I don’t know if you are aware that these days a new movement is starting to take the world by storm. It’s called zero waste, or a zero waste sustainable lifestyle.
Basically, what living a zero waste lifestyle means is using no packaging in all the products that you buy and use. Or at the very least only recyclable packaging.
They don’t buy or store food or anything else in plastic containers, preferring glass, wood, metal or any other natural material over plastic.
For the most part I support this movement.
Certainly I am all in favour of limiting your use of synthetic chemicals and plastics as much as possible. Not only are you reducing the toxic materials you bring into your home or consume, thus leading to a healthier lifestyle.
You’re also contributing to reducing all the garbage that spills out of our landfills and filling these landfills instead with organic materials that can actually decompose, rather than sitting there intact for thousands of years.
We all know that an excess of toxins is a scourge in our society and is one of the factors behind the growing numbers of cases of cancer.
I myself try to use glass, metal, wood and paper as much as possible. I go shopping with cloth bags. My all natural skin and hair care routines include mostly solid shampoos and natural plant-based oils.
I even make my own soap from scratch, by hand. Not a pour-and-melt affair but real, actual lye soap.
But sometimes I think this fanaticism for going all out zero waste just gets so absurd. And I got started thinking.
Why is a zero waste lifestyle supposed to be so good?
Is it only because it’s become fashionable and a lot of people are jumping onto this bandwagon now?
So many people do things, especially alternative things, just to be rebellious. Or just to look good in front of their friends. Or just because it’s what’s in at this moment.
So is a zero waste, sustainable lifestyle really so much better than a conventional one?
Or is it just some sort of hippie, rebellious, anti-establishment trend?
So many people do things without questioning them, just because other people told them it’s good, or that they should do it.
Why is it supposed to be more sustainable to use paper, wood or metal instead of plastic?
Of course it FEELS better, because it’s all natural as opposed to plastic which is not natural. Plastic is artificially created and comes from petroleum.
So I imagine it would be more HEALTHY, because you’re not using any kind of synthetic chemicals and thus you’re avoiding toxins.
But I don’t really see how it is more SUSTAINABLE.
For example, take metal. How is metal supposed to be more sustainable?
You have to send these poor, helpless men deep into these unhealthy mines where they risk their lives and sacrifice their health every day to mine metal.
What’s so sustainable, humane and healthy about that?
Metal isn’t recycled. Metal isn’t organic so it doesn’t degrade or decompose in landfills.
How about wood and paper? Yes they are healthier for you and they are all natural. And they do decompose naturally.
But think of all the trees you have to cut down to get wood and paper.
Although one YouTuber I saw said, “Actually, using wood causes MORE trees to be planted in my country, because in my country (which was of course some healthy Scandinavian country, Scandinavians are always ahead of the rest of the world, but I don’t remember which country it was) whenever a tree is cut down we plant TWO trees to take its place.”
Ok so maybe using wood and paper is sustainable in his country.
But so far this does not happen in the rest of the world, as far as I’m aware. And paper is recycled (in theory), but like everything else I doubt most of the paper is recycled here. Most probably just goes to landfills.
I do admit I haven’t done my research and I don’t have the faintest idea what happens to the garbage in my country or in my city. But I have seen in documentaries (vague documentaries that unfortunately I can’t cite because I don’t remember which documentaries they were, if you’re a stickler about people always revealing the source of everything they write about in blogs) that in most places around the world countries and municipalities don’t recycle.
(By the way if you’ve got some sort of physical evidence that I am wrong and that in fact most countries around the world do indeed recycle scrupulously, by all means, please, I’m completely open to you leaving a comment about it and showing me your evidence. If not, please refrain from leaving snide or picky comments about how I don’t document my blog posts accurately or cite the sources of my information. Your comment will not be approved. This is my blog and I write what I want in it. If you don’t agree with me you are free to not read it. Ok rant over.)
As I was saying, even if you do live in a country that recycles a high percentage of its rubbish, you still have to take into account the fact that the vast majority of the world doesn’t. So although as an ideal for a future utopian world, I don’t think it’s very sustainable or feasible at this point in time for most of us.
Then you could say that, well, paper is organic so even if it isn’t recycled at least it will biodegrade in landfills. Well I guess looking at it that way that could be true.
Still, when you buy something wrapped in paper, what do you do with the paper? You still throw it away, right?
I don’t think you’d reuse that tiny little piece of wrapping paper 100 times in order to be more sustainable, just simply because it wouldn’t last. It would soon tear or disintegrate.
Then how about wood? Wood is not recycled.
So if you throw away something wooden, which you will have to do at some point because wooden items don’t last a long time, at the most a few years maybe.
Maybe a wooden house can last several decades but in the end wood always deteriorates. So then what happens to the wood that you throw away?
Well once again zero wasters will say oh but wood is biodegradable so it will just biodegrade in landfills. Yeah but how long does that take?
So it is still not being recycled, even though it’s true it’s not as bad for the planet because at least it will biodegrade at some point.
But in the meantime, as you can’t recycle it, you still have to cut down more trees to create wooden objects to replace the ones that broke.
Then we’ve got glass. I like glass. I try to use it a lot because I like it.
Glass is recyclable and is probably one of the easiest things to recycle.
I don’t actually know the details about how glass containers are reused. But I imagine that the glass you throw away into the green coloured bins is being reused.
But most of the world doesn’t recycle. So you are only being zero waste by using glass if you live in a place where people recycle.
Or if you hoard up every single glass item that ever enters into your home in order to reuse it. But on the other hand, if you do that, you risk getting accused of suffering from hoarding disorder, as well as accumulating that other most undesirable scourge in life: CLUTTER! Gasp!
At any rate, even so, you are probably being more healthy if you use wood, paper, metal or glass, because you are not filling your home and your family with the toxic chemicals present in plastic. So you might want to say you are zero waste for health reasons.
But I don’t really see that it is more sustainable in the world we live in today. If the whole world recycled close to 100% of our waste and in every country they planted 2 trees for every tree that they cut down, then it could be sustainable.
In conclusion, much as I do in general believe in it and support it, I think it’s impossible to remove all the plastic from your life.
People say, well my ancestors lived for thousands of years without plastic.
Well, let me tell you, my parents were born over 90 years ago and they used plastic.
Just about everything that is essential in our lives is made of plastic. Most objects in our homes are made of plastic. Most of the things you can buy anywhere come in plastic containers.
Our food comes in plastic. Your mobile phone and your computer are made of plastic. The screen you’re reading this blog on is made of plastic or has a plastic support. You wouldn’t be able to read this blog if you didn’t use plastic at all.
Appliances are made of plastic. Medical equipment is made of plastic.
If you’re about to die from COVID-19 and the respirator is your only hope for survival you’re not gonna say, no don’t give me the respirator it’s made of plastic!
Buddhists say you should do everything in moderation. So yeah, I do think zero waste is good — in moderation.
And always respecting those who don’t agree with you.
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