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3 things I wish I knew when starting to live zero waste

When I started my switch to a ‘zero-waste’ lifestyle, I went all in. I went pretty much cold turkey and was really hard on myself. This wasn’t good for my mental health in the long run, and now I never tell people to make the switch as I did. 

kate holds a microphone giving a presentation

I don’t think of myself as living zero waste anymore, instead think of it as low waste. For me, this is a much healthier space to be for my mental health and it’s also way more realistic (I’ll get into that later).

I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way and thought I’d share three things I wish I knew before starting out on this journey.

1. There’s no such thing as zero waste

That’s right - you heard me correctly. There is no such thing as zero waste. Everything ultimately creates waste. When I was at my peak of living zero-waste and keeping a trash jar, it wasn’t the whole picture, instead just a snapshot into some of the waste I was creating.

For example:

  • there was no medical waste in the jar (unsanitary)
  • I had a dog, Star, at the time, and obviously didn’t keep her poo bags in the jar (gross), and her dog food bag wouldn’t even fit in the jar! 
  • None of the waste that was created upstream (before I got the product) was in the jar.

Zero waste is a great thing to strive to as a society, but nothing will ever be truly zero-waste.

kate holds a jar of trash at the camera

2. It’s OK to make mistakes

I was always extremely hard on myself if I ‘slipped up’ and had to buy something that came with some garbage, or, for example, forgot to ask for no straw at a restaurant. As you can imagine, this was not a healthy headspace for me! Mistakes happen, and it’s ok. Now I use mistakes to reflect back on and see what I can learn from them to avoid making that mistake again.

3. It will evolve

As you go through life, there are different things available and accessible to you, also your life changes! This is all OK and part of the process.

a person wearing a Tare Shop apron pours nutritional yeast from a big jar into a smaller jar

Maybe you’ve moved away from somewhere that offers refilling as an option for you. There’s not much you can do about that! Instead of being upset at yourself, get what you can with the most eco-friendly packaging, ask the stores you shop at to offer refill products, and find different things that you can do to lessen your impact!

In our family, we’re about to welcome our first kid into our lives. I know my life is about to change drastically, but also have no idea how it will change or what our baby will be like! We likely will use some disposable diapers for the first little bit before switching to cloth diapers, and I’m totally ok with that. We’ll probably have some ziplock bags of food that we’ve prepared or that’s been prepared for us by friends and family, and again, that’s OK! 

If you’re looking for some more inspo on living low-waste check out our blog post on Tips for Shopping Zero Waste

PS. wondering why we still use the term zero-waste still? The honest answer, SEO (search engine optimization)! Zero-Waste is a very trendy term, so we still use it!

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