Practise Makes Progress: Unexpected gains of Zero Waste lifestyle

By Joanna Dowd

Zero Waste lifestyle is a process, one that requires patience and being kind to ourselves. What brings us to this movement is knowledge of how bad the condition of our planet is. And that comes with a certain sense of urgency. But our society is not set up for sustainable living and we quickly discover that changing all our ‘bad’ habits yesterday is just not going to happen. Tackling one change at the time is a more sustainable approach, as I strongly believe that, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need billions of people doing it imperfectly.” – Anne Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef. ​ My family of four and I started our journey 3 years ago, and living a zero waste lifestyle has absolutely changed my life. Here are the main gains I have found from following this path:

Having less of an environmental impact on our planet makes me feel good about myself as a being. It’s like I get to be the superhero EVERY SINGLE DAY! That alone makes me want to do more! Often when I use my produce bags, my containers and jars, people make comments about it. I enjoy engaging in these conversations – it boosts my confidence.
My biggest gain from this new lifestyle is the mindfulness that it brings into my everyday routine. Every time I remember to bring my reusable bag or my coffee cup, I slow down staying focused, not distracted. Every time I put my food scraps into my compost bin I am reminded of my connection to nature and its wonder.
Reducing our waste requires us to change our habits and make different choices. But this means we have the opportunity to live our values in little ways every day. And having a meaningful life, for me, is an endless source of happiness.
​Life became simpler. Living this lifestyle means that a lot of the choices are just off the table. And having fewer choices can be a gift, it reduces our mental workload. Shopping only for necessities cuts out all the mindless browsing… and here we come to mindfulness again… We have more time, more quality to our family life together.
We eat healthier, wholesome foods more often. The more packaged our food is, the less healthy it is. We buy local, fresh produce that doesn’t have to be packed with preservatives on its journey to my plate. We also support local business with the way we spend.
As I said, our society isn’t set up for sustainability and slow living. To achieve my goals, I often have to go a bit extra, often say ‘no’ to things. And in doing so I get to exercise problem solving on a daily basis.
We don’t use any disposable items in our home. Our kitchen wipes, dish scrubbers, napkins, handkerchiefs, menstrual pads, sandwich wraps, straws etc. are all washable. And that shortens my weekly shopping list considerably. Buying only what you planned for, eliminates impulse buys and saves €€€.
​I have two daughters. When they learn my habits, I know they will grow up to be considerate, respectful and compassionate people. They learn to practice mindfulness and exercise problem solving. Hopefully it will be enough for them to be able to fix all our mistakes… Fingers crossed 😉
​I have a much greater understanding of the consequences of the way we consume. I am more mindful with my choices. But I also value the things that I have.
Living this lifestyle has definitely changed the way I view the world around me. I hope this will inspire you to look differently too.
(Photo submitted by author.) “If I forget my reusable coffee cup, I just take five minutes to sit down at the cafe to enjoy my coffee. In non-pandemic time that is..”
(Photo submitted by author.) “Every time I remember to bring my cloth bag, I practise mindfulness.”