by Tammy Taylor~
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my low-waste/no-waste journey. I’ve been on this path for quite a few years. I was environmentally sensitive since way, way, way before it was the ‘in’ thing to do.
I started off by reducing my trash and redirecting appropriate materials into the recycling bin instead of the landfill. Then I started eliminating plastic shopping bags by taking reusable bags to the grocery store. Let me tell ya, that baffled many a cashier back then! That was followed by learning to compost, cook from scratch and repurpose things.
Over the years I’ve worked into the stage I’m at now, purposely refusing single-use items when possible and pushing for PRE-cycling before recycling. I realize my journey may not be everyone else’s journey. Still, several friends & family members sometimes bristle with discomfort when they’re doing their own thing. They often apologize for using plastic or disposable items when I’m around. What? Do they think I’m judging them? Hopefully not!
I’ve always felt that each family is in a different place, with totally different needs than another family might require. When I was a young mom I worried more about PTA meetings & homework schedules than figuring out how to get my groceries home without a plastic bag. And I was more focused on getting my kids fed a well-balanced meal back then than trying to figure out how to repurpose a tin can. I worked into my current level of environmentalness one step at a time. Gently as my life situations changed, I changed too.
We All Have Specific Limitations
Even now after all these years our home is certainly not waste free. I’m as limited as anyone else by either location, availability, financial aspects or something else. We’re all just doing the best we can within our own specific set of limitations, right??
We’ve all seen ’em – those amazing zero-wasters who keep a year’s worth of trash in a tiny glass jar. That’s certainly not me! Oh sure I’m encouraged and inspired by their journey, and there’s always room for me to improve. But I don’t obsess about every tiny thing. I’m not gonna lose sleep because I had to buy bread this week or couldn’t figure out how to repurpose yet another bread-bag twist tie.
Although I’d love to be able to bring NO trash at all into our home, living out here in the boonies means I don’t have a fantastic bulk-food store around the corner. And driving to those places in faraway cities every time I shopped would do more environmental harm than buying what’s available from our local grocery store. And shopping locally also supports our tiny town’s small businesses. That’s important to me too! So I typically grow as much as possible in our garden, preserve as much as I can from its abundance and buy the rest locally in as waste-free manner as possible.
My Home Is Not Waste Free
So yes I actually buy my milk in a plastic jug and my coffee in a plastic canister. I sometimes buy veggies in a can or frozen fruit in a plastic bag too. Heck when it’s too hot to bake bread, we buy it. In a plastic bag even!
We still have a recycling bin. And even though our tiny waste basket only needs to be emptied about once every 2 weeks, we still produce trash.
I Promise, I’m Not Judging You!
But sometimes when someone brings something to me in a plastic shopping bag, they stammer on about how they will be happy to take that bag away so we won’t have plastic in the house.
Their discomfort makes me uncomfortable as well. I’d certainly never pooh-pooh a gift of home-grown veggies because they’re gifted to me in a plastic shopping bag! Heck I’ve already got plastic in the house. Our toilet paper is purchased in large plastic bags. Those bags are carefully repurposed for wastebasket liners. And various things come to me in plastic shopping bags which are also repurposed to wastebasket liners or to gift veggies from my garden to someone else. If something has served its purpose & is destined for the landfill, I’ll do my best to repurpose it first that’s for sure!
My Journey May Not Be Your Journey
But this push toward waste-free living, it’s my journey, but maybe not a journey for those closest to me. I certainly don’t expect them to be forced onto the same path I’m on just because they’re my friend! Any more than I want to be forced onto their path due to our friendship. We’re all different, and isn’t that a wonderful thing?? I’ve often said many different flowers makes for a more beautiful bouquet of life…You’re interested in the school board? Childhood or adult literacy? Opening a dog park? Awesome – what great causes worthy of personal action. My energy is funneled elsewhere but it takes all of us living the life that speaks to our hearts to make the world go ’round. We all need to pursue those causes we’re passionate about & offer our efforts & talents to those causes to make the world a better place #amiright?
So if I come for supper and you reach for a paper towel – really there’s no need to stammer an apology or think I don’t approve. Your home is your home, and your journey is yours too. I’m just happy to be joining in for a great meal, wonderful conversation and more importantly the special personal connection. I promise I’m not judging your level of environmentalness based on my own journey!