Thursday, June 2, 2016

Do you have to "Do Without" when living Zero Waste?


I've been getting stuck on this question for awhile now. Whether or not I feel as if I have to "do without" now that I avoid unnecessary food packaging and single use plastic. Do I really, though? I tell people "No" over and over but sometimes I think I do feel a little resentment for getting used to convenience in prepackaged food that I no longer purchase out of guilt. There are times I walk through the cookie/chip aisle like Charlie Bucket staring into the candy store. There are days when I'd do anything to have a Blizzard from Dairy Queen especially if the flavor of the month has something to do with brownie pieces. And s'mores! What's summer without s'mores? But it's all. packaged. in. plastic. I'm beginning to wonder if when I say "No" to that question I'm being truly honest with myself. I have so many associated memories to packaged food from my childhood that it makes me sad to think that I have to avoid it now to prove a point that waste is bad - that we should all just stop buying anything packaged in plastic. 

Summer is fast approaching and my husband and I camp, a lot. I absolutely cannot imagine a trip without sitting around the campfire roasting marshmallows for s'mores. It's what truly makes summer evenings fun! Yes, they are loaded with preservatives and a million other bad things but they're s'mores! Am I being selfish? Am I being just like every other consumer? Should I feel terrible for wanting to eat this childhood favorite going further? Should I just attempt to make all of the components from scratch to once again, prove a point of sustainability? Or should I just eat the damn s'mores? Shouldn't living a zero waste lifestyle be more about balance and happiness? Should I have to "give up" everything that makes me happy? Maybe those things never really made me happy. (I'm lactose intolerant so the Blizzard's definitely didn't after the fact) Maybe food is another form of materialism that we think is doing anything more than getting digested. I don't know. 

Now, there are a lot of items that I lust for but am happy I avoid later. I've cut a lot of junk out of my diet that, though I'd love to have in my mouth, I'm ever grateful for my resilience to avoid it. To me, that proves there's a difference. There are things that we want that are happy we don't use and there are things that truly add value to our lives - despite how insignificant and "plastic-packaged" they are. 

Yes, always look for alternatives to things you miss and at least give them a try - but if something in your zero waste endeavor is making your miserable, then my advice is to opt for happiness - not convenience - but happiness. 

My trash jar might get a little fuller this summer - but the amount I've reduced in last year, I think, merits some balance. I might feel a little different about this whole question down the road, but for now - I'm going to eat the damn s'mores.


6 comments:

  1. I love this post, and I completely relate. I'm sometimes very hard on myself if I do or buy something that's not eco-friendly or chemical-free. But the balance is so, so important. Sometimes my fiance will just tell me, "Think about it, you are still so much more eco-friendly than most people. You still make a big impact."

    We may not be able to give 100% all the time, but every little bit we do counts for a lot.

    Now go eat a smore! :)

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  2. In order for a zero waste lifestyle to be maintainable long term, I think you really have to give yourself some leeway and breaks. And while you could theoretically learn to make marshmallows from scratch, I say go ahead and buy a bag and eat them with joy! In my zero waste journey, I'm starting just with the things that I find very easy and letting the more difficult things go for now. Once I feel like I've gotten the easy things under my belt, I'll move on to more challenging things. I doubt I'll ever be one of those people who keep their waste in a mason jar but progress is progress!

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  3. One of my best 'do without' items is Paper Plates. For years (when the kids were small) we'd use paper plates. They were a weekly purchase right along with the food we put on them. Then there was the unrealized cost of replacing the cutlery. I discovered that when my pre-teen/teenage children began cleaning up after themselves they would just throw away the forks, spoons and knives with the paper plates. So when my husband complains about not having paper plates, I just ask him which is easier to live with real plates and silverware or paper plates and eating with his hands?

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    1. Oh no! I think we've all been there with certain disposable purchases. ;) I'm sure your husband didn't argue with that ultimatum. ha!

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  4. In every interview when asked what do I miss most, my answer is always s'mores. Thank you for this post. I'm seriously thinking about eating the hell out of some s'mores on my camping trip. Trash jar be damned.

    And, don't make marshmallows. Or graham crackers. It take SO MUCH TIME.

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  5. I wish I could give his article to some folks who follow zero waste like a cult. There is a HUGE path between absolute zero waste and all out disregard for the environment. On that path is room for an occasional s'more without guilt!

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