The Imperfect Journey to Mastering a Low Waste Lifestyle

Confession: My kitchen, at this moment, does not look remotely like any of those beautiful pictures you see on social media of perfect plastic-free, mason jar-full cabinets and refrigerators. In spite of all my efforts, I'm not there yet, and that is totally ok. The end of 2017 was the beginning of my personal low waste journey, and one of my 2018 New Year’s Resolutions was to start that process in my kitchen. This is what I’ve successfully done so far:
  • Started every grocery trip in the produce and bulk aisles to avoid buying a packaged version of something unnecessarily.
  • Put together a to-go kit with some stainless steel straws, the reusable utensils that I normally use for backpacking, and a cloth napkin.
  • Got a purse that can easily fit my to-go kit, a reusable water bottle, and a reusable tumbler --it’s cute too!
  • Started avoiding takeout from places that use plastic containers and tried my best to request no extra plastic utensils, bags, or condiments when I do get takeout.
  • Made DIY all-purpose cleaner and got some washable, reusable kitchen sponges.
  • Started choosing products in glass, aluminum, and paper over plastic.

All that felt pretty big, honestly! Just that stuff alone elicited more than a few eye rolls in my direction, and a lot of self-inflicted guilt trips when I ordered a drink forgetting it would come with a straw or got some Mexican food packaged in layers of styrofoam. Although, some of the times I got it right did get me some unexpected discounts and an impressed smile from a cool man-bunned bartender or two (take note, single friends)!

I began 2019 feeling like I had totally mastered the kitchen and was ready to move onto my bathroom (see earlier post on my plan to reduce waste in the bathroom), when I opened up my cabinet in January to find an onslaught of plastic *Cue Psycho shower screeches*. After all that work, my kitchen is nowhere near package-free. How? Why?

Well, has anyone noticed that it isn’t super easy to do all this? Changing so many of your deeply ingrained habits and trying to resist the constant stream of plastic coming at you from every angle is an uphill battle, to say the least (and sometimes you're at the movies, and you just want to get your favorite snack without having to be the weird girl asking for her pretzel bites in a mason jar you whipped out of your purse!). Even when you’re giving it a considerable amount of effort, achieving actual zero waste is a huge undertaking. BUT... think of all the waste I prevented with the actions I did take, however imperfectly. That's a lot of stuff not in a landfill right now, and that is big.

One of our philosophies at Good Intent is to not let perfection be the enemy of good. Hold on, I need to write that again -- do not let perfection be the enemy of good. If you are trying, you are making a difference. You are voting with your dollars and telling businesses that you want products that are sustainably sourced and minimally packaged. You are reducing your waste and challenging the norms in your communities, the ripple effects of which are incalculable.
So this is how I’m going to continue to try:

  • Plan ahead
    • Zero waste meals -- Start mindfully curating recipes with ingredients that can easily be found without packaging.
    • Ordering drinks -- Request beer, cider, or wine to make it easy or request no straw.
    • BYOSnacks -- Be ready with my own homemade or bulk section treats to avoid succumbing to the allure of a plastic-wrapped goodie.
  • Use up all the stuff in plastic packaging like spices, flours, a jumbo container of hand soap, etc and replace it with bulk or DIY-ed alternatives when they run out.
  • Compost -- We have an apartment and don’t have space for a worm bin, so I’d like to find a neighbor who will let us donate to theirs (ShareWaste is a cool app that helps connect people to neighbors who compost).

Lastly, I’m going to give myself a break and try not to feel guilty every time I let plastic infiltrate my home because I'm a human living in the 21st century and guilt is not sustainable. Can I get an amen??

Have you ever backslid on your low waste goals? You are definitely not alone. What are some of your low waste wins and struggles? Share in the comments below!

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