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January 03, 2022

If you're wondering why I'm writing this post, you might need some background information. This blog is not about me; it's a blog about Zero Waste and conscious living written by me. None of the people who stumbled across this little corner of the Zero Waste internet would know that about me: I grew up a climate change denier.

If you browse other posts on this blog, you'll immediately see that I've reevaluated that stance after discovering more current and reputable information. However, based on my experiences, I have two important views about zero waste. First, Zero Waste in the sense of physical waste is relatively politically neutral because waste pollution is non-partisan. Second, many of the Zero Waste skills are traditional life skills and appeal to nostalgia, to our ideals of the past, and to people who wish that modern times had a little more of it.

Zero Waste, as you will see in this blog, is the effort to reduce individual waste of limited resources while avoiding, as much as possible, giving money to companies that promote the misuse or irresponsible use of the world's resources. A resource is anything we can use. Wasting something can mean throwing something away so that it is not needed, using more than we need so that we need more financial resources (money) or natural resources to make up for the excess consumption, or generally using a lot of resources for things we don't need; one way to understand this is to be frugal with resources.

Given these considerations, I have concluded that there are some ways in which Zero Waste can be attractive to people, regardless of how they feel about climate change.


One theme that keeps coming up the longer I live waste-free is tradition. Older family members have told me that they remember their mother doing this or that, and many zero-waste skills like mending were once essential parts of life. People interested in living on the farm or living as they did in the past are in luck, because Zero Waste has already figured out how to live sustainably and earth-friendly in today's world.


Zero Waste living takes us back to our roots. While most people learn about Zero Waste and find a version of the lifestyle that works for them from online resources, so much of what we know comes from seeking advice from our elders. Not only can we ask older relatives for advice, but we can also get more involved in our small communities. Zero Waste advocates against buying new things you don't really need, which means we can revive a small sharing economy among the people we trust. The people in your life are most likely happy to help, and sharing builds trust.


I don't agree that zero waste means doing everything yourself - who has the time? But learning how to take care of your own belongings is liberating in a time when most people would rather buy something new. Feeling and being independent can be liberating financially and spiritually, and who wants to be that dependent on Amazon?


When done right, Zero Waste almost always saves you money. Saving money often means cutting out unnecessary expenses like recreational shopping or collecting things you don't need, and habits like secondhand shopping can significantly reduce the cost of things you do need. Not to mention, reducing food waste and fixing broken items usually means buying fewer or fewer things anyway.


No one wants to hear about raising kids from someone who doesn't have kids, but take this with a grain of salt from a former elementary school teacher, a two-time au pair, a former daycare provider and a former nanny: Buying a child something to replace something they broke when they're old enough to know better teaches them nothing about responsibility or taking care of their things. Taking care of their possessions is the smallest step in managing their resources as an adult. By the time they are adults and leave the nest, they have already seen your example of responsible ownership and hopefully have had their own experiences in managing possessions and money.


We all love a pantry of canning jars; somehow my eyes never tire of seeing that. Zero Waste is much more interesting and valuable than just pretty canning jars, but it's a great incentive for newcomers.

Need I say more?


Since Zero Waste usually means paying attention to what you have or what is already available (used things), purchasing takes other forms. Buying from companies or individuals who respect the resources and people involved in production is a popular part of Zero Waste shopping. Even though these people are often far away, we are helping to treat people better and voting with our money to make the world a kinder place by taking care of what we have so it lasts longer and by buying from brands we trust not to take advantage of people.


If you're going to focus on the physical waste in your household, your diet is probably going to look a lot more like, well, food. Potato chips don't come without plastic. So if you try to avoid plastic, you'll probably eat a lot less potato chips. Packaging-free foods are often less processed. Although what you prefer to eat or what you think is healthy varies from person to person, trying to reduce food waste in the home as much as possible will most likely result in a diet rich in whole foods and less of the other foods.

Although waste reduction in practice is closely tied to the fight against climate change, there are other reasons for its appeal. Whatever your motivations for a waste-free diet, I hope you find helpful resources here, and I hope you enjoy your waste-avoidance journey!

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