Zero Waste Week is fast approaching. 7th September marks the beginning of the 13th year the campaign has been running.
It may be that our attention has turned this year from the environment to other more pressing worries connected to You Know What. I know that shopping during lock down brought some challenges to my principles. Organising online shopping as much as possible for us and Mr S’s mum, who is a dialysis patient and thus quite vulnerable, meant that suddenly our groceries were arriving with more plastic bags. (That annoying situation where one item is put into one carrier bag….)
We did partially mitigate this by using our local farm shop, taking our own containers, when we couldn’t get a slot at the supermarket, and using smaller local shops too.
I also bought disposable masks early in the pandemic. Fortunately, now reusable cloth ones are available pretty much everywhere. It does make me cross to see so many of the single use ones, along with plastic surgical gloves, littering the pavements.
How easy is zero waste living?
I should make it clear at this point that by no means do we live a zero waste lifestyle. The way that our society is organised makes this almost impossible for the average person, especially if you are on a budget. I find this a rather frustrating challenge.
We don’t all have the time or money to buy all of our food loose and organic. I have attempted to buy as much as I can this way. The first trick is finding food that isn’t already wrapped. Sure, you can buy some produce loose in most supermarkets, but it still tends to cost more than buying it ready packaged in plastic bags or film.
We briefly had a zero waste shop in our town, but it came and went quickly. It also had a very limited range of products and they were expensive.
I have taken myself into town from time to time and bought fruit and veg from the market (cheap but not always great quality), fish from a mobile stand (fabulous, but very expensive) and meat from the one remaining independent butcher. But I still had to go to the supermarket to buy toiletries, pet food, loo roll, cans of tomatoes, etc., which all took hours longer than usual.
You can get some decent veg boxes delivered locally, but again they are expensive and the contents aren’t always suitable for someone who reacts to certain foods (me!).
Despite the obstacles, we do what we can, avoiding plastic as much as possible, buying second hand and avoiding food waste. I would love to take this up a notch, so I am looking for inspiration during this year’s Zero Waste Week.
Pressing for change
I massively admire those who have total dedication to a zero waste lifestyle, such as the amazing Bea Johnson, but if we are going to really reduce the amount of waste we produce as a society, it needs to be made easier for the average person.
In my view, it needs to come about through public policy, not just consumer pressure. Manufacturers and retailers will mostly pay lip service to reducing the waste they create until they are forced to change.
The answer isn’t to recycle more; it is to reduce the amount of waste we produce in the first place.
All this isn’t to say that we can’t all do more as individuals. There are a ton of small actions the average citizen can take. If you would like some ideas and inspiration to do this, please check out the following posts:
To sign up for the campaign newsletter and find out more about Zero Waste Week, click through here.
Have you been striving to reduce waste in your life? What changes have you made, or what difficulties have you encountered?