What does a low waste lifestyle mean? In a nutshell, it’s about making conscious decisions in our daily life with the overarching goal of leaving as little of a footprint as possible. Less trash + plastic, supporting by voting with your dollar for bulk and unpackaged options, less toxic products for both our health + that of our earth, a circular economy in which we support our community and begin to shift to a circular way . It’s more than just plastic. It’s a different way of looking at life, of looking at the choices you make big or small. Sustainability is a lens I try to look at the world through, that colors my decisions, my path. Stepping back and taking note of the way I want to live, the systems I want to support, and then aligning my daily life and choices as much as possible with my intent. Living gently upon the earth- while also being gentle with ourselves. Sustainability has to not only mean sustainable for the earth, but also sustainable for ourselves. There’s a sweet spot that is different for everyone.
linear vs circular economies
Our main goal here, really, is to essentially shift our thinking from that of linear to circular. Meaning: disposable to reusable, closing the loop. Currently, our economy operates on a linear model- meaning that goods/resources are taken from the earth, turned into a product manufactured with planned obsolescence, used for an often single purpose, then thrown into the trash, starting the cycle all over again. What
Sustainability, in my experience, goes hand in hand with slow, intentional, conscious living. Asking the hard questions- the why's behind what we do what we do, the who’s of who we impact with our decisions, the how’s behind how things are made, grown, sold. By default, when you begin to try to avoid plastic, you will often:
eat healthier- whole, nourishing, fresh foods are generally the ones that most often come unpackaged.
save money- reusing instead of disposing and buying new is less expensive over time
slow down + simplify- appreciating and rediscovering simpler pleasures such as cooking, making things ourselves, gardening.
avoid toxic products- unpackaged solutions to conventional products for cleaning, cosmetics, and personal care are simple, multi-use, and natural, not to mention cheaper and often more effective and much healthier for our bodies, pets and children to be exposed to regularly.
reconnect with community- shopping local/small, swapping/trading, discovering small businesses, farmers markets, and connecting with like-minded individuals in the community.
It’s important to acknowledge + honor the roots here. By no means is this a new way of living. Indigenous cultures lived this way out of deep respect, connection, and peaceful co-existence with the earth and her creatures. Poor people, immigrants, and people living through hard times have always lived this way out of necessity, a way to survive, using every last bit and consciously conserving resources. For many of us who are privileged to be able to do so, we have forgotten these ways- it has been ingrained in our lifestyles, our society, to live in a frenzied way, hurtling at top speed through life with barely a chance to think about how we are treating ourselves, let alone the earth. This lifestyle has been advertised to us, wrapped up in a shiny package and called progress. A mindset that everything is disposable and nothing is sacred, not even ourselves or that which gives us life, our connection to the universe, our earth. We have to undertake a path to get back to basics. To look to the past, looking to indigenous people, people of color, and how they took care of this land. To find our way home. In doing so, not only do we relieve ourselves from pressures and stress of a fast paced lifestyle, we also derive more satisfaction and contentment with less- looking more to ourselves, our relationships, stillness, and nature for pleasure than material possessions and always “doing”. We are able to explore what truly lights us up vs what we have been conditioned to believe we must do.
The R’s are the basic premises of living a lower waste lifestyle:
refuse // what you do not need (freebies, extra stuff, flyers, junk mail, straws etc)
reduce // what you do need (reevaluating your true needs)
reuse // bring your own reusables instead of using single use, upcycle + buy secondhand
rehome // what you do not need but others can still use
recycle // what you cannot refuse, reduce, reuse, or rehome
rot // compost
This week (or longer if you need it), I’d like you to begin to educate yourself on the why behind living simply + low waste. This helps with providing the fire, the inspiration needed to push yourself towards action and motivation- the knowledge of what’s at stake, the ethics and realities behind things like climate change, fast fashion, crowded landfills, exploited humans + animals. I’ve recommended some of my favorite sources below- but I encourage you to do your own research as well, especially for things actively happening in and around your own community. Take on only what you can handle at the moment- make sure to work at your own pace here.