With summer coming up on us pretty fast, it made me realize just how long it’s been since I talked zero waste. Last year for the entire month of September, I went zero waste (I only used products that were recyclable, reusable, or compostable). It was a project near and dear to my heart, and one that took much thoughtful planning and research for more environmentally friendly alternatives to products I commonly used. When my month of zero waste was over, however, I became a bit more relaxed around certain things. I still attempted to be less wasteful, but found my “reasonable exception” list growing. Being some 8 months after my zero waste challenge, I felt it was time to readdress the question: How zero waste am I?
The answer: Not nearly as much as I’d like.
Trust me, I’m just as disappointed in myself as you are. So what happened after my Zero Waste September? Life happened—Halloween candy for neighborhood kids, Christmas shopping and present wrapping, birthday parties, shopping trips with forgotten bags, eating out, jumping back into the dating scene (I swear I end up with a paper napkin almost anytime I go out on a date), and just the sudden lack of pressure I was putting on myself to forgo something if it didn’t have a less wasteful alternative. Oh and my absolute worse downfall, my dependance on Amazon to bargain shop (plus the added time savings of having things delivered directly to my door). In short, the luxury of living in 2018 America happened. But I haven’t totally fallen off the wagon. I’ve only gotten my coffee in a non-reusable togo cups a small handful of times, I almost always use a reusable shopping/produce/bulk bag, my coffee is still delivered in a reusable mason jar, I still make my own soda water, and I still use my reusable cloth coffee filters, reusable cloth makeup removing pads, and mostly cloth rags while cleaning. I also still use more environmentally friendly cleaning products in my home. All is not lost but there is so much room to make adjustments and improvements to reducing my waste again!
Unlike when I went totally zero waste for a month, and challenged myself to take it to an extreme for a shorter period of time, my goal over the next 6 months is to fundamentally change my most wasteful habits. This is why I’m focusing mostly on changing how I shop. What and where I choose to spend my money is really the biggest factor, for me, towards living greener. Living in Portland, I have plenty of resources available to me to assist with achieving these goals, and not taking advantage of them kind of makes me feel like a hypocrite. Yes I will still end up create some waste and yes I’ll still end up doing some online shopping. But if I cut it down by half? Maybe even to just a third of what I’m doing now? That adds up to being a massive improvement. The point isn’t to become a dirty hippie living off the land and shunning consumer society—the point is to live closer to the values that mater to me and make the best consumer choices I can.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.