Can You Live a Truly Zero-Waste Life?

An organic toothbrush. How many people own one of these?

I doubt it.

(Okay just kidding, maybe you can)

I’m not a pessimist, but I’m just being real here. Recycled tissue paper is expensive, and looks ugly. Which hotel would adopt that? And reusable handkerchiefs — please, unless you’re from the 60’s and ride a limo everywhere you go, I doubt you’ve got the ambition to use one. What about water bottles? Well, let’s see you run a 1000-person tournament and somehow not hand out a single plastic bottle.

A zero-waste lifestyle is not easy to embrace at first glance. Imagine I took away every single trash can in your house, and only left open the opportunity for you to recycle or compost. You’d have to make a lot of changes to the food you buy, the products you use, and the way you deal with every little thing in your house. I’ve seen some people do the zero waste jar challenge, where all their trash goes inside a tiny mason jar, as a way of visualizing just how little trash they produce by considering zero-waste options. People do it! It’s just not common.

Now, although it’s not that easy, I assure you, it’s not that difficult either. It just means doing a bit of research to considerate alternatives.

I had no idea stainless steel straws existed. Nor did I know bamboo compostable toothbrushes are on the market. I also had no idea about organic Castile soap. It makes sense, since these items aren’t in very high demand, and aren’t at the forefront of store shelves. You gotta do a bit of research to know there are a lot more options out there than you think.

You see, these things are all possible to implement in your daily life, but for the average Joe, they’re simply impractical. Moreover, they’re difficult to implement at a systemic level namely because they are costly, not aesthetically pleasing, or require drastic change in the way things currently run.

For instance, many hotels distribute individually portioned coffee and tea (and milk, creamer, etc.) in small, disposable plastic containers. This is convenient when someone wants to quickly make some coffee and head out, and it’s also convenient because it eliminates the need to approximate measurements. But it does inevitably lead to plastic waste.

I’m not saying systemic change is beyond us, but I do think it will only manifest by way of gradual implementation. An excellent example of one step forward is the organization known as Clean the World Foundation, which has a hotel recycling program for slightly used soap bars and bottles discarded by guests. You see, they’re not eliminating plastic bottles, but at the least, they are addressing the issue of needlessly trashed (and perfectly usable) soap products.

Eventually, initiatives like this can translate into further systemic change, like the use of organic soaps, recycled toilet paper, or the installation of bidets in washrooms to eliminate the need for toilet paper entirely.

At the individual level, I think we should do our part by considering at least a few zero-waste alternatives to typical household items. Some change is better than no change!

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