This is a topic that has definitely come up more than once on my blog, but I thought that it was something that needed to have its own post for me to thoroughly rant about and explain in detail. As many of you know, my favorite quote when it comes to the zero waste movement is:
(You can actually get a shirt or sticker with this quote on it here)
And this quote is so powerful for me and for good reason. It’s a great reminder that being perfect is not the point of zero waste and that every little thing that you do matters.
The problem with movements like zero waste, veganism, vegetarianism, etc., is the huge expectation that you have to be perfect and commit 100% all at once, which is definitely not the point. The point is to make better choices that will have a positive effect in the long term.
For example, when starting minimalism or zero waste, the #1 thing that anyone in the movement will tell you is that the transition is a long and arduous one, and you can’t just do it overnight. Some creators, like Shelbizleee on YouTube, have been doing their part in the zero waste community for almost 10 years now, and they still aren’t perfect.
The real problem comes I think from the name of the movement itself, zero waste. Zero waste was never meant to be a term for a lifestyle, but instead for companies in order for them to limit their industrial waste. If you look up the original definition of zero waste, it is all about companies taking responsibility for their actions and finding more sustainable practices for their supply chains. Even more interesting, it says in the definition that zero waste is more of an ideal to work towards rather than a hard target.
This is ideal vs. hard target is a part of that definition because of the simple fact that no matter how sustainable you can try and make something, the fact of the matter remains that everything, no matter how it is made will create some kind of waste, meaning that zero waste isn’t really possible. This has been proven time and time again in the zero waste community that there is no perfect way to create absolutely no waste. Even the poster children of the movement still have their little mason jars that contain, you guessed it, waste.
Another huge hurdle that I feel stops a lot of people from trying to live a sustainable life is the common misconception that you have to put your everything into it, and can’t still have some of your old guilty pleasures.
The two most common excuses I hear all the time:
- I would love to be more sustainable but I could never give up “insert product here.”
- I could never use a “insert zero waste swap here.”
My response to these two excuses is always the same thing: so then don’t?
Nothing says that you absolutely have to do every single little thing that the zero waste movement does. The point of the zero waste movement was never truly to become a lifestyle, but an awareness movement that showed people that every little bit helps save the planet every day.
I know plenty of vegetarians that still eat bacon and eggs because for them, those were just some things that they could never give up without hating their new lifestyle. Becoming zero waste shouldn’t make you feel as though you aren’t doing enough because you accidentally forgot your coffee cup at home and had to get a plastic cup from the cafe that day.
We as a collective movement need to stop beating ourselves up over things that we just can’t help and can’t change. Instead, imagine what great things we could accomplish if we just tried to bring some awareness to others and helped them make more sustainable choices.