Just like Lil Dicky, I too love the Earth.
But here’s the thing. Being the typical, 20-something millennial that I am, I find myself constantly on-the-go, making lifestyle choices that aren’t always environmentally-friendly.
For instance, because I need a constant stream of coffee in my system, I generate A LOT of coffee cup waste. Or, because I don’t like to cook, I buy a ton of takeout, which means I use about a million plastic containers and individual soya sauce packets on a weekly basis (I like sushi, okay — sue me!).
So, after years of living in a state of cognitive dissonance, I decided to confront my wasteful habits and try something completely different.
I tried going zero waste. Just for a week, to see if I could do it.
In case you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t heard of zero waste — it’s this trend that’s becoming quite popular, where you drastically reduce your landfill waste and severely limit your recycling.
To be honest, it was really hard. But I learned a few things along the way that I thought were worth sharing, in case you’re interested in trying it out too.
Lesson 1: It’s going to cost some money to get started
When day one of my zero waste week rolled around, I was slightly underprepared. I did a quick shop at Nada, which is a zero waste grocery store in Mount Pleasant, and I had to buy a bunch of glass jars and cloth bags to put my groceries in.
Granted, it was a one-time purchase, and I will continue to re-use these jars and bags, but it was a large sum of cash that I had to throw down to get started on my zero waste journey. Be prepared to shell out a few dollars when you first get started.
Lesson 2: It’s going to take time to break old habits
I didn’t realize how many things I do on auto-pilot until I started this experiment. I have so many habits that I don’t even think about that generate waste. When I was roasting veggies, I automatically grabbed a pack of tinfoil and used it to coat the bottom of the pan.
I was at work and someone offered me a protein shake that was in a small plastic cup, and without thinking, I grabbed one.
I had to really slow down and be more intentional in my everyday life, so I could catch myself before I engaged in a wasteful habit.
Lesson 3: People will likely be supportive of your lifestyle change
When I told people about my zero waste experiment, everyone was very supportive and excited to hear about it. A lot of my coworkers were interested in trying it out too.
Telling people made me feel more accountable, so I recommend telling your friends and family — and who knows, maybe they’ll end up joining you!
Lesson 4: It’s going to be challenging grabbing to-go food
I meal prepped for the week, so I didn’t eat out too much during the experiment, but one day I thought it would be interesting to try and get take out, just to see how hard it would be.
I went to a restaurant near my office and tried to order a burrito, and asked if they could put it in a Tupperware that I had brought with me. They were extremely nice about it, but they said they couldn’t make their burritos without using paper.
I ended up getting tacos instead, and they let me use my Tupperware, but it was a good reminder that zero waste comes with some compromises (if you know me, you know how much I love burritos — this was a massive compromise for me).
Lesson 5: You’re going to feel like a million bucks, but you’re going to have to give up some things you love
Even though it was a challenging week, I felt really good about limiting my landfill waste and just being more intentional about my consumption. Granted, it was only for a week, so it was way easier than if I had decided to make the switch full time. Still, it was a great way to get a glimpse into the zero waste lifestyle, to see what my life would be like should I choose to give up landfill waste permanently.
Am I fully converted now, you ask? Absolutely not.
I have a long way to go before I can kiss my wasteful habits goodbye, but I’m way closer to the zero waste life than I’ve ever been. For instance, I’m definitely getting more comfortable bringing around my travel mug, so these days, I’m sipping my Americanos guilt-free!
That’s something, right?