For the most part, I feel like I’ve adapted well to a less wasteful life. I’ve been making small changes here and there – from simple daily swaps to assessing my reading and travel routines – for a while now, and most of the adjustments I’ve made have been pretty seamless. That said, striving towards a zero waste lifestyle is certainly not without its challenges and, in the interest of hashtag keeping it real, I thought I’d share some of the difficulties I’ve personally encountered along the way.
0 | Challenges vs reality
Before I get into it, I wanted to mention that there are areas of our lives where it is impossible to make less wasteful choices – or choices at all for that matter. One example of this that springs to mind is medication. Medical paraphernalia generates a lot of waste in the way of packaging that might not always be recyclable. Indeed, medication is more often than not tested on animals, too. It goes without saying that people who require a lot of medical apparatus and medication should never be made to feel bad for “contributing waste” or “being wasteful.” The excellent Tamsin of Eco Fluffy Mama touched on this recently on her Instagram Stories – if you’re not following her blog already I’d highly recommend that you check it out.
Adopting a zero waste lifestyle is about doing what you can when you can, just like with veganism; there will inevitably be some situations wherein waste is unavoidable, and that is perfectly OK. This example and others like it are less of a challenge in my eyes than a reality of life.
1 | Endless receptacles
My boyfriend recently admitted that, whenever I mention my Mooncup (which happens often in our period positive household) he thinks I’m referring to my Keepcup. The mixup makes for amusing conversations, I’m sure you’ll agree. The sheer amount of receptacles I carry around with me is, contrarily, less than amusing: on a usual day, I’ll pack my Keepcup, Klean Kanteen, a tupperware of lunch and sometimes something for breakfast too – usually a piece of bread for toasting which I keep in a reusable snack bag. When it’s menstrual time, my period kit – complete with my Mooncup – goes in the backpack too. That’s a lot of containers to cart about!
Now that the summer is over and I’m less likely to need water on the go, I might keep my Klean Kanteen at home or work, so I don’t have to pack it every day. Another solution I’ve been trialling is to buy a carton of yoghurt at the start of the week, take it into work, and have that with granola – both of which can be kept in the office.
2 | Sacrifices
When you start to learn about how damaging plastic is for the environment, it can be hard to keep buying products with that kind of packaging. After all, who feels OK with the idea that their new eyeshadow palette could take hundreds of years to break down in landfill? It can sometimes feel to me that I am making a lot of sacrifices in my attempts to live a less wasteful life. It can feel as though I’m compromising on things that I enjoy, like makeup and processed food. And then there’s the twinge of guilt I feel if I cave in and buy something which is packaged unsustainably.
To this I’d say that making more ethical choices is supposed to improve, not worsen, your life. If, in your attempts to be less wasteful, you are depriving yourself of things that you love – things which, in the grand scheme of things, won’t have much of an impact on the planet anyway – then the likelihood of you continuing on your journey and inspiring others to join you is pretty low. So do what you can, educate yourself, but don’t just give up everything that brings you joy.
3 | Food waste
I’m the kind of person who will buy a bag of kale with the best of intentions and fish its wilted remains out of the fridge, practically untouched, a week later. It’s soul destroying and exactly the sort of waste I am desperately trying to avoid. I’m also the kind of person who’ll cast their eyes forlornly on the shelves at the supermarket, wondering where all this produce, which is about to pass its “best before” date, will end up if it’s not bought by that time. I can only imagine the colossal amount of food we waste as a society, and to be honest I’d really rather not.
If you’re organised enough, meal prepping is a great way to use things up. I’m also making a conscious effort to use up what I already have in the cupboard and fridge, even if it means getting a little creative when I might not be in the mood to. I make sure I’m stocked up on staples like pulses, legumes, pasta and rice at all times, as well as always having a few tins of beans, coconut milk and chopped tomatoes, too. As long as you have the basics you can usually throw something together, and will likely use up what you have rather than going out and buying more food, which you might or might not get through before it goes bad.
What do you find challenging about living a less wasteful life? Let me know in the comments.