Last Updated on November 13, 2020 by Nina Ahmedow
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Ever since I started working to reduce the waste I produce I realized how difficult it is to live a more sustainable lifestyle. How does one tackle the zero waste challenge? Because in my experience it isn’t as easy as YouTubers and influencers would have us believe.
Composting isn’t actually a thing here and even separating trash is a lot more complicated than in Germany. I wanted to give you an update on the things that I find particularly difficult in my attempt to cut down on plastic. But, more importantly, I want to point out that we have to keep in mind that every step means something. When we feel like we’re failing at our attempts to live a low-waste lifestyle we disregard the bigger picture.
So here are five easy ways to tackle the zero waste challenge.
Go Step by Step
Many people who want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle try 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 and stay motivated. If you try and force yourself to do it all at once this will likely result in stress in which case you might give up on the zero waste journey altogether.
Check Out the Different Options
Wanting to produce less waste doesn’t mean you always have to 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 moved offices, I realized that my reusable bottle didn’t work well with the new water filters because of its small bottleneck. So I had to replace it with a different bottle. If I had to buy a new bottle now I’d never choose one with a small bottleneck again.
Do some research before you buy things so you don’t have to purchase similar products again which would contribute to more environmental damage.
Make the Zero Waste Challenge 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. If you feel like you messed up there’s always something else you can do. This shouldn’t be a competition and you shouldn’t feel like a bad person if you’re not perfect at it.
Let’s continue from the last point. In order to stay motivated 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 people who menstruate, eco-friendly period products are an effective and financially rewarding way to reduce waste where other things might be too challenging.
Focus on Your Interests
Maybe you feel pressured to make your own almond milk. Sure, it tastes better and is cheaper, and it would obviously create much less waste. However, if you work full-time you can probably think of better things to do in your 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, surely making plant milk will seem exciting to you and will make you enjoy the zero waste lifestyle even more. For people who aren’t into that kind of stuff, however, this would turn the whole thing into a chore and make them more likely to give up on it completely.
The same goes for making a DIY deodorant or similar things. DIY is not everyone’s thing, and you’re not a bad person for having different interests. Don’t make the zero waste challenge harder on yourself by focusing on things you’re not interested in. Instead, look at the things you really care about. If you love to travel you will benefit from my minimalist and zero waste travel tips, for example.
So those are my easy tips for dealing with the zero waste challenge. But keep in mind two more things:
What’s good for the planet is good for you. One thing that 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. Think of the zero waste challenge as a way to improve your health as well.
Ordering small items from halfway across the world defeats the purpose. There are so many things I cannot get in Greece, and I’m always tempted to order 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 each year rather than buying one or two items from different stores every month. One of my favorite zero waste online stores which also focuses on plastic-free packaging is Net Zero Co.
Let me know in the comments how you tackle the zero waste challenge.