To be clear, I’m all for the war on waste. The more mindfully we consume everything, the better. Our planet is in a pretty dire situation and we need to sort that shit out.
However since everyone has seen War on Waste, there’s a bit of conflict in the air about just how hard core we need to be. For example my mate Woog got ripped a new one the other day for getting a disposable coffee cup and Instagramming it. She somehow missed the memo on how we all virtuously use Keep Cups now, but I can’t help but wonder if those people that shamed her had only recently started using re-usable cups themselves. It’s the advent of new habit forming that makes people go the most crazy so I thought it a good idea to put some ideas out there before we all end up hating each other.
Here are some things to consider…
– Did you know that the invention of frozen convenience meals was one of the biggest contributors to women’s equality over the last century? People mistakenly think it was the washing machine but research shows that although washing took up a fair portion of women’s time, they would simply wash less. It was microwave meals that saved housewives hours every night and gave them the freedom to pursue other things in their life. They weren’t invented because people were lazy, they were invented to get women out of the kitchen and into the world, which is really quite remarkable.
– Plastic isn’t evil. It’s a durable and very versatile material. We just went a little bit too far with the whole thing.
– Genetically modified vegetables aren’t amazing but they also aren’t the enemy. The reason why we started messing around with growth hormones and pesticides in our crops is because people were dying because there wasn’t enough food. These modern techniques that everyone is so down on literally saved people from dying in famines. Again, a very remarkable thing. These techniques are also used to grow crops in places they wouldn’t ordinarily grow and help to diversify the local food sources.
Things I do
– Take a re-usable coffee jar with me to get coffee.
– Take a re-usable water bottle with me everywhere.
– Use beeswax wraps instead of cling wrap. I still own cling wrap and use it when I need to but I’ve cut down on it a lot.
– I use biodegradable coffee pods.
– I take a re-usable bag with me everywhere and use it for everything. Even if I buy a fancy dress, I say no to the excess tissue paper and fancy bag and just pop it straight in my little tote.
– I try to only buy fresh produce if it’s not pre-packaged.
– I buy as many things in glass as I can.
– I try to buy as much fresh produce at the green grocer because they use less packaging.
– I try to get things mended rather than replace them. I’ve taped up my Uashmama bag with gaffa tape and it’s as good as new!
Other things I do
– I buy frozen meals to keep in the freezer for emergencies. Because I’m a modern woman who runs a business and I don’t always have time to cook.
– I shop in chainstores. I try to research to make sure they’re ethical but I’m a curvy lass and getting clothes to fit me well is really hard, so if I find something that fits and looks good, I’ll buy it.
– I sometimes buy non-organic meat. There’s a lot of research that shows how organic meat farming is actually worse for the environment in terms of carbon emissions than larger (but still ethical) meat produce facilities. I do try to limit my meat intake though as avoidance is really the answer.
– I buy packets of heat up rice because I don’t eat rice that often and it doesn’t make sense to cook it for these rare occasions because I always cook too much and I end up wasting food. Which I really hate.
– I occasionally buy bags of spinach at the supermarket if I didn’t make it to the green grocer in time to get their unpackaged spinach.
– I use Tupperware. Proper, expensive, bought it a million years ago and it’s still going strong Tupperware. I’m not getting rid of it just because the world has decided plastic is evil. I’ll use it until it falls apart and that’s the environmental thing to do.
Things that baffle me about the no waste community
– If you’re ready to deal with it, google Zero Waste and find people who produce little to no rubbish at all. It’s fascinating and very inspiring but honestly not super practical for most people. I’m all for bringing a takeaway coffee up with you when you get coffee and they advocate this but the whole community is obsessed with straws as well. They all carry around stainless steel or glass straws. It’s so confusing – just drink through the hole in your face. I’d rather not use a straw than carry one around with me. So weird.
– Mr Smaggle eats a lot of cheese and I was worried about the packaging aspect of cheese and a very lovely no-waster answered my question about this by suggesting I buy a wheel of cheese direct from the supplier, wrapped in paper and share it with my neighbours. This is a very sweet thought but is she for real? Where do you even find cheese suppliers? I don’t talk to my neighbours. What if they don’t like the same kind of cheese as me? It’s just not a good solution to this problem.
– Most ‘no wasters’ seem to be very normal (usually quite model-esque looking if I’m honest) people with no issues that would stop them leading this lifestyle. Buying ethical clothing can be difficult if you’re plus-sized for instance and buying bulk skin care products would be impossible for some people with skin issues. If you have allergies, no waste can be a challenge. If you can barely make ends meet at the end of every month, you’ve got bigger issues than spending an extra $5 on the lowest possible carbon footprint quinoa. Reducing waste is an excellent thing to do and everyone should try their best but not all aspects of this movement are available to everyone.
Bottom line? We aren’t the same people we used to be. It’s lovely to want to go back to the days of churning our own butter and roasting our own hand reared chickens for dinner but that’s just not feasible. Pre-plastic, women’s lives sucked. As an environmentalist and a feminist I struggle really hard with how much plastic wrapped convenience foods and products have made such positive and negative changes in my world. It’s important to remember that making environmental choices doesn’t have to be binary. Do the best you can, plan ahead, make good choices and then don’t beat yourself up when you have 10 minutes to sort dinner out and you grab a frozen lasagne. It’s cool. We’re modern people, living in a modern world and it’s convenience products that allowed us to get here.
Make sure you only use them when you need them though and concentrate on changing daily habits. Replace your daily packaged muesli bar with some homemade healthy slice you baked on the weekend. Commit to taking a re-usuable mug to your local cafe. Choose condiments in glass jars instead of plastic when you can and don’t stress about all the waste from the takeaway you ordered last week. Just remember to tell them not to include cutlery and napkins next time. It’s a process and we’re all still learning.
Having said that, do be hard on yourself. Make a proper effort where you can and do all easy things all the time.