With Plastic Free July in full swing, the term 'zero waste' pops up abundantly on social media, news channels, and more.
Plastic Free July is a movement to encourage less consumption of single-use plastic products. The idea behind the movement is to be part of the solution rather than the problem and to challenge yourself by striving for small steps away from everyday plastic use. With the help of social media and varying corporations pushing zero waste, it has become a goal if not the goal for successfully partaking in Plastic Free July.
The term 'zero-waste' is a pretty simple one to define.
It means just that - having and creating absolutely no waste. Those who live within the zero waste lifestyle consume no single-use products at all. Instead, they only have sustainable alternatives or products designed to be reused again and again. Basically, that means no Starbucks runs ever again.
As a striving environmentalist, zero waste is terrifying.
Pictures on instagram and how-to articles paint a gorgeous home life with curated zero waste swaps and mason jars holding a year's worth of trash. They don't, however, show the slip ups or the struggles with perfection. They just show the end result of an aesthetically pleasing pantry free of labels and packaging.
Zero waste is all or nothing with an overwhelming perfection mentality. Any small step towards zero waste that I didn't take left me feeling as a complete failure. Any time I forgot to ask for no straw, or I stopped for tea (or coffee after all nighters) before class, I felt like a chink in my armor. Each time I slipped up on being completely zero waste crushed me until I eventually gave up and surrendered.
If I couldn't be a perfect environmentalist, should I even be one at all?
When I first started my environmentalist journey, I thought and believed zero waste was the one and only option. It's not though, not even a little bit.
Now I aim and strive for a low-waste lifestyle. Although not as intense and consuming as zero waste, it still takes into consideration the daily choices I make and how to change them for the more sustainable. Maybe your next Starbucks run can include a reusable cup this time, but when you forget it at home don't beat yourself up for it. With zero waste it was almost as if it was a ticking clock for when I would fail, and there is nothing sustainable about an end that can't go on.
Instead of aiming for immediate perfection, aim for progress.
Aim for the little changes that lead to the little successes that build and grow right alongside you. Progress and growth are the most sustainable. They can change just as you do and be repurposed and reused. A perfection mentality will always have an end result that's absolute. Zero waste can be an inspiration, even as an aspiration, but it doesn't need to be the answer.
The answer needs to be you.
Choose to do your best with what you have. Think and consider your everyday choices. Find a community and get involved and research. Strive for your own little everyday change through your version of imperfection.