The Zero Waste movement started with author and environmentalist Bea Johnson. Her book, “Zero Waste Home”, published in 2013, popularized the movement. Her original message was to create as little waste as possible through things like homemade recipes and bringing your own containers to the shops, but the message she originally spread has evolved a lot since then.
What’s wrong with Zero Waste?
Nowadays, the movement is very popular and remains true to its roots, but some of the mindset behind the movement has changed. A lot of people have been conveying the idea (mostly through Instagram) that zero waste needs to look perfect; You need to have matching jars, a beautiful fridge full of loose produce, and create absolutely no waste no matter the circumstance. But is this truly possible?
Let’s be honest- no. Viewing zero waste this way carries the wrong values and makes us think that we are failing each time we create waste or our home looks a little messy. This is not how we should be feeling when we are trying to make positive changes in our lives. The term zero waste goes more with perfectionism than with trying your best. The movement should be something collective, not a competition to see who is doing the best and creating the least amount of waste. We should be supportive of one another through swapping eco-friendly tips and tricks, and inspiring each other to advocate for a clean environment.
This is another problem with the movement. Even though zero waste is very popular, not everyone has access to unpackaged food and other products. It may be easy to find in big cities, but not so much in towns and villages and other rural areas. Not everyone has a car or the means to take the bus or train to a city that has a zero waste shop. It’s not as easy as just moving somewhere to get better access. No one should ever feel like they are failing because the area they live in doesn’t have access to unpackaged food or zero waste shops.
It’s normal to make mistakes; No one is perfect and we’re all on a learning curve. We all make mistakes when we buy zero waste things that we think we need when actually, we don’t. That’s ok, just give this item to someone who needs it. Another mistake is that you might buy something that looks zero waste on the internet, but when it arrives, it's wrapped in plastic. Another common mistake is to think you need to buy everything new, especially jars so that they all match. The best thing to do is to reuse what you already have (like pasta sauce jars) or buy from thrift stores. Beauty is found in difference. If everyone was doing something the same way, how boring would the world be?! Having a low impact lifestyle should be affordable, hence reusing what you already have without feeling the pressure for it to look a certain way.
Low Impact Movement
Immy from Sustainably Vegan created the Low Impact Movement which represents the values of the lifestyle so much more. It’s about doing your best, not being the best, and understanding that creating zero waste isn’t possible, but we should all try our best to be kind to the earth. We don’t all have the same access to unpackaged foods, but we can still do all that we can and use resources like the internet which has made access to sustainable, ethical, zero waste online shops easy, and also has a wealth of low impact DIYs. A low impact lifestyle sounds much more feasible, accessible, and low-stress than a zero waste lifestyle.
Is a contributor for Zero Waste Club. She runs the travel & sustainability blog greenwanderess.com and is a photographer as well. Discovering beautiful landscapes around the world made her want to do everything possible to conserve and protect our planet. After she started her journey towards a low impact lifestyle, her interest in sustainability grew. She became vegetarian and then vegan. You can find her on Instagram @green.wanderess and @pmc.photos