This is the first article in a three-part series about Kendra’s journey through waste reduction.
You see that? That Mason jar filled with garbage right there, boys and girls, is Lauren Singer’s garbage — after not one day, not one week, but two years. Singer’s made a name for herself as an online blogger, talking about how we all need to live waste-free. This is the Mason jar that perplexed me, motivated me, and pushed me to figure out how any of this was possible. As odd as it sounds, this jar sparked a lifestyle change for me.
Buying things is the first order of business, which seems a bit ironic considering the goal is to reduce consumption and waste. To reconcile this, I reminded myself that these things are an investment and not intended for short-term use.
At the bottom of this article, I have compiled a list of resources if reading about zero waste living inspires you as much as it did me. I spent a full day looking in all the wrong places for reusable items, and I don’t want anyone else to waste time walking all over the dang city on a wild goose chase for jars and organic soap bars. Learning about waste reduction, and how to get ahold of products to help you is so important. Creating a sense of accessibility is one of the goals of writing this piece, so I hope you take advantage of some of my research.
Other than making a few small changes, I signed up for a Car2Go because I thought everything would be difficult to carry around. But as I later found out, a $15-flat of Mason jars weighs less than a six- pack!
After a short time of researching, I am discovering there are countless resources for living a zero waste lifestyle right here in Vancouver. I have become more conscious of what I have control over and can change. I feel empowered, I feel less guilty about merely existing in this capitalist world, and I feel just plain ol’ good. Yes, it’s a slow start and impossible to change overnight, but it’s definitely something that can be incorporated into everyone’s lifestyle.
This consciousness has trickled into areas I had not expected. I began to cook vegan dishes to combat the copious number of cheeseburgers I consumed in the last month. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the taste and fullness factor — but real talk, I still eat cheeseburgers.
All of these fine-looking products right here are helping me reduce waste, and it’s not costing me as much as I thought it would. I spent around $70 including some of the containers, which sounds pricey, but to refill costs very little. To fill the large glass spray bottle with all-purpose cleaner was only $2.44. Once you invest in the refillable containers you’re ready to start saving money!
I carry a water bottle with me everywhere I go. I have a plastic one, however, even BPA-free still leaches chemicals into your water. So for those about to purchase, please avoid plastic. There’s no such thing as a safe plastic.
Diva cups. Men, permission to skip this paragraph. When they work they’re pretty great! They use silicone, with no wasteful cotton and no worries about getting toxic shock syndrome. The trick is finding one that fits properly and being OK with, shall I say, knowing your vagina as more than an acquaintance.
Other than the obvious BYOB (bring your own bag) and water bottle, there are biodegradable toothbrushes, organic sandwich bags, dryer balls, Mason jar drink lids — and the list goes on. Just check out some of the many stores around Vancouver located in the links.
Say no to straws! If you absolutely need one they make reusable ones!
I know we are all poor students, but boycott dollar stores. Invest in a few good kitchen items and keep them forever. Cast iron pans are best. Bamboo and stainless steel are also good materials that will not have toxins if they are good quality.
After buying the necessities that will prevent you from using disposable versions, it is imperative to take a good, long, hard look at the various things you are buying. Don’t let your things own you.
Zero waste seems like a lot of work and I’m lazy
In the past, you might have found me sprawled out on my couch, indulging in bottomless Netflix and avoiding adulting.
As much fun as it is staying in Neverland with the Lost Boys, I found that going to a local farmers market was much more fun! With the draws of local, fresh, organic produce — not to mention locally brewed beer — in the most scenic areas of Vancouver, it becomes a social event rather than a humdrum chore. While it does require you to get off your couch, I promise, it’s highly rewarding.
Yes, this lifestyle takes effort. No, it’s not always easy. Yes, it’s worth it. Here’s why:
- Save money. With your own containers in tow, you can purchase multiple cleaning products and bulk foods for fractions of a dollar at the Soap Dispensary, Basic Refill, or the soon-to-be permanent Zero Waste Market.
- Save the environment! Every day we see terrible doomsday headlines in our newsfeeds that leave us feeling paralyzed and hopeless, but every once in a while great news pops up with local heroes and stats that show we are improving! Be part of the good statistics! Make sure you’re doing your part.
- Feel warm and fuzzy inside. It can be hard to get over our pessimistic attitudes towards going green, but reducing waste will actually make you feel good about yourself!
- Save yourself. You’ll be healthier eliminating pesticides and other harsh toxins from your life.
Overall, this lifestyle is my personal choice. I will not force it upon roommates, friends, or family. That being said, I find the little changes I’ve made tend to rub off on others. I have always believed we are all a lot more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. When our environment calls upon us to live a certain way, we just do it. Although it may not be immediately obvious that our environment has changed with all the abundance of things, we can use our big ol’ brains to see that adaptation is required.
It’s easy to say that one person can’t change anything — that one person can’t fight capitalism, consumerism, or neo-liberalism. It’s also easy to succumb to this way of thinking.
Challenge yourself to do more than just press a button saying you support the environment. Yes, knowledge is power, as the old adage says, but actions speak louder than words. I wholeheartedly believe that one person can create change in the world. If my small actions around the home can affect others and change actions, then why can’t this formula be used in the world?
It’s a nice thought, and the world needs more of them.
Zero Waste Club: Green consumerism
When I attended this meeting, it felt like the first day of grade school. I had a burning self-consciousness about my plastic water bottle and my wrappers from a coffee shop sandwich I just ate. I was worried I would be judged, but I set that aside and what I saw was a friendly group of people coming together over a common concern.
Painstaking research went into the meeting where they went into great detail on the most environmentally friendly and healthiest alternatives to the common way of buying products. The toxicity of nearly everything in our lives is shocking and if you don’t care about saving money or the environment, you can be selfish and care about saving yourself from harmful agents.
Inefficiency is the secret word to get into the capitalist club. It is bred into every fiber of every mode of production. Planned obsolescence, which reportedly began with the light bulb, is where things are designed to break over a certain period of time. Why is this allowed?
France recently passed a law where a product must tell you how long it will last before you buy. Instead of wasting resources, we should be outright banning this ridiculous trend in the marketplace. Jacquie Rolston with Vancouver’s Zero Waste Club noted that it doesn’t just waste resources — it wastes people’s lives. So many of us work our whole lives away just to make something that will be used for less than a day and thrown out. “Somewhere, someone is paying for your cheap product,” Rolston said.
Everything is optional. Everything will be garbage — including you. If that’s not enough to make you feel awkward about our garbage situation, I don’t know what will.
Educate yourself! Like Zero Waste Club on Facebook to catch their next free meeting. https://www.facebook.com/zerowastevan/
Zero waste is a transition. It takes time. Do your best and keep curious about alternatives! After three weeks I can honestly say I am nowhere near zero waste, but I am proud of the changes I have made.
The reality is that almost everyone in some way, shape, or form is worried about the environment and our impact on it. So I am left with burning questions.
Why aren’t we all banding together and why are we not all demanding our government change things?
What is it about our political structure that is so hard to change? Why is it so hard to petition for new policies?
These are all questions I will be trying to find the answers to in the the rest of my Zero Waste Adventure. Stay tuned for part two!
Links to help you get started!
Local/ Online Shops