videos of zero waste pantries and beauty regimens. What more? You might even be directed to watch DIY hacks that are undoubtedly intended for female with titles “DIY menstrual pads” or “menstrual cups”.
If you are a man and you’re reading this, you’ll probably note how intimidating the experience was. Are men excluded in the zero waste journey?
The Feminine Face of the Zero Waste Movement
Women in the zero waste movement—this is no incident. They are the primary caretakers of the home. They bear the brunt of housekeeping, shopping, and cooking. In fact, they carry most of the household chores and buries a ‘relative authority’ in the task at hand. So companies worldwide continue to cater to women. After all, they have the lion’s share of attention in the media.
But aside from their assignments at home, women become the center of zero waste movement due to various reasons.
Women as wives
Since time immemorial, women’s responsibilities are nestled at home. They do childrearing, laundry, cleaning, and cooking. In the modern days, this social standard can still be observed, both in rural and urban areas. Although many women today are in the field, they still hold the responsibility of shopping and cleaning the house. Thus, waste management at home are within their concern. This makes women very attracted to zero waste management. Since the end goal of the movement is to reduce/eliminate unnecessary wastes.
Wives also have the largest control over household spending. In fact, while household decisions are accountability of men, women on the other hand, can deliberate what is needed and not inside the house. They mostly know what items should be purchased and they oftentimes wanted to do it themselves. Because of this, companies always eye women’s preferences.
The historical vulnerability of women at home and work
Historically, women are vulnerable due to wage gap and unpaid housework. Most also work in areas at risk of environmental disasters. In fact, most of the Zero Waste community see it as part of ecofeminism.
This brings the whole Zero Waste Movement to a feminine slant. Countless studies show that environment-friendly behavior are seen as feminine. So men are more likely to donate to organizations with masculine-looking logos. For instance, a 2016 study found men are more likely to litter. Next, they leave a larger carbon footprint. They also feel less responsible about environmental impacts than women. Therefore, they protect their masculine ego in the face of a female-dominated movement.
Environmental crisis affects women the most.
Especially in rural areas, women are pressed with environmental consequences. An article shows that poverty and rapid population growth are among the main factors that contribute to natural calamities and pollution. And women? They are the most prone to these variables than their male counterpart.
This makes the zero waste lifestyle a sentimental platform to women, as it addresses the issues women are concerned about. Because of this, the movement becomes more attractive to women and to feminist-based groups who wanted to help them out. Moved by the causes, female changemakers are now in the limelight of sustainable community.
The Truth about the Zero Waste Movement
The zero waste movement values women and what they can do in curbing up unnecessary wastes. Their contributions are echoed to reach the masses; to inspire them. But zero waste as feminist? That’s not what the movement is all about.
Zero waste is genderless. How much it values women, is the same worth paid to men. The [zero waste] community sees men as eco-friendly. And that they care about the environment to change their consumerist habits. Men are always in the pillars of zero waste.
So, where are men in the zero waste movement? The following will help us understand men’s detriments.
Men just do what they got to do.
It is what it is. When men have something in mind, most of them just do it. They keep the deed to themselves. No need to show off. They usually don’t need affirmation to carry things out, so sharing about their zero waste journey is kept private, no netizens involved. They hardly take pictures of everyday chores to post on social media. It’s just not their thing.
Men are minimalists and buy things that lasts.
Most men only buy the things they need. In fact, the vast majority of leaders in the minimalist field are men. They are less likely influenced by societal pressures, so shopping is less stressful to them. When they go to shopping malls, they will only buy a specific item, the one they planned buying. Seldom swayed by impulsive purchases. This characteristic makes them possible candidates of zero waste lifestyle as they already have a minimalist mindset.
In addition, men are concerned about the quality rather than quantity of their belongings. They invest their money to much worthy items, those that will last for longer periods of time.
Zero Waste Movement boomed in social media. Many showed their support to the cause through the various features of social networking sites—likes, comments, posts, and shares. Most of them are female. For instance, a 2019 survey shows that adopters of social media are mostly women.
In a social medium called Instagram, advocating through the platform become a problematic development of the movement. Some have grown a double life—zero waste evangelizer in social media, and a typical fella in reality.
Social media will never be a suitable representation of zero wasters. Because having access to internet alone is a matter of privilege. Possibly male zero wasters don’t have the time to post. After all, they have demanding work hours.
Men are underrepresented in the zero waste community.
Dominant female voices skew the representation of the zero waste movement. This is also to the detriment of the movement, because men don’t feel connected to it. They mostly see blogs of housewives. Or browse stores managed by millennial gals. And they think, “Where am I in all this?” The way they approach zero waste is different. Very different in terms of research and practice. But this approach is not always visible or recognized.
Simply, the available data today about zero waste community does not suffice yet the totality of the movement. Men feel underrated because zero waste products, talks, and content may not be a hundred percent gender appropriate.
Anecdotally, more males are into the Zero Waste movement. Firstly, there are rural zero wasters. They are farmers, fisher folks, and others who live off the land. Unlike women, men prefer showing their lifestyle to family and friends. In short, they are silent achievers.
Role models for men in the zero waste movement
If you want to be a part of the zero waste community, you have to make drastic changes in your lifestyle. Doing this may require a model, someone you can adopt practices and principles that are manly and sustainable.
Here’s a list of male personalities in the zero waste community.
Bradley Layton is one of the policy movers in the global movement of zero waste. Layton co-founded the Integration Energy. He published the acclaimed book “Zero Waste in the Last Best Place”.
He started thinking of zero waste after one summer’s experience. That summer, he was not allowed to put his trash in the garbage truck, because he was not a paying customer. Since that day, he decided not to contribute anything to Mts. Landfill and Methane. He and other scientists worked to develop carbon-neutral policies. Then states around the world adapt them to help solve the impending climate change crisis.
Another male eco waster is a pioneer in the Zero Waste Movement. Before Bea Johnson, there was Eric Lombardi. In 1996, with twenty-five other, he protested against Coca-Cola because of the way they pack their drinks. In this event, he first said that recycling was no longer enough.
He put forth the vision of zero waste. It is not simplistic fixes such as “zero landfilling”. Or “100-percent recycling.” Rather, the Zero Waste movement is a journey. It is not about jars worth of trash. Or completely plastic-free consumption. Instead, it is changing the design of how we interact with materials. First, it uses less resources. Next it eliminates toxic materials. Then, it builds things to last. Lastly, they reuse, recycle or compost. This principles govern the zero waste movement we know today.
Currently, he is the executive director of Eco-Cycle International. They help communities become zero waste.
A former Manchester United footballer and his wife pioneered in launching a package-free shop. Richard Eckersley, 28, opened the Earth.Food.Love. This is Great Britain’s first Zero Waste store. It is an organic, bulk-buy, plant-based, wholefoods shop. They sell food products such as gluten-free goods with no packaging. British customers need only to bring their own containers. They fill them up with what they want from the store. Then, they pay based on the weight. It also is a great step for male zero wasters. Because Eckersley showed that family-run business can be ecofriendly and highly profitable.
For those who scroll social media and blog sites, check out Jonathan Levy. He is a lifestyle blogger and zero waste supply chain consultant. Levy blogs with as much fervor as female bloggers. He constantly talks about the importance of thinking of the environment before convenience’s sake. He is worth imitating.
This dude is making a difference. Literally, Rob Greenfield makes the world known that men are eco-friendly. He published a book entitled Dude Making a Difference. This contains chronicles of his adventures such as travelling the United States using a bamboo bike, walking barefoot, dumpster diving, or having a no-shower bath for a year.
Rob Greenfield does everything for a purpose. As an environmental activists, he is concerned the most with food freedom, zero waste activism, food fiasco, and living simply and sustainably. Because of this, he spreads awareness on environmental conservation and sustainable living.
Together with his wife, Liam Prince become one of the most enthusiastic zero waste bloggers. He co-founded the The Rubbish Trip, a “zero waste roadshow offering FREE presentations and workshops to community groups and schools across New Zealand about how and why individuals can reduce their waste footprint.”
Liam and his wife are nomads since July 2017. This means they are already practicing their zero waste vocation for three years. Since then, they are occupied with events reaching our communities to spread the need to for lifestyle shift.
Men have always been a part of the zero waste lifestyle movement. Women may be the main stakeholders in the zero waste movement, but men has long been in the same journey. Saying that the movement is feminist only adds turmoil and supports notions that are biased and insufficient. Also, some of the male zero wasters are the very pioneers of the movement since its inception in 1996. They are activists, scientists, store owners, bloggers, and men from all walks of life.
In reality, men actively care for the environment. It may not be as evident as the social media of female influencers, but they do practice sustainable living. They mostly do not care to show their efforts on social media. They prefer to do it without seeking affirmation from others.
The Zero Waste Movement should not be seen as a feminine movement, but as a cause that both sexes and all genders can partake. The environment is not a feminine responsibility. All of us should care enough about the Earth that we become more conscious on how we live.