This post has been a long time coming!
I'm excited to share with you a little bit about why I've struggled with the term "Zero-waste" from the get-go, and how I've experienced that it's not a viable name for the movement as a whole. While I still use the term "Zero-waste" as a positive way to describe aspects of the lifestyle, I've also created a new name that truthfully reflects my lifestyle, the movement and community I'm committed to.
When I hear the term "Zero-waste", I instantly think "No waste. Nada. Zip. Zero," and I've come to find that so do many other people. There's really no way that anyone living in an industrial society can be 100% zero-waste! Zero-waste is actually a term to describe a circular economy. A circular economy is one that focuses on producing very little waste and pollution through intention and holistic design or, "Cradle to Cradle." Unlike the linear economy that we live in now, which is focused on single use and disposibilty with no regard for the environment, or "Cradle to Grave," a circular economy creates things that are made to last, be repaired, or re-enter the environment without causing damage. As all life on our planet is connected, interdependent, and moves through cycles of life, death and rebirth, I've decided that the term "Circular Living" best represents my way of being in the world. I'm all about living holistically-- like a circle, like the planet, and closin' the loop-- livin' that Circular Lifestyle!
In sharing Circular Living, I of course want to reach people who are environmentally conscious, but most importantly, my target audience is those who are not. A Circular Lifestyle is not a competition or about perfection, but is inclusive. It's all about baby steps and doing what we can! We come from different ways of being in the world, and there isn't "one way" to reduce our impact on the planet. Everyone has something to offer, a creative way in which we can reduce our waste.
Some have mentioned that the term "Zero-waste" intimidates them and they say, "There's no way I could live Zero." This is a very valid feeling, as "Zero-waste" can come across extreme and radicalizing. Comparing ourselves against a standard that can never be fully attained is not sustainable. Some have further expressed that if they can't live Zero, then they feel defeated from the start and end up not making any changes at all.
In the past when I shared with people that I lived a zero-waste life, their first response was often to prove me wrong in some way, and I don't fault them for doing so. Telling someone I live a "Zero-waste life" is just asking for it. "But do you still drive a car? Wipe your butt? Eat bananas? Use electricity?" Yes to all these questions! When I explain this way of being in the world, and remind myself and others that it's not about perfection, but simply about living with more intention and mindfulness, people are so on board!
As I mentioned, I still use and respect the term "Zero-waste." For example, when I make something at home without producing any trash, or when I go out to eat but bring my own containers to take leftovers home in, or when I bring my cloth bags to fill up on bulk foods, I call it zero-waste. I realize the bulk food was driven to the store (fossil fuels), it was packaged in boxes and paper (trees) or plastic bags (fossil fuels/chemicals) before it was emptied into the bulk bins; however, when I decided to buy it, I made a choice to not produce any more waste while doing so. When I say I did this "Zero-waste," that's what I'm talking about! I also use the term "Zero-waste" as a hashtag on Instagram to keep connected with the community.
When people ask me about my lifestyle now, I no longer use the term zero-waste. I say, "I live a Circular Lifestyle." I divert over 90% of my waste from landfill, and I'm over 90% plastic-free. I also don't support the palm oil industry, and I'm vegetarian. I shop secondhand first, I walk a lot, I ride my bike sometimes, I compost, I make my own body, cleaning, and laundry products, etc...I'm basically Laura Ingalls Wilder....Just kidding!
Circular Living is somewhat like an artichoke, it takes some effort, but eventually you get to the heart!