Home Waste Watcher The politics of going zero waste

The politics of going zero waste


I have been pondering a lot about the move to lead a waste-reduction lifestyle lately. I think it’s largely due to those endless summer school holidays during which I always let my good habits slide. Some intentionally – ordering groceries online and surrendering my control to package my fruit and bread in reusable bags in exchange for keeping the thread of sanity that would be gone if I had to take the kids to the shops one. more. time. Sometimes I can’t fit all of our water bottles plus my KeepCup into my backpack for a trip into the city, so it’s a choice to use a takeaway coffee cup versus buying multiple bottles of water.

I’ve started to consider more that while there are a lot of simple switches or omissions pretty much every person can make to reduce their waste, executing a lot them is almost a source of privilege. Its all well and good to promote the use of a reusable bread bag, but this includes not only purchasing the item but buying your bread from a bakery to avoid the waste of a bag and bag clip. And at roughly $3 a loaf more than the cheapest generic bread available in the supermarket, this certainly adds up over the course of a week or a month for a family living on a strict budget.

Another point I came to thinking about was the gender difference in the zero-waste movement and what effect it may be having. I’ve read a lot of books and blogs on the topic and not one them authored by a man…is this indictive of entrenched gender domestic roles that we are supposed to have conquered by now? Apparently, women are still the main grocery shoppers and cleaners in the house so they lead any changes in that department. Which leads to my next point…

…the added pressure! That old double-edged sword of social media. For all of its inspiration, Pinterest and Instagram can also make you feel plain old unworthy when it comes to zero-waste living.

I see perfectly-sized jars with script-font labels lined up in a tidy fashion in the pantry. My reality is my repurposed jars are indicative how much peanut butter we go through and they are labelled with a Sharpie if I can find one in time. Sometimes I have to taste my way through the cornflour and the bicarb before I find the icing sugar! Zero-waste isn’t always pretty. My soft plastics bin is overflowing waiting to be taken in to a RedCycle bin. I have pieces of washed alfoil and baking paper draining to be reused and the box I keep the jars, bottles etc to be used again is a dog’s breakfast.

And as much as I hate to admit it, maintaining enthusiasm for caring about the future of our planet is really difficult when you witness the disregard our leaders have for this third rock from the sun. Or corporations. I’m not sure my refusing a straw at McDonald’s really makes a difference to the 1.8 million straws the resturant uses per day (in the UK — Aussie details were sketchy!).
So, what to do about it all this? Can we do anything about it? The reality is probably not, at least not solely by implementing zero-waste strategies in your home. These are bigger societal issues that have just happened to have seeped into the zero-waste movement. But that doesn’t mean we don’t keep trying.

As I am constantly telling my children, it is important to ‘Just focus on what you are doing’. Keep making the small steps, the perfectly imperfect strategies that work for you and your home. Know that it is the right thing to do and that hopefully all these small steps being done by a big group of people will eventually start to take effect.