It's not particularly a secret, but I don't exactly blast it to the world: I lead an environmentally conscious lifestyle.
Some people call it low waste, zero waste, eco friendly, but whatever title you slap on it the goal is the same: how do I make the least amount of impact possible on the planet I live on?
And it was the hardest and easiest thing I've ever done.
We'll start basic: what's is low waste/zero waste/eco consciousness?
It goes by a ton of names, but the premise is the same: to make as little impact on the environment as possible. But how do you do that? And what does that include?
It looks different for a lot of people, but for me it includes purchasing little to zero items in packaging and never buying anything new (with a few exceptions we'll get to. Hey undewear!). I would consider these to be the pillars of how to lead this lifestyle.
Once I bought a loaf of bread, and it was wrapped not once, but TWICE in plastic. Twice. Why? I don't understand it? This is just one example of how packaging has really gotten out of control in our culture. We individually package everything we can get our hands on, and it's causing massive waves in our environment in a detrimental way (check out this video from a dear peer of mine Pattiegonia, who sheds a light on the issue).
By shopping in bulk sections at co-ops in our area, we're able to purchase products using our own containers and pay for them based on the weight of the product. This has helped create a major shift in how much packaging waste we create as a household and it also allows us to purchase custom quantities of products that we use regularly.
Whenever we have to purchase something in packaging, we always opt for glass or metal containers. While this isn't a fool-proof system because the recycling process in our country is severely broken, it gives these materials the chance to be reused primarily before we choose to recycle them - we have a stash of glass jars we use for buying products in bulk, making our own homemade things like sauces, and for gifting to our friends and family.
Nearly Always Used
Did you know that every piece of camera equipment I own was purchased used? True story.
But this isn't just on big-ticket items - think of all the little things you might have to purchase that you can find secondhand because they were donated by somebody who didn't need it. About 90% of the items in our home were purchased used, from our couch/furniture to our bed frame (new in box!) to our dining table and chairs. Even the small things too. Most of the pots for my houseplants were thrifted
Not only is purchasing items used the best way to save money, it also reduces the amount of production that's requested overall when companies make product runs. It also help take items off the street/about to landfill and puts them back into homes where they can be used until their actual death.
Any time I have to purchase clothing, I purchase used (with the exception of undergarments, which are purchased new from ethical sources). My favorite ever pairs of jeans have come from thrift stores, and we're talking fit-like-a-glove so-comfortable-you-could-die jeans. My favorite sweater EVER (above) was purchased pre-loved and the list goes on. Being able to purchase items used is a pillar of reducing waste.
The downfalls of eco-consciousness and the ways I fail over and over again
It's easy to get wrapped up into this idea in your head that you're not affecting the environment at all when you "accomplish" the above - because trust me, you still are.
For example, even if you purchase an item from a bulk store and bring your own container, that item was still originally produced, packaged, and shipped to the store - all involving waste. So even if you didn't personally output the garbage at the end, it was still made alone the way into your hands. There's also the overall waste production in creating the item to begin with. When you thrift an item, there's likely to be waste involved there.
But it's important to remember the big picture: any waste you can prevent is well worth the try.
So while I purchase all of my party taper candles used from thrift stores and they likely come in a plastic container or plastic film, those candles themselves were saved from the landfill - creating a big reduction in waste. Last year we threw a holiday party where every decoration/item needed was thrifted or rented - and the part was essential a low to nearly zero waste party.
Because that's the goal: you'll never get to zero waste. But you can almost nearly get there.
Eco consciousness will derail your current habits - in exchange for better ones. And I'm excited to be sharing more and more of this journey as we go.
So grab a coffee or tea, pull up a seat, and follow along. We're in this together.