I spoke for the second year in a row at the Zero Waste Youth Convergence in SF. Last year I did a DIY workshop on making your own lip balm and this year I spoke on individual action.
I have learned quite a bit in my two years of zero waste living and here are some important takeaways I'd want to impart to anyone who's considering reducing the waste in their life.
The average American throws out 4.4lbs of trash a day. For every pound of trash we throw away, 7lbs is thrown away on average in the waste upstream. That's almost 30lbs of trash a day.
Buying less is the number one thing you can do to produce less trash.
Before buying anything make sure you really truly need it. I always ask myself a series of questions.
- Do you really need it?
- Is it really necessary?
- Can something else make do?
- Do you need to own it?
Zero waste is not just about a trash jar. It's not solely about the landfill. Trash is a physical representation of misallocated resources.
Earth Overshoot Day illustrates this best. Earth Overshoot Day came in the beginning of August last year. It's the day that illustrates how many resources the earth can sustainably produce for the year.
We're using almost two earth's worth of resources. It's completely unsustainable. So, the best thing we can do for the planet is to buy less.
However, there are still purchases we need to make. If you don't live completely off grid/are self-sustaining, you'll need to make some purchases.
So when you do purchase something, really think about its full life-cycle. Think about where it came from and where it's going after you're through with it.
Here are a series of questions I like to ask myself when making a new purchase.
- Ask a friend.
- Can you find it second hand?
- Can you find it local?
- Who made it?
- Is it made to last/ can it be repaired?
- What happens when you’re done with it?
Always check the secondhand market first and if you're going to buy something new make sure you're taking everything into consideration.
And, whatever you do don't settle.
If I've learned anything in two years of zero waste living, it's that settling for something your not 100% happy with inevitably means you will be unhappy with it. Then you'll look for something else which is a waste of money and time.
So whatever you buy, you better love it.
We live in a world full of constant advertisements. Advertisers tell us in order to be happy or in order to get the girl or boy we have to have this product. This product will make us happy or loved.
One of the most rebellious things you can do is find contentment with what you already have.
Things don't define you. They don't give you worth. Instead of buying things to make you look better or cooler, try spending time bettering yourself. Take a class, learn a new skill, truly focus on self-improvement.
strike a balance:
And, like you've heard on this blog a hundred times before, it's not about perfection it's about making better choices.
Personal sustainability is super important. I've written a whole post about it, you can read it here. It's one of my favorite blog posts I've ever written.
We live in a society where things are meant to be thrown away. We don't live in a perfect world where zero waste is normal.
Instead, we just do the best we can where we are. Things are going to happen that don't 100% align with your values and that's alright.
Each decision you make is a vote for the future you want. So, buying package free goods and purchasing products from responsible companies is a vote for a move to a circular economy, where waste is resumed back into the system like nature.
So get out there, and do the best you can!
Even if it's one change. Even if it's only buying a lonely banana. Every single step in the right direction is just that, a step in the right direction.
What would be some of your tips for someone starting a zero waste life?