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!
- Less plastic. I have an unfortunate amount if plastic still in my rotation. I’ve been waiting for old containers to give way or find ways to repurpose them. I’ve also been buying less in the bulk section. While things like my peanut butter jar do have little recycle signs on them, I still can’t help but feel guilty about not buying these things from the bulk bin and keeping them in my reusable containers. This is the same basic guilt I feel when buying yogurt at the store instead of making it at home. Some plastic is much more difficult to avoid (I don’t see anyone selling Advil in a glass container) so it seems silly to not do anything about the plastic I can avoid.
- I think the biggest thing weighing on me is my pension for online shopping vs going somewhere and shopping in person. Hunting down where to buy something and going there and buying it seems so incredibly time consuming and is sometimes more expensive. I’ve talked about not shopping on line before and come to a startling conclusion: I’m too lazy to travel across town to buy something in person when I could just order it and have it ship to me instead. But the guilt is getting to me. I even feel guilty when something is shipped in a recyclable box. Is it worth accruing this amount of package waste just to save a bit of time? Probably not. My solution is to change my shopping habits, which sounds way easier than it actually is. I’ve set a goal to, by the end of 2018, substantially cut down my online shopping to only items that can’t be purchased in person. I’m challenging myself to stop being lazy, I’m going to take the entire month of June off from doing any shopping on Amazon (my biggest online shopping store). Ideally this month break will help rewire my brain and put be on the right track to establish better habits—you know, my pre-Amazon being an option habits.
- My second step towards a less wasteful life is to make an effort to buy more vintage/second hand clothing (when appropriate). This is a challenge I’m also officially starting in June and trying to stick to for the rest of the year! (Exceptions being athletic wear, underwear, presents for other people). The truth is that between the mass amount of vintage and consignment shops in Portland and apps like Poshmark, I don’t really have any need to be buy a bunch of new clothing right now. Honestly, this kind of also goes hand-in-hand with my desire to cut back on online purchases, as I have a horrible habit of favoring ordering online than walking into the actual shop.
- I’m striving to take more time to supporting local farmers. I really do like going to farmer’s markets and shopping local but just got kind of busy. At the moment I get a lot of my veggies through Imperfect Produce (which take produce from Oregon and California that have too many imperfections to go to a grocery store and delivers a box of said produce to you weekly). I love that it’s produce that would have been wasted otherwise, not thrilled about shipping (though it’s not horrible). For the month of August, I’m rededicating myself to eating local and only buying food produced locally in Portland—it’ll be farmer’s markets for me every weekend in August!
- Paring down my health and beauty routine. I’ve been moving towards a more holistic routine for a while and been trying to so many different supplements and beauty products to get an idea of what works for me and it is exhausting! Not only have I ended up with just a way more complicated routine and an overwhelmingly product filled medicine cabinet, but it feels so wasteful! All those bottles and packaging waste! Over the corse of the next month I’m trying to weed out what I don’t actually need to be taking. Do I really need to be taking more then three supplements? No. Can I find versions of the ones I should be taking that don’t require me to have a bunch of plastic bottles shipped to my house? Most likely. (I’m really loving the Moon Juice products and and thinking this might be a good route for me). As for beauty? My face is much more sensitive to stress and new products than it use to be. Having multiple masks, face washes, toners, lotions, serums, and essential oils is too much. There has got to be a more environmentally friendly, simplified way to keep my face clean and looking clear. I’ll let you know when I find it (or you let me know if you’ve already found it)!
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.