The Hardest Things about Zero Waste – an Honest Review


Anyone who’s trying to reduce their waste will hit at least a brick wall in the process. This post is about those plaster walls that leave us confused but don’t really hurt us.

Those ones we can laugh about.

It’s true that going zero waste comes with a few annoying issues, but they shouldn’t discourage you on your path towards a greener life, so let’s try to do something about them.

And yes, this is a lighthearted take of big and serious issues just because I think we all should stahp taking ourselves too seriously and start cutting ourselves some slack.

But, hey, if you’re looking for heavier reading I have a few treats for you like this post where we dissected circular fashion and the circular economy, this one about why ethical investments matter or this one about the social implications of your direct trade coffee.

Ready to laugh at yourself?

The hardest parts about going zero waste

1. You start being more than fashionably late

Well, maybe not late-late, but it takes you 10x longer to leave the house. And once you’re at the bus stop – again – you realize you forgot your produce bags.

I remember my less eco-conscious days when my running-out-the-door check was straightforwards: wallet, phone, keys.

Today, it looks more like: canvas bag – or maybe three –, reusable bottle – wait, I need to wash it first –, straw, produce bags,… And keys, wallet and phone.

Saying that I’m forgetful is an understatement, so I’ve decided to embrace my controlled chaos and make a list on my phone to make sure I don’t leave the essentials for each situation at home.

2. Walking with a bag full of empty mason jars / jingle bells

You know that moment when you’re in a building where there’s no noise and everything is quiet and there you go with your squiky shoes?

My zero-waste equivalent of that feeling is walking across town on my way to the farmers market or the bulk shop with my bag full of *musical* empty mason jars.

I mean, it’s worth it once you realize how much waste you’re avoiding.

Sometimes I try to avoid this my squeezing a scarf in between all the jars so that they shut up, but if you prefer going the fancy path and you’re in need of a grocery bag there are some designed specifically to avoid this problem with compartments for your mason jars.

You can find some on The Earth First Co with practical corner pockets to keep those jars from dancing around.

3. Spontanaiety takes on a whole new meaning

Now you have an improptu coffee date. Gone are the days when you could have a takeaway plastic cup without feeling guilty.

I have a secret that has saved me a lot of single use cups: collapsible cups. See, according to point #1 you have to carry a load of reusables every time you leave your house. But this doesn’t mean they have to be bulky and unpractical.

I found these collapsible cups about a year ago at my local zero waste shop and I was sceptical at first, but they do work and – I know what you’re wondering – they don’t leak.

When they’re collapsed they’re not bigger than your wallet, so you can just keep them in your bag just in case your crush asks you out for a coffee + walk in the park. Incredibly convenient.

4. We can sound…weird

I challenge you to passionately talk about your vegan beeswax wrap to someone that has never heard about zero waste and come back to me with their reaction.

Thankfully, there’s always those who are happy to learn more about our lifestyle but that’s not the case with everyone – so we have to get used to some weird looks if we want to spread the word.

Just in case you need some help, I wrote this post about how to talk to your loved ones about sustainability and your lifestyle changes.

5. A girl gotta party (when large meetings are allowed again)

But she has no time nor energy to wash 27 glasses – she doesn’t even have 27 glasses –, so she needs to go *chokes* single use.

If you see yourself in situations where waste is impossible to avoid, think about how to recycle it correctly. Just as an example, solo cups with the little triangle and number 6 are hard to recycle, but companies like TerraCycle make it possible by collecting hard-to-recycle materials.

For now, TerraCycle is only available in some European, Asian and American countries but hopefully, it’ll become global someday soon.

6. Oh snacks…

You want that chocolate bar but you don’t want the plastic it’s wrapped in.

I feel your pain.

I wrote this post about my favorite homemade and low waste sweet snacks – and as I write this I’m munching on the energy balls you see there.

If you don’t feel like batch-cooking trays of zero waste snickers, you can also find zero waste snacks that are already in your pantry like popcorn, roasted chickpeas or nuts bought in bulk.

You can also try to find low waste snacks and make sure that the wrapping is at least recyclable or plastic-free.

6. You KNOW you can upcycle everything

And if you don’t know what to do yet, you’ll spend the next two weeks consumed by the doubt and trying to figure out what you can make out of a egg carton or a aluminium jar. And this becomes the source of a vicious cycle of wanting to become a minimalist and having a pantry full of empty mason jars.

The result: everyone in your household is confused and you have a pantry full of empty mason jars but, hey, you haven’t wasted a thing #worthit.

If you find yourself in this situation, remember that old-school Pinterest DIYs like this one I created to specifically do something about my little upcycling-hoarding issue can be your best friends. You can find lots of ideas of things to do even with old clothes and fabrics you can’t sell or donate.

7. The surprise bag

We’re not cashiers’ favorite people and I get it. “What’s this weirdo doing with a cotton bag full of apples? Doesn’t she know we have bags here too?”

You know when you’re getting ready to pay and you zone out for a second and suddenly the cashier hands you your purchase…in…a plastic bag….and a little part of you dies.

This might just be my favorite struggle. I have a cabinet full of surprise bags I refuse to throw away waiting to become something else – as per point #6, hmu if you have Pinterest DIYs with shopping bags.

No one said that zero waste or low waste would be easy but, oh boy, is it worth it if you’re convinced it’s the right thing to do for the planet.

Sometimes you just have to take little harmless frustrations such as these with a pinch of salt and laugh at the adversity – if life gives you lemons, make lemonade and use the lemon skins as candle holders 😉

What do you think?

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