“I think I want to start being ‘Zero Waste'” are the words that I want to say but that I don’t quite feel ready to. I’m inspired but daunted, motivated but scared, at the bottom of the learning curve but ready to climb.
“Zero waste” wasn’t a term I was familiar with until I became vegan and even then, it’s only been recently I’ve really started to take more notice of it. In essence, living zero waste means trying to live a life that minimises disposables (waste) by refusing single use plastics and recycling and reusing as much as possible. It means trying to never throw anything into the bin, unless it’s a compost bin! How is that even possible I hear you say. Well, me too. I hear myself saying it too. How can you eat a packet of crisps without throwing something in the bin afterwards? Surely some waste is an inevitable part of modern life?
When you look around though, you will see that disposables and plastics are absolutely everywhere. From the bag of pasta you innocently buy in the shop, to the toothbrush you just threw away last week. From cotton buds to a sandwich packet, from wrapping paper to baby wipes, from takeaway boxes to washing up bottles and from a Starbucks coffee cup to a party balloon. Almost every single thing we (me included) purchase, is in some way disposable and a huge majority of things come with some form of plastic packaging, labelling or bag. What I’m starting to learn since delving into this world is that just recycling our plastic bottles isn’t quite enough and there is a hidden environmental footprint behind almost everything we buy.
When I became vegan I suddenly became hyper aware of the extent to which we exploit animals for our own use and I would start to notice animal products everywhere I went. Now, I’m starting to see it with plastic and again, it’s a huge awakening. Not only that but I’m struck with the fact that if I don’t take responsibility for making more conscious purchases, then who will? I’m as guilty as the next person at buying disposables for convenience and enjoyment, for ease and for saving time. I take advantage of instant purchasing on Amazon and order a takeaway when we’ve got an empty fridge because all those things just make a life a little easier sometimes.
In the vegan movement, there is a saying, “there’s no excuse for animal abuse,” and perhaps the same can be said about waste. What is our excuse for throwing so much away and is our excuse good enough?
So just as I decide I’m ready to start making some changes, there’s that age old question that comes to mind….how would I make a difference? Me refusing plastic won’t stop plastic being on the shelves. Me switching to cloth nappies won’t stop nappies being produced. Me trying to buy as much second hand as possible won’t reduce the production line on new products. The plastic will still be there. But then I remember that surely refusing it, recycling it and reusing it is still the better option? One less piece of plastic actually making it to landfill is still better for the planet. Plus, if I let the fact that despite me being vegan, meat is still everywhere I look, bother me, I wouldn’t be doing very well. The vegan movement has grown hugely in the relatively short amount of time I’ve been vegan. None of this would happen if people’s decisions didn’t start to have an influence so I’m hopeful this may be the same for plastics.
Can I really do it though? I’m going to have to sacrifice so much! When I first went vegan I was asked a lot how I could live without certain things I had become accustomed to and enjoyed. How would I live without cheese and steak and eggs? But I do, and I’m happier for it. Now I’m faced with similar decisions like what to do if I just fancy a takeaway but don’t want the wasteful containers. How do you still enjoy crisps if they are always sold in non recyclable packaging? What do you do about gifts and presents? How do you fit into a society that isn’t yet zero waste and what to do if you are going to alienate yourself even further for trying to further align your beliefs to your actions.
Let’s be honest. I’m not going to become a Zero Waste superhero overnight. I am a Mummy to two young girls who take up the majority of my time (quite rightly) and I don’t live somewhere with easy access to bulk buy stores or fresh food markets. The reality is that the supermarket is round the corner and if we are out of bread and veggies, that’s where I’d be headed. What I can do though is start to learn, stay open minded and make some immediate changes now.
I’m here on this planet with a purpose. I want to evolve, continue to learn and improve. I want to take responsibility for the world in which I have been gifted a place. I want to protect the Earth for my children and their children too. I believe that one person can make a difference but collectively the difference can be huge.
Watch this space….