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The Zero Waste privilege conundrum: does it matter?

Pescky topic this is, so, is it Zero Waste really a privilege?

noun: privilege; plural noun: privileges
A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group.

So privilege by definition is an advantage. An advantage of any sort , earned or acquired at birth allowing someone to achieve a result easier and faster compared to others. Whiltst it make it easier it doesn’t necessary mean that it also make it possible.

Let me briefly explain why I believe that yes, privileges exist but no, they are not what makes Zero Waste possible (or impossible ) for you.

But first, a quick word on WHERE the discussion sparked and WHY.

It all started on Instagram on a post uploaded by Package Free Shop (a company that Lauren Singer of Trash is For Tossers owns) that alluded to the fact that anyone could go zero waste. And that simple statemente alone sparked quite a bit of a kerfuffle.

Rewind back to 2008.
Bea Johnson, founder of the zero waste movement started her blog Zero waste Home launching a movent that little she knew, would have spread all over the world. Bea advocates, such as Lauren, for a frugal lifestyle made out of few essentials ( Bea and her family are also minimalists and own very little posessions) aimed to minimize the impact on planet.

What’s the difference between the two if they both believe in the same things?
The place where their are conveing their message to start with. Both are bloggers, but while Bea takes mostly part to conferences and talks around the world Lauren uses Instagram to spread her message and ideals.

Are you sure Instagram is the right place for discussing Zero Waste as a privilege?

The majority of discussions about Zero Waste beign a previledge happen on social medias such as Instagram. A visual platform, where on a daily basis pictures are shared among millions of users from all around the globe. How do you stand out among millions in order to deliver your message? You need to catch viewers attention .

Let me show you two pictures:

This is a “Zero waste kit” :


and this is also a zero waste kit:


Which one grabs your attention the most. Be honest… Perfect.
And yet, they equally achieve the same result, get you through the day waste free.

Now, what is exactly Zero Waste and why you want to do it?

“Zero waste” is about sending nothing to landfill, and recycling as little as possible. It’s about refusing what we don’t need, reducing what we use, reusing what we have, repairing what we can, and recycling as a last resort.

Zero waste is about consuming less, making conscious choices when we do need to make purchases ( because buying is voting) keeping in mind the goal of reducing our environmental impact. It’s about choosing second-hand, borrowing , sharing and choosing few things that will last longer. Is about live simple, frugal and with only with what you need. is less rather than more.
Live Zero Waste mean consuming, buy and need less.

What you see on social media ( and this applies to everything really) is just one side of the matter, litterally a snapshot and a glimps into something bigger. One way to live zero waste. The part that grabbed your attention , the one that is shared on newspapers and magazines and ..does it really matter how the message gets out there? the moment you chose to bring your own bags at the supermarkert because your remembered that girl on instagram living a stylish zero waste life style and Bingo!
In order to become an habit that you will maintan for life you needs to adapt it to you. No need to comply with others, find what works better for you in order to achieve the best possible result.

Is Zero Waste a Lifestyle for the Privileged?

I say no.

I personally choose to consume less, refusing the unnecessary, invest my money ( many or little but surely worked hard ) on durable items that will last longer cutting the need to buy new. Not necessarily the prettier of the lot. And these choices are accessible to the majority.

What I do think is a priviledge, is the ability to choose access thing to get you along the way rather than others. Is the possibility of achieving a Zero Waste lifestyle easier and quicker.

This is also applicable for almost everything else .
Then why, when it comes to living zero waste, the fact that is easier for some rather than others makes the all concept of living sustainably elitary and discouranging?

Does it really matter how many things you can do as long as you are doing the ones you can?
And don’t forget that if we all ask for a change, we can really push industries to rethink their products to fit consumer requests.

I received this e-mail che other day saying.

“Stop talking about Zero Waste as something everyone can do. I cannot afford to buy fancy produce bags. They are expensive while the ones I can get at the supermarket are free”

  • One does not have to purchase a canvas bag to reduce their waste, on the contrary. Please feel free to shop loose fruit and veggies at the supermarket and be creative. Do you need to buy something small and delicate? Look they have paper bags ( such the ones for mushrooms) that you can save and reuse next time? No excuses. I often shop loose or use cotton bags only for small items ( green beens or Bruxelles sprouts) and if I cannot go to the farmers market, well, I guess I will not eat strawberries if cannot have them withouth plastic. But you do not need to comply. Find what works best for you and your budget.

  • Did you see the picture above? Use what you already have! plastic is the most durable material in the word. you can probably re use the same bags you got at the supermarket over and over again!

What I found is that the idea of zero waste with a glamourous and pricey lifestyle it also depend from your cultural heritage. Give my nonna a 1kg of flour, some tomatoes and she will make a pizza . Add eggs and she will be able to make pasta. For me this is very basic, everyday food. For you, this might sound fancy. Avoid meat and fish and stick to the basics. Buy the biggest bag of rice you can find if you don’t have access to bulk and that would probably last you for months! Add a pumpking and make a risotto.

The very first time I shaved my legs was by accident playing with a pumice stone when I was 13 and later on my aunty teached me how to make wax at home with honey sugar, lemon juice and rugs. Is souluble in water so you can reuse the rugs over and over again. So, no, you don’t need a safety razor to be zero waste.

Be critic when you make your own researches, be creative and make the best out of what you can. Do not give up on everything because you can’t do every single thing. You might not be able to achieve a perfect zero waste ( who can?) in the kitchen but berhaps you can in the bathroom or viceversa.
Privileges are not what makes zero waste possible for me or for you.

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