Plastic free and zero waste are two pretty big buzzwords at the moment, and here’s why I’m neither.
I try my best to reduce my waste – I compost, I choose plastic free products wherever possible, I don’t buy into ‘fast fashion’ or buying new things for the sake of shopping, I carry a reusable shopping bag with me wherever I go.
And still…I end up with plastic! Things wrapped in plastic, plastic from those days where you give in and need a take away meal, plastic when you buy furniture from IKEA and every individual part is wrapped in swathes of the stuff. And still, I end up with waste. Waste from not cooking those vegetables quick enough, not eating left overs quick enough, not being able to compost scraps at work, or whatever it is. I’m not perfect, and when I was working full time and participating actively in what is a bit of a ‘convenience’ lifestyle, I didn’t have a lot of say in it. We don’t always have time to do the things we want or should when the majority of our time and energy is funnelled into work or family or study or whatever we’ve committed to. But sadly, the fast and easy options we resort to usually involve some amount of waste, plastic or a huge amount of energy to produce.
So I’ve made myself a deal. It’s based slightly on Roxane Gay’s idea of being a ‘bad feminist’. I see myself as a ‘bad environmentalist’ in some ways. I’m not going to sit at home and beat myself up over every less than perfect choice I make, it would go on forever.
Instead, I’m going to focus on the war, not the battles. I’m going to make sure my energy and fight is targeted to make the biggest difference, rather than nit picking over smaller details.
I will not compromise on doing my best to refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot, I’m not condoning copping out on the easy stuff. But if I have to take home a plastic bag, I won’t write myself off as a failure. What I will do (and have done) instead, is write to my local and state representatives asking them to ‘ban the bag‘. When picking these bags up is no longer the easiest and default action, we’ll all use less of them.
If I have to shop at the supermarket instead of my local food hub or farmer’s market, I’ll find a way to ask those supermarkets to change their unrealistic standards for the food that is on offer. Or to stop peeling fresh fruit and veggies just to wrap them in more plastic!
It’s not enough to sit around feeling bad about it any more. Let’s accept that we want to do better and we will. Take the bag home if you have to, but each time you do, take a step to stop it from happening again in the future. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t eat every one of your veggies before they go bad in the fridge, but don’t accept it as normal practice either.
None of us are perfect. It’s easy to feel like going ‘zero waste’ or completely plastic free is just too hard, maybe it feels unrealistic. That’s ok. But you’re not off the hook. There is so much more each of has to do to stop the massive tides of waste we’re currently creating.
Don’t get caught up in little moral arguments with yourself, it’s bigger than that now. This is war.