Is your zero waste lifestyle hurting the planet?

What if every little bit doesn’t count? I haven’t written much about our low impact journey lately because I’m not sure many people want to hear what I have to say. Which is: no amount of wax wraps or cooking from scratch or mending and making do is going to get us out of the crisis our climate is in. In fact, I think “all the little things” can add up to not having enough energy for the things that are vitally important right now.

Namely: Dismantling white supremacy + late stage capitalism + burning the patriarchy to the ground. Lobbying our elected officials to demand the necessary changes that could avoid climate breakdown. Letting companies know that we won’t be spending our money with them if they continue to ignore their impact on the planet. Getting informed about where our money is and taking it out of accounts and investments that are essentially funding climate change. Coming together as our communities to work on the big projects that will have the most impact, whether that is reforestation or wind farms or something else entirely.

Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think it’s either/or. Once you’ve made the switch to lower impact alternatives, you can’t imagine switching back. But if we funnel massive amounts of energy to visiting refill shops and making every single thing from scratch to avoid single use plastic …well, it’s problematic for a whole bunch of reasons.

For one, it defers responsibility onto the individual when it is the actions (or inaction) of governments and corporations that are largely to blame and that need to change …FAST! Secondly, it keeps us trapped in the hyper-individualistic mindset that got us into this problem in the first place, instead of coming together to form strong, community-minded solutions. Thirdly, it ends up being privileged and narrow-minded, rather than recognising the systemic barriers that face most people when it comes to a “zero waste lifestyle.” It is not up to those with the least privilege to bear the responsibility of making these changes, so let’s not be assholes, yeah?

“Zero waste” can so easily become a culture of one-upmanship, blame, and moral “superiority.” We end up arguing about which alternative is better when the truth is this: within capitalism and patriarchy there are no perfect answers. And what might be a “simple swap” for you, may be physically impossible for someone else.

In a society where we feel helpless to change the actions of governments and corporations, it’s an act of self-protection to focus on our own individual actions. At least we’re doing SOMETHING to make a difference, right? It can help to alleviate some of the eco-anxiety we’re facing if we take action in these small ways.

But let’s recognise these “simple swaps” as what they are. They’re not an antidote to climate change but rather acts of hopefulness. Hope that the future holds a still livable world, one where the Earth and her resources are respected. Through these small changes we breathe life into that new world by imagining what it could look like to live in that way and begin moving slowly in that direction.

Those small steps are still important in this way and for the message they send to governments and corporations about our priorities. But not when they prevent us from doing the bigger impact work as well. We do not have enough time for the “ripple effect” to get us out of this mess.

When faced with such a massive crisis, I don’t know what it looks like to do “enough.” I certainly don’t feel that I am and can feel myself being called to step up.

So few of us know how to be an activist. We’re afraid of getting it wrong or don’t believe we can make a difference, so we remain paralysed. Better to dive in and get messy and be a bit ineffective along the way.

I’ll share my journey as I commit to more consistently advocating for climate recovery. And if you’re looking for a great resource full of ideas you can action right away, I can definitely recommend The Parents’ Guide to Climate Revolution.

Is your zero waste lifestyle ruining the environment? It's time for some real talk on climate change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *