How you may feel like you’re battling alone in a world that doesn’t care about waste

It may have been a gradual change in my mindset, but now I see it everywhere. Waste.

When you start becoming a more mindful consumer and try to do your bit for the environment, you’ll soon notice how the vast majority of people around you simply don’t seem to care.

Now I see it everywhere. Waste.

At least that’s how I felt, going to the supermarket and seeing people coming out with dozens of grey thin (ugly) plastic bags, filled with more plastic packaged goods. Seeing people at work using disposable cutlery to eat their takeaway lunch, when we had perfectly good forks and knives in our kitchen (and a dishwasher), just out of laziness.

Trying to smile politely when people claim that they care about the environment because “they recycle”

Yes, it can be easy to fall in the trap of bitterness and frustration, living in a world that clearly has not yet registered how wasteful it is. Trying to smile politely when people claim that they care about the environment because “they recycle”, when you know that recycling should only be a backup plan when other options have failed, and how inefficient some countries are at recycling.

Yes, it can be easy to feel lonely if you’re the only one in your circle that seems to actively try to reduce their waste, and when people look at you sideways for ordering your drink with “no straw, please” for the third time.

I know the battle, and trust me, I’m far from being a perfect zero waster myself, but I do try my best everyday, and here is how I cope.

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Think about the plastic bags shoppers, the disposable cutlery consumers, and the plastic straws drinkers with kindness

When it comes down to it, it’s all about education. Remember how you used to use plastic bags, and drink out of plastic straws, and use disposable cutlery yourself, probably not so long ago. Because you didn’t know, you didn’t fully realise the impact of your actions.

However difficult it may be, we have to think about the plastic bags shoppers, the disposable cutlery consumers, and the plastic straws drinkers with kindness, for they don’t realise how wasteful their behaviour is.

Of course, they have probably heard of environmental issues before, and they most likely know (deep down, in the back of their mind) that their plastic bags drawer at home isn’t a very green way to consume. But for whatever reason – maybe the same reason why we were still using plastic bags for grocery shopping ourselves a few months or years ago – they have not (yet) decided to change their habits.

They may, or may not ever change this, and I think we just have to come to terms with the fact that, other than spreading the message (see next points), there isn’t much we can do about these random people we don’t know. Unless you want to walk to strangers coming out of the supermarket with plastic bags to tell them how terrible their behaviour is (please don’t).

Remember that your behaviour is likely to positively impact someone witnessing it, everyday. Think of yourself as a brand ambassador for zero waste!

Think of yourself as a brand ambassador for zero waste!

It’s most often the ‘refusing’ part of the game that you’ll need to master, to make it an opportunity to tell people about the reason why you’re refusing this specific item, instead of just politely saying no.

The people looking at you sideways for ordering your drink with “no straw, please” for the third time? The waiter, the friends you’re having a drink with, the people sitting at the next table, are probably just curious, and educating them is the best thing to do. It doesn’t have to be a three-hour long speech filled with statistics and scientific references, but in a few simple words, explain why straws are an environmental issue, and how you’re trying to reduce your waste. If you’re lucky, the people sitting at the next table may have ear-dropped on the conversation, and learned something as well.

In a perfect world, your newly educated friends would instantly stop using plastic straws themselves, but of course, it takes time (and a strong will, and a strong “why”) to change habits, so don’t despair if it doesn’t happen immediately (or ever). You can’t change the world overnight!

Making a positive impact on someone’s life is one of the most rewarding things

Educating your inner circle is key, because they are the people who care about you the most, and are most likely to listen and take action. Making a positive impact on their lives is one of the most rewarding things I have come to experience throughout my zero waste journey.

For example, one of my really good friends Laura has been following my transition closely and has recently ordered a bamboo toothbrush and reusable produce bags. She has been slowly transitioning to more sustainable options in her life, and to know that I was a part of this shift makes me immensely happy (and proud).

Zero waste is a journey, and a long haul one at that. To find support in moments of down, and to find inspiration to continue on this path and expand your horizons everyday, look for communities of likeminded people.

If your social circle isn’t interested in zero waste, or environmental issues, it’s especially important that you do find people to share this with, whether online or offline. The great thing about online communities is that they can turn into real life friendships, so don’t be put off by the virtual aspect of Facebook groups or forums. For more IRL options, look for meet-ups in your area!

Online communities can turn into real life friendships

They are also a great place to find support when you’re having a specific issue, to share your little everyday wins, or to vent frustration like above mentioned.

I personally have found a wealth of knowledge and so many great ideas on these groups. My ‘to do’ list has expanded exponentially. They’re educating me so I can become a more conscious consumer and share the knowledge with my circle, in the hope that they too share it with their circle – it’s a ripple effect.

Whatever the support system, being a zero waster in a non-zero waste world shouldn’t be done on your own, so make sure you find your people!

Article originally published on Zero Waste Story Time.

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April 10, 2018


This is such a great article, it resonates so closely with my own experience minimising my waste! I had the exact same thoughts today when I asked for no plastic spoon with my takeaway ice cream cone.. and instantly felt disheartened thinking about how all the other ice cream eaters hadn’t thought to say no to the plastic. But you’re so right, kindness is key, and so is gently planting the seed in people’s minds to generate change! Thanks for the great piece ☺️

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