Is "Low Waste Shop" an Oxymoron?

 Perhaps you've seen this question, or one like it, posed to an Eco-shop, blogger, or influencer regarding low waste goods:

"You mean you want us to buy more stuff so that we can waste less?"

It's a valid point. Arguably the most important factor of a low waste lifestyle is reducing what you use in general. Many people make a big impact with just that one simple step.

However, for most of us, waste is ingrained in our daily habits, and particularly plastic waste -- from the products we use on our bodies, to the packaging for the food we eat, to all the little tools and toys that fill our homes. And that's where the low waste shop comes in. We want to provide the alternatives and resources you need to reduce that waste and help you live a happier, healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

Let's break down this perceived dichotomy between being a consumer and reducing waste...

Buying some things new can be part of a low waste lifestyle. "Being a consumer" versus "being low waste" is a false choice.

A popular zero-waste mantra is "use what you have." If you already have something that you can use to swap out single-use products, we hope you use it! But for anyone who doesn't already have alternatives to disposable and single-use plastics, acquiring reusable goods is often a necessary part of wasting less.

Buying things you need isn't bad.

A nuance that is perhaps not adequately considered in this question is that there is a pretty major difference between mindless consumption and intentional consumption. It would definitely be a true statement that mindless consumption is at odds with a sustainable lifestyle. But buying things that you need, that you will use for years, and that will help you lessen your environmental footprint, is not at odds with a sustainable lifestyle. Quite the contrary.

But buying things you don't need is not sustainable.

There are some low waste alternative goods, perhaps even some that we will carry in our shop, that you may not need. For example, maybe you don't need an on-the-go utensil set because you're good at anticipating when you will need utensils and you can just grab some silverware from home. Or maybe you don't need reusable facial rounds because you never used cotton balls or rounds in the first place. Or maybe you wouldn't actually use beeswax wraps because they are hand-wash only and you hate hand-washing things. What's useful to others might not be useful to you, and it's great that you recognize that!

Owning goods that align with your personal tastes is a great motivator to stay the course with a **sometimes** challenging lifestyle change.

In the same way that cool workout clothes in your favorite color can motivate you to exercise more, reusable goods that compliment your personality and your tastes can motivate you to use them more and keep them on hand for those unexpected moments when single-use items are most tempting.

Making purchases is one of the most effective ways to influence a better world.

As the wise Emma Watson said,

"As consumers we have so much power to change the world by just being careful in what we buy."

And similarly, one of the B Corporation taglines is,

"It's not a dollar. It's your ballot."

The beautiful thing about mindful purchases is that they send a message about your values. Yes, buying things second-hand is generally preferable over buying new, and using what you have is preferable to buying second-hand. But it's pretty cool that when you do have to resort to buying new, there's a special benefit -- you're "casting a vote." So instead of feeling guilty, celebrate your voice!

Purchasing choices have already made a difference -- organic food is now cheaper and more accessible, plant-based milks are eating up dairy's market share, more and more businesses are realizing that customers are prioritizing sustainable practices and they're falling all over themselves to claim that they're the greenest (even if they're not). We are changing the market, and that's powerful.

We all have the same goal: to influence a more sustainable world. If your method is avoiding purchases entirely, that's great. And if your method is buying reusables to help you avoid disposables, well that's great too.

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