How to Conquer the Zero Waste Challenge

This post was last updated on January 28th, 2019

Ever since I started working to reduce the waste I produce I have realized how difficult it is, especially here in Greece, to try to live more of a zero waste lifestyle.
I’ve mentioned before how composting is not actually something that is done here and that even separating trash seems a lot more complicated than in Germany, for example, where this has become the norm.

I wanted to give you an update on the things that I find particularly difficult in my attempt to reduce trash, but, more importantly, I want to point out that it’s important to keep in mind that every little thing matters, and that considering difficulties as “failures” disregards the bigger picture.

Go Step by Step

Many people that become attracted to a more eco-friendly lifestyle want to make as many changes as possible in the shortest amount of time, but, for most people, this is probably not going to work.
It’s essential to start with the easier things first so you can adapt to them comfortably and stay motivated to keep doing them. If you try and force yourself to do it all at once this will likely result in being stressed and overwhelmed in which case you might just give up on the zero waste journey altogether.

Try Different Options

Just because you want to avoid producing waste doesn’t mean you have to always go for the first option. The biggest part of this lifestyle is making more informed decisions as a consumer. Not every reusable bottle is the same if it doesn’t suit your purpose. After we changed offices, I had to realize that my reusable bottle didn’t work well with the new water filters at work because it has a small bottleneck, so I will need to replace it with a different bottle. Think before you buy so you don’t have to purchase similar products again thereby contributing to more environmental damage. 

Make Things Easier on Yourself

It’s so easy to forget your tote bags when going grocery shopping so the best option is to keep them in your handbag at all times. However, even if you tend to forget them and sometimes have to use plastic bags don’t beat yourself up over it and try to at least reuse those plastic bags later.

Set Priorities

​Not all trash is created equal: Paper does not cause the same damage as plastic. In order to continue on this zero waste journey set priorities to help you overcome difficult situations.
​So you may be using paper napkins at restaurants, but try to at least go to places that don’t give you plastic cutlery.
The same is true for how your food is packaged. So many of the vegan foods I purchase come in plastic, and it pains me every time. However, I have to choose between packaged vegan food or supporting animal agriculture which is one of the most polluting industries on our planet. If you live somewhere where you can buy tofu in bulk that’s amazing, but if not you need to set priorities and take things step by step.
For women, a zero waste period is an effective and financially rewarding way to reduce waste where other things might be too challenging.

Work with Your Interests

I have often thought about making my own almond milk. It’s supposed to taste better and be cheaper, and it would obviously create much less waste. However, I work full-time and can think of better things to do in my free time than to make almond milk every three days. Don’t beat yourself up over things like that. If you’re a stay-at-home mom who loves to cook and bake all day, surely making plant milk will seem exciting to you and will make you enjoy the zero waste lifestyle even more. For people who prefer reading a book, however, this would just turn the whole thing into a chore and make them more likely to give up on it completely. 
The same goes for DIY deodorants or similar things. DIY is not everyone’s thing, and you’re not a bad person for having different interests.

​Keep in mind two last things:

What’s good for the planet is good for you.

One thing that really creates a lot of trash is the packaging of small snacks.
​Fruits, vegetables, or nuts are much healthier options and are not usually packaged in too much plastic. This is a really difficult one if you enjoy snacking, but even if you don’t set New Year’s resolutions maybe healthier snacks can become a habit.

​Ordering small items from halfway across the world defeats the purpose.

​There are so many things I cannot get in Greece, and there is a lot of temptation in ordering things like shampoo bars online. However, think about the fuel that is used to transport such items to you. How about making a few bigger purchases online each year rather than buying one or two items from different stores every month.

Let me know in the comments how you tackle difficulties in the zero waste lifestyle.

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