These days, whenever I leave my apartment I always bring my own reusable water bottle with me; I also toss in my own stainless steel straw with a bamboo utensil set in my backpack in case I want to grab a drink or something to eat. Going to the grocery store requires me to bring not only one reusable bag, but several: a few for bulk items, a couple for produce, and one to carry it all home. My pantry, which was once full of plastic packaging, now only has glass jars; and my hot pink plastic razor and plastic toothbrush have been switched out for a stainless steel safety razor and bamboo toothbrush, respectively.
Now, you may be asking yourself, what do all of these items have in common?
This was a question that I had last year when I first heard of the Zero Waste Movement. As someone who always thought I was being environmentally conscious by turning off lights, recycling, and trying to save water, I was surprised that there were people out there that didn't produce hardly any waste at all.
After following many zero waste bloggers and YouTubers, I began to realize that "zero waste" is something that is attainable and that doesn't have to change your lifestyle completely.
Waste in this context means anything that cannot be recycled, composted or re-purposed (i.e. mainly plastic). As someone inspired by this movement, I try to follow the 3 R's: reduce, reuse, and recycle. Recycle is last because the first goal is to reduce the amount of waste we have in the first place.
I know not all of us can incorporate this lifestyle into your life, and many do not want to. And I am also aware that a lot of you may think "how will saving one straw from going into the ocean make a difference?".
I am not here to propose that everyone should follow this lifestyle, or preach about its merits. I can, however, talk about the ways it has made a major difference in my life and on the environment, just from some small, easy changes.
The reason why I am going zero waste is that I want to live by my values every day. When you value helping out in environmental causes, the impact you as one person can have seems minuscule compared to the environmental problems we face today. For me, zero waste has helped me incorporate my values into my daily life and encourages me to re-think my daily habits and push myself to be creative, resourceful and conscious in all aspects of my life.
Another reason why I have decided to go zero waste is that I want to be remembered by the positive things I did in my life, and not my trash. Lauren Singer, a zero waste blogger and activist, summarized this perfectly in her TED Talk, "Why I live a Zero Waste Life". Thinking about all the coffee cups that I've discarded in my life up to this point, or the number of plastic bags I've thrown away is staggering; especially knowing that in landfill, many things will be on this planet far longer than my lifetime.
One article cannot cover all the aspects of zero waste, but there are many bloggers out there that can. Many people have this lifestyle for many other reasons as well. However, I do not do it because I want to lead a hipster, elitist lifestyle or boast about how I'm saving the planet.
The choices that we make come to define us, and I have found a choice that makes sure that I am accountable to my values and that what I leave behind isn't just what's in the landfill. I lead a zero waste because it makes me value the things that are most important and so that I can make a difference every day.