Updated: Aug 15
So, let’s talk about zero waste. Or well, let's re-talk about Zero Waste.
If you are a follower of the sustainable lifestyle, you would be familiar with this phrase. If you are interested in tiny living or living on the road, this phrase may also not be alien to you.
Zero waste was the talk of the town three years ago. There were numerous articles talking about it. Magazine were covering people who were pursuing this lifestyle to share its benefits. So many interviews featuring zero waste lifestyle influencers on all types of media platforms. However after only a few months of its glory, all that seems to just be swept under the rug. But, why? Let's talk about that.
For one, zero waste may not have been the solution we were looking for. It costs a lot of time, effort and money. Alternating into a new lifestyle, especially a lifestyle that forces you to change all the habits in your current routine can be time-consuming, stressful and just plain tiring.
Not only that, the zero waste solution is not accessible for everyone. Choosing to opt for the zero waste lifestyle can actually cost more to some demographics over another. For example, buying in bulk from bulk stores is the center of zero waste living. You bring your own own container and you would fill it to the brim and they'd count it by liters or pounds of what you were buying. This may not sound expensive, but we also need to consider the people who didn't have any bulk stores in their area. They would need to order online (and only a select few bulk stores were available online at that time), which would cost more in delivery service that what we ordered for us.
Some articles did pop up a few months in to the zero waste hype of creating your own zero waste items at home. Homemade soaps with honey and shea butter is actually a lot better since it would reduce the dehydrating chemicals on your conventional soaps and replace it with nourishing ingredients instead. Still, even with this new 'alternative', only a select few are able to afford the ingredients and even fewer have the luxury of spare time to make homemade items.
However, amongst all these observations, there was one thing that caught our attention. There were concerns about how the zero waste lifestyle focuses on just waste. On the other hand, a sustainable lifestyle focuses on the supply chain and production of goods. If we compare the two sentiment, it does seem like zero waste neglects all the other issues. In this sense, we can argue that the zero waste lifestyle is a very individualistic lifestyle. Only a select few can achieve it, and this alternative only focuses on a select few issue, mainly concerning that we don't produce any waste at all.
if we take this all into consideration however, we can also argue that zero waste and sustainable living share the same sentiment. They want to do good for the environment by reducing waste and minimizing impact on nature. By minimizing waste and cherry picking the products we use, we limit the amount of carbon footprint we produce. By being more sustainable, paying attention to the supply chain and demanding transparency, we are also limiting the amount of carbon footprint produced. However, this goes back to the point that zero waste can be seen as a very individualistic lifestyle.
Zero waste forces us to pick goods that will leave us with zero waste, the result. We need to be more creative in choosing, reusing, recycling or up-cycling materials that were used as packaging for our orders. We also need to be more mindful of our belongings since we want to preserve what we have as long as possible to reduce the amount of overall waste (especially household items such as fridges, tote bags for shopping, toothbrushes, etc.). But all that surrounds us, we are the main subject in this solution, and while that still does offer a solution, it may not be the solution we need to focus on.
Choosing sustainability forces us to see everything in a bigger scope. Where does the materials come from. Was it ethically sourced? Where was it produced? Is it legitimately sustainable? How many carbon emissions was saved by the whole supply chain, production line, packaging and logistics before it reaches our hands? Did we waste water creating these products? These questions often wedge themselves in the discourse of sustainable living. These questions allows us to see the process and not just the result.
Of course, these questions can also be posed zero waste living choices. Are the bulk stores sourced locally? Are the honey ethically farmed? How many carbon emissions can we save by pursuing a zero waste lifestyle? But at the end of the day, it still focuses on you, your choices and what you do as a customer.
But what do you think? There is a new discussion that needs to be held about zero waste and sustainable living. Do you think that they are just the same, or different? Essentially, they are still fighting for the same cause, but at what cost?
Tell us what you think!