Things Nobody Tells You About Going Zero Waste

When I started my zero waste journey more than a year and a half ago, I was going in completely blind. I knew the bare minimum and was eager to just dive right in. And to be honest I just kind of made it up as I went. I learned at every corner and put the pieces together along the way.

I wanted to write this post for YOU. The one just starting out on this journey with no idea what you’re getting yourself into or what to expect. I wish there would’ve been someone out there to share this kind of information with me so I wouldn’t have felt so caught off guard. But either way, I’m better off having learned these lessons.

  1. It doesn’t happen overnight – You might decide to go zero waste one day and wake up the next morning expecting to be fully zero waste. No? just me? Ok. I don’t believe that zero waste is a destination but more so a journey. A journey that if you’re serious about, you might be on for the rest of your life. Despite your best intentions to create less waste, it’s a pretty drastic lifestyle change and it might take a while to shake those old habits and deal with the waste and overconsumption that you already have going on.
  2. Using what you have is the most sustainable option – This little tidbit of info completely shattered what I thought to be zero waste and gave it a whole new meaning for me. Everything you own, single-use items included, is the most sustainable option. What I mean is that everything you own already exists. So it’s not going to be created again for you to purchase. One major problem I see in the zero waste community is the “need” to go out and replace everything you own with reusable and sustainable versions. I think this is something we can all aspire to achieve one day but in the meantime, it’s less wasteful and cost-effective to use what you already have. When those items have run their course, you can begin to replace them with sustainable versions. But there’s no need to throw out what you own before using them.
  3. It saves your money – Zero waste can seem expensive at first. At least that’s what I thought when I looked at Instagram and saw all the pretty metal straws, bamboo cutlery, reusable coffee cups, and hydro flasks. And it can be if you buy all these things. But the truth is you don’t need them to be zero waste. By using what you already have, you’ll save a ton of money! Grab some cutlery from your drawer when eating on the go, skip the straw altogether, upcycle an old tote bag to use for grocery shopping. The list goes on and on. Plus buying bulk and making your products is another super cost-effective way to cut back waste!
  4. You’ll make mistakes – It’s called being “zero waste” but I don’t think anyone truly is or can be. We live in a world of plastic and single-use items. Try as we might, we’re going to slip up every once in a while. And the truly shocking thing is that it’s ok. Don’t expect to be perfect. So if you happen to use a plastic straw or forget your shopping bags, don’t sweat it. All you can do is try your best and learn from your mistakes.
  5. Buying things is easy – I feel like zero waste and minimalism often go hand in hand. The best way to create less waste is to consume less. But oh boy, buying things is so easy. It doesn’t seem like much before you start on this journey but once you’re in it you’ll suddenly begin to notice all your actions and purchases. And sometimes it can be a little hard to shake the old ways of buying things just cause they’re on sale.
  6. You might find yourself apologizing more than you used to – At least I certainly found myself in this boat. Whether it was to friends, family, or strangers I found myself apologizing for the choices I was making because to those who don’t live a waste-free life, being waste-free can be a little inconvenient. Let me just say, you don’t need to apologize for any of your actions, especially if they’re doing good for the planet.
  7. Be open to learning – To thrive in this zerowaste community, you have to be open to learning new things. You might feel like you got this but there’s always someone more experienced who has a tip or two that could improve your journey. Learn from them and share your tips too!
  8. It isn’t super accessible – Sustainable living isn’t mainstream yet. How many stores can you walk into to buy a shampoo bar? Unless they’re dedicated to living more green, the answer is very few.

There is no shortage for zero waste products online but like I said, that still isn’t accessible to the mass majority. You might be able to afford these products or order them online but not everyone can. And maybe you can’t even! I know I certainly couldn’t when I started this journey.

I think that’s why a lot of people are touchy around the topic of zero waste. It just isn’t highly accessible for anyone who wants it. This does pose a problem to the movement itself and its inclusivity, but the good news is that more and more people are becoming aware and demanding more sustainable products. I’m hopeful for a future where all of these things are at everyone’s disposal.

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