PRINCIPLES FOR TRANSITIONING TO A ZERO WASTE LIFESTYLE
Interested in switching to a lower waste lifestyle? Many people want to make changes to live more sustainably but aren’t sure where to start. While everyone’s path will be different and there’s no right or wrong starting point, here are a few guiding principles to keep in mind if you’re just beginning, or if you’ve been doing this for a long time but need a reminder!
Everyone is at their own point on their own journey: don’t feel the need to compare yourself to others. Some people have been zero-wasting for a long time and have had the time to adapt their habits and consumption to fit in with this lifestyle. If you’re new to reducing waste, remember this is a marathon and not a sprint, so don’t sweat it by comparing yourself to others.
Don’t be intimidated by feeling the need to change everything at once. Many people discovering zero waste feel the urge to overhaul their entire lifestyles overnight, an impossible task that sets you up for frustration and failure. While it might be tempting and exciting to dive in head first and rush out to buy a bunch of sustainable products, small, gradual changes are more achievable and over time you’ll see what swaps work for you. There are plenty of small changes that can be made to set you on the right path without feeling overwhelmed. For example, if switching from conventional toothpaste to bulk tooth powder sounds like too much all at once, why not opt for an easier switch to a recyclable toothpaste tube like David’s? This is still a lower waste option and is more likely to stick with you if it fits better in your lifestyle.
Think carefully about what changes WILL actually work for you. There’s no point in forcing a swap that you don’t feel is right or that you can’t invest the time and effort into maintaining. Some swaps will be easy because they require no change in behavior, for example substituting a bamboo toothbrush in the place of a plastic one – the way you brush your teeth stays the same regardless. On the other hand, a change like signing up for curbside composting to eliminate food waste from your household requires more thought before jumping in. Ask yourself before you invest; am I realistically prepared to commit to the extra time and effort it might take? This saves you from potentially spending money or effort and time you don’t have, on a change you won’t keep up. If you’re making a change that affects others in your household too, the same principle also applies to them. Are they willing to make the change as well? It’s worth discussing beforehand so that you have a good idea of what will work for your household or what you’re prepared to trial – I know from experience that some zero waste swaps that I’ve one-sidedly implemented in our house have been quickly reversed when my husband has not been keen to go along with them.
Use up what you have first. The least wasted product is the one you actually USE. I’ll let you in on a secret; I used to be a shampoo bottle hoarder. Before switching to shampoo bars, every time I saw my brand of shampoo on sale at the supermarket I would stock up on multiple bottles and pat myself on the back for being thrifty. When I finally decided it was time to kick the shampoo bottles out of my bathroom, I knew that I first had to use up all that product so it wouldn’t just go to waste. I was excited about switching, but by being patient and using what I had already brought into my life, I made the more sustainable choice to avoid waste first. Know that eliminating old products and consumption choices from your home and routines may take some time, but accept this as part of the process.
Finally, don’t feel bad about not being perfect. None of us are. We all have different capacities to reduce waste at different points in time. Maybe current circumstances (hello, COVID) make it harder to fully follow the zero waste goals you set yourself. Know that even by thinking consciously about your actions and choices you are still contributing and making the difference that you can right now. Small steps are better than no steps at all, and this is a movement that requires lots of people doing zero waste imperfectly over fewer people doing it perfectly.
Written by Pippa Morris
Tare Market Staff Member