Is the Zero Waste Home only about waste reduction?

By October 21, 2010 No Comments

I received a long angry comment this week.

The commenter implied that our household was single minded… “Your lifestyle seems to be very austere” he or she wrote . “I’m wondering if you have a viewpoint on what we are all supposed to be doing here on planet earth? In addition to counting the band-aids in our trash cans, I mean”. Do you think your children find that it’s a good trade off… you know for them to become social pariahs in exchange for you indulging your obsession.”

Boy! How did this commenter even get to this blog? Why did “anonymous” even spend time reading it if he or she did not understand the subject of it? How can he or she insult our kids so freely, not knowing them or their social life.

I replied that not every blog is for everyone…

And yet, what sticks in my mind about this comment is: Who does this person really think we are? Does this person really think that we ONLY care about waste?

In other words: Is the Zero Waste Home only about waste reduction? As I mentioned before, if it was not for this blog, I would not even think about waste on a daily basis. No seriously, beside the frustrating unavoidable trash bits, zero waste has become a no-brainer and a natural, unconscious part of our life, it has become automatic. We take our bags / jars and try to make good buying decisions when we shop once a week, refuse the occasional freebies, send an occasional email of complaint, and ask our friends and family to respect our lifestyle when they come. That’s it. That’s as much time as our family would think about zero waste… had I not started writing (and thus elaborating) about it.

I personally love art, fashion, foraging, homemaking, organizing, volunteering, simplifying,… I could have written a blog on any of these. And yet I chose zero waste. Why? Because in my mind it sums it all up. It has made my art more focused, my foraged miner’s lettuce tastier, my thrifting more acceptable, my minimalism more understandable, my homemaking and volunteering more purposeful. For once in my life, it seems that all my interests and talents are connected. Plus, wouldn’t it be selfish not to share my trials (Lush deodorant), failures (vinegar hair rinse), successes (baking soda toothpowder) and finds (local bulk stores) with others?

Let’s face it. Zero waste is not just about waste: it’s about enjoying simple pleasures, eating local and seasonal foods, living a healthier lifestyle, enjoying the outdoors more, getting closer to the Earth, finding fulfillment in volunteering activities, and simplifying your life to make room for things that matter most to you. If it was not for the latter, I would have never found the time to write this blog.

The commenter went on to criticize my refusing laminated school work last June. “Did you know that a lot of parents don’t judge their children’s artwork on whether it will biodegrade easily?”, he or she asked. “Actually a lot of parents would treasure their childrens’ artwork and want it to last forever. But you rejected your childrens’ artwork because it had become the wrong kind of trash.”, the commenter wrote.

Is this comment supposed to make me feel some kind of guilt for the laminated work that I refused? I am sorry to disappoint the commenter even further, but I don’t. Through my simplifying business I witness numerous homes filled with “heirloom guilt” and I could not agree more with this quote from a New York Times article: “Barry Lubetkin, a psychologist and the Director of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in Manhattan, who has observed this [heirloom guilt] in a number of patients […]. It’s an unhealthy setup, in which people become “slaves to inanimate objects,” he says. “Once you’re defining it as something you can’t get rid of, you’re not in control of your life or your home.””

Let’s say I had succumbed to the heirloom guilt: Was I supposed to bring the laminated piece home (no matter its quality) and add it to a bin full of other laminated school stuff, which would then be passed on, along with the same guilt, to my kids children and grand children? Our life is not about stuff and we’re teaching our kids that life is not about stuff. So why should I allow teachers to fill my house with stuff? Shouldn’t parents and children have the right to choose what to keep? After all we receive a ton of artwork from school all year long, so why should the one that is laminated be kept? What if your child, was sick and not in the mood or simply botched that particular project? Yet it would get laminated for a whole family branch to keep forever? Does not make sense to me at all.

Let’s say my great grand kids felt liberated enough to discard it later: Do I want my kids laminated art to contribute to the great pacific garbage patch? Of course not.

I really don’t think I am being “very austere” here and I don’t think it was wrong to reject lamination. Quite the contrary, I think it would be more wrong NOT to reject it and allow this wasteful school practice to get out of control.

Accepting is condoning – just like shopping is voting. I cannot ignore (the easy way in life) the negative environmental impact of lamination, not to mention its expense. I would rather our public school money be better spent. If I don’t do anything about it, who will? Obviously not the commenter. So, I say it once again: “Be the change you want the world to be” – Gandhi.

The commenter also implied that my son was deprived because he loved band-aids and we ran out… hmmm.

Can one really be deprived of Spongebob band-aids? The Merriam Webster defines “deprived” as “marked by deprivation especially of the necessities of life or of healthful environmental influences”

Are Spongebob band-aids “a necessity of life or a healthful environmental influence”? Maybe to the commenter, but our son does not seem to think so. He has not asked for them since we ran out. Luckily, his livelihood does not rest on band-aids, but rather on more important activities (like playing football with his dad).

And if one dares to say that my children are deprived because we don’t have band-aids, can you say that my children are deprived because they also do not have video games (they play outside, build Lego’s, or learn to bake or paint instead)?

Can you say that my children are deprived because we don’t buy junk food (they eat healthy bulk or homemade meals instead)?

Can you say that my children are deprived because we don’t drive them to school in a warm/or air conditioned car (they get exercise and fresh air by riding their bikes instead)?

Can you say my children are deprived because we don’t give them vitamins (we believe in a healthy diet and outdoor activity instead)?

Can you say that my children are deprived because apart from a few french comic books they don’t have books (the local library has made thousands of books available to them and turned them into avid readers instead)?

Can you say that my children are deprived because they don’t have TV (they prefer to watch a commercial free Netflix movie instead)?

Can you say that my children are deprived because we do not keep ALL their artwork (together, we select and store our favorites)? By the way, our staircase is filled with them. See picture above.

Can you say my children are deprived because we don’t have trash cans in the house? Seriously.

I guess the answer to the questions above depend on the personal health and life standards you have set for your family.

We are not perfect and we are not 100% waste free. But we love what the zero waste lifestyle has done for our family beyond waste reduction. We hope that many more families will get to discover it for themselves. This is what this blog is really about. Sharing an on-going life changing experience. But my words will only make sense to you if you’re ready and willing to accept change. The commenter obviously is not. Are you?

Or if you started already, what has Zero Waste done for you beyond waste reduction?

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