Zero Waste Imperfectly
Summed up beautifully, the Zero Waste Chef Anne Marie Bonneau said “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” It has now become a very widely shared quote on social media, for all the right reasons.
Starting out on your zero waste, or at least minimal waste journey, things can seem very daunting. Everywhere you look suddenly you are seeing all of these unnecessary single-use disposable items that you didn’t previously pay attention to before your zero waste and sustainability awareness was awoken. A full and dramatic change to a zero waste life, while very admirable, can actually put people off attempting to change at all. If something seems totally unachievable, then some people would deem it pointless to begin with that goal at all. This is where small changes DO matter on the quest to going green. Set small goals and actually achieve them. And then gradually increase those goals.
I myself began with cloth nappies, and this was the catalyst so so much more. Quickly this progressed to cloth baby wipes, reusable breast pads, and washable cloth sanitary pads. I seemed to have the baby and periods items boxed off pretty quick. Where to next? Like many, the next habits I changed were coffee cups, water bottles and straws. When making lunches for the family each morning, I became acutely aware of the unnecessary waste there, so that was my next goal. I got into the habit of reusable sandwich wraps and so on. As soon as one goal was achieved, the next was already on the move.
My next challenge was with my bathroom products. The bamboo toothbrush and zero waste DentTabs replaced my old ones. The shower gels and shampoos were out, and bars or soap and solid shampoo bars were in. Next up was my deodorant, my cleansing pads. I felt like I was actually getting somewhere. The reality is i’m about a million miles from the final goal, but the achievable goals kept me motivated. My kitchen cleaning products were next on the hit list. As my current nasty plastic products were falling into disrepair or emptying, they were replaced with eco friendly alternatives. It was all a gradual process.
For some reason actually took me a little longer to manage to remember to bring my produce bags with me every time I went to the supermarket. Tote bags and shopping bags I would remember no problem, produce bags seemed slower for me to get in the habit it of bringing. Now I am well on my way to a minimal waste lifestyle, but, I can tell you I still have a very long way to go on my journey to zero waste. When you are in a supermarket and your 2 year old toddler is clutching onto a pack of strawberries wailing that his world is going to end if you don’t buy them, but they are in those annoying plastic punnets with cling wrap over them... well as any parent of a toddler will know, sometimes you just have to suck it up and get those damn strawberries.
I strongly believe it’s not about being perfect, but it’s about making a real and conscious effort to change, and to keep changing. And to keep adding the goals. It’s about keeping the awareness to the forefront of your mind and acting on it.
There are a number of zero waste groups, forums and blogs online that can be a wealth of knowledge for people starting out in their zero waste (or more realistically, minimal waste!) journey to refer to. However, although well intentioned, sometimes very accomplished zero wasters can almost seem zealot-like in their approach to newcomers. It is vitally important to try and get the right balance between encouraging people to try and be more sustainable, and being downright judgemental. While time isn’t on our side, and we do need to make changes faster for the sake of the planet, an air of judgement in someone’s tone isn’t going to get more people on their side. Lead by example and encouragement.
As the old saying goes, the person who shouts loudest is often the least heard. And remember, most importantly: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
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