The Issue with Zero Waste

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Some time ago I wrote a post about what zero waste really is about: sending little to no waste to the landfill. Right?
So I thought the next logical move was writing about what zero waste is NOT about.
doing zero waste perfectly
DISCLAIMER: with this little rant I am BY NO MEANS judging the movement or anyone that takes part in it. You’re all rockstars and you’re doing amazing for our planet. I just want to point out a couple of things thtat I’ve seen around – mostly on social media – that have thrown me off a lil bit. These things have to do with the unrealistic and unpractical way the movement is presented, rather than with the great ideas it brings to the table.

Soooo, yeah. The ZW movement is awesome, but there are a few things I’m not a big fan of.

So let’s jump right into it.

What Is Wrong With Zero Waste?

The ‘all my trash in a jar’ thing

Ugh. The first time I heard about zero waste, I was reading an article about this one lady who kept the last 3 years of her trash in a mason jar. Call me crazy, but didn’t motivate me to live a zero waste life, which I guess was her goal.

It had exactly the opposite effect. It made me feel powerless and hopeless. As if there was nothing I could do for the environment unless I was able to fit all my trash in a jar.

So this is what we have to understand: fitting all your lifetime trash in a mason jar doesn’t measure how eco-friendly your life is, and how environmentally conscious you are.

Of course, reduce your waste, that’s one of the many ways there are to be more eco-friendly. But all this extra pressure… *sighs*.
Not to say that the trash in a jar is not a true representation of the trash you actually create – do you remember when we talked about upstream waste?
So focus on reducing your waste as much as you can. But take into account your lifestyle, your choices, and your limitations.

And if you get frustrated and think zero waste is not for you that’s A-OK. There are still many things to can do.

We need motivated people, people who want to do better for themselves and the environment. We don’t need this kind of guilt trip.

Social media zero waste is just fantasy

You don’t need to have fancy and cute stuff to be a part of the movement. If you want those things and can afford them, you do you boo.

But if not, you shouldn’t put pressure in yourself to make your ‘zero waste kit’ look nice.

There are tons of ways to go zero waste (or low waste, or to just reduce your waste) with things you already own.

It feels restrictive

When I read some zero waste blogs, all sounds like: don’t eat out, buy only from bulk shops, breathe only twice a minute to reduce your CO2 emissions. Hmmm…no. Let’s see.

We’re not hermits living in caves and not everyone can have their farm and be self-sustained.

I appreciate the commitment, but this might not be the way to go around the topic.

This is too restrictive. And let me tell you something: no one wants to get into a lifestyle that makes them unhappy and miss out on some of life’s pleasures.

The climate crisis is real, and no one here is denying it here. And again, let’s say it louder for the people in the back: we need motivated and empowered environmentalists, not miserable ones.

It’s not always accessible for everyone

Going zero waste doesn’t mean that you own a canvas bag, a glass bottle, and beeswax wrap. There’s SO MUCH MORE to it.
You need to have close to you the infrastructures (bulk shops, composting facilities, a comprehensive recycling program,…) that let you go zero waste.
So we’re not talking here about the financial part of going zero waste – which yep, sometimes screams ‘privilege’. But about the access to the places that can help you have the lifestyle. And this prrrreetty often out of our control.

It doesn’t take real life into account

Sometimes shit happens, it’s just a part of life.
And sometimes we cannot be 100% sustainable. And listen carefully: IT’S OKAY.


One day I was in uni, coming down with a cold, feeling like crap. Extremely uncomfortable and thirsty. And my poor brain forgot my reusable bottle at home.

You cannot imagine the guilt and the shame when I had to buy a plastic bottle. But know what? Life happens.
Many zero waste influencers make the whole thing look easy peasy lemon squeezy in everyday life. But that’s not realistic.
Think about people with children, or taking care of an ill family member. People with 2 jobs to make ends meet, or others like nurses with 12-hour shifts and little to no time to even take care of themselves.

So maybe there’s no time, no money, or no places to buy in bulk. Whatever the reason is, no one should feel guilty for not being perfect when they’re already trying. Don’t you think so?
And no one has their lives together, so let’s stop pretending we can be perfect.

We cannot control everything

An anecdote. Do you know Katryn from GZW? She’s great. A bit after she released her book – which I 10/10 recommend, no matter where you are on your zero waste journey –  I went on Amazon to buy it and I read a comment saying that their copy had arrived wrapped in plastic. The irony.

So, you know. There’s this kind of thing you can’t control no matter how hard you try.

This is one of the reasons why it feels so hard to go zero waste. There is so much that gets lost in the whole process of producing-consuming-disposing. And there’s always trash at some point.

And last but not least: zero waste doesn’t tackle all the parts of an eco-friendly life

Zero waste focuses on reducing waste. And yes, in some cases this means that we’ll also be reducing our carbon footprint by going zero waste.

But this is not always the case, and the whole thing is more complicated than that.

I mean…you can’t have your cake and eat it.

What if we want to become vegan to reduce the carbon footprint of our diet? Many vegan products are sold packaged (vegan cheese, tofu, non-dairy milk, …). So in this case, we’ll have to go all Sophie’s Choice and choose: reducing waste or reducing our carbon footprint.

So these are the things I don’t quite buy from the zero waste movement. But still, I’m a fan.
For each bad thing I can point out about the movement, there’re 10 great things about it. A common goal, a sense of community, the ambition to be better and improve our lives.
The trick is not letting any of the bad unmotivate you. Just keep doing whatever you’re doing, and call it however you want.

What do you think?

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