An increasing amount of people want to live more sustainably. If one thing is certain: we produce a staggering amount of rubbish which ends up in landfills or in the sea. As Earth Day came around on April 22nd I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who thought about the amount of rubbish we produce each year and the large impact waste has on the environment and climate change. Although I try to use carrier bags and bring a reusable water bottle into work instead of buying a new one each day, I realised that most of the products I bought in supermarkets where wrapped in plastic and would end up polluting the planet. So much of my weekly shop was made up of single-use, disposable products and many of them seemed over-packaged. It was then I realised that although I had often criticised people for making too much waste or throwing too much plastic away, I was probably just as bad.
The ‘Zero-waste’ movement pioneered by several women on the blogosphere is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice which aims to produce as little rubbish as possible. This emerging trend which often starts by ditching plastic and learning how to compost food waste is developing with ‘zero waste practitioners’ such as Kathryn Kellogg who charts her life in her blog Going Zero Waste. Indeed, according to the Guardian, her rubbish for the past year (basically anything that cannot be either recycled or composted) fits into a small 8oz jar. Although the movement seems to be mostly catching on in the United States, bloggers from the UK, France and Australia have also joined the movement. And though women seem to be leading the movement, Rob Greenfield is one of the few male bloggers on the subject with Dude Making a Difference.
Lauren Singer also writes a zero-waste blog called Trash is for Tossers and says this new lifestyle, contrary to what critics claim, saves her money and time. In her blog and on her Youtube channel she explains how she does her shopping in bulk, makes her own products, buys her clothes second-hand and downsizes the ‘stuff’ she owns. Lauren was an environmental studies student in New York when she realised that she was not doing the very things she campaigned for. For her, this new lifestyle is not hard and enables her to live in alignment with her values by making little changes that add up and make a big difference. Ultimately, she says: “I want to be remembered for the things that I did on this planet, not the trash I left behind.”
Both Lauren and Kathryn say they were inspired by Bea Johnson’s blog Zero Waste Home. This French woman who lives in California with her family was one of the first to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle and has never gone back. She says: “to me it is not about complicating your life but about simplifying it”. Since 2008 she runs a zero waste family by implementing her simple guideline, the 5R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (and only in that order). Her whole family’s yearly waste fits into a single jar.
The question remains, as many have criticised these zero waste practitioners of being privileged, whether this goal is obtainable to the average family? The aesthetics of some of these lifestyle blogs seem to promote an image of relative wealth and privilege. And clearly not everyone can take it this far, a lot depends for instance on what shops and facilities you live nearby to. But if nothing else, the trend has the potential to raise further awareness and understanding of what can be done to help. It just depends on the degree to which you take it. It doesn’t have to be a backlash against hyper-consumption. Most of us will probably not go zero-waste in the near future but that does not necessarily mean we shouldn’t try producing less rubbish and make informed and savvy decisions about what we buy and how we go about our day-to-day lives. Indeed, the changes to our routines don’t need to be complicated, as Kellogg writes :“We have the power to create change with just a few adjustments to our daily lives”.