How does Zero-Waste Solve our Problems?
What is the point in living zero-waste? Is it really worth it?
Here we will lay out the problem and offer the solutions that you can do in order to make a real impact and understand why you are making these "environmental decisions" in your day-to-day life.
First of all, the problem: Climate Change & Pollution
Climate change is an accumulation of factors going on in the environment: greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and global warming, and microplastics in the environment and our oceans.
Greenhouse Gasses & Global Warming
This topic is one that you may already know well. It's the same story that pollution, specifically GHGs, are being released into our atmosphere and these particular gasses are great at trapping heat. This trapping of heat is called the greenhouse effect. It's resulting in rapid melting of the ice caps that the world relies on to regulate animal populations and the earth's overall climate.
It is not a new phenomenon, but people are only starting to pay attention now that physical indicators are starting to show. Did we wait too late? Not quite. According to this special report published by the IPCC, we still have 11 years to come together and do something about this mess. See headlines from that report here:
Global warming and melting of the glaciers is devastating to the environment for multiple reasons. It's not just the scare that our cities will drown because of rising sea levels.
A lot of animals in the arctic rely on the the ice not only for space to roam and live, but arctic krill need the ice sheets in order to live. Being the foundation of the food chains, it is critical that we maintain their habitat if anything.
With melting ice caps it means that not only are the waters warming, but the PH of that water is changing too. The water trapped in the ice is only fresh water, diluting the water it is melting into.
We don't understand much about our oceans and the real impact that can be a result of these actions. But one thing we do know is that the oceans regulate our global climate and weather patterns. One side effect of changing oceans is climate change, so that is why is it so sad that these extreme weather patterns and temperatures are becoming more frequent. Just watch, listen or read any news outlet.
Microplastics in our Oceans
Microplastics are really really tiny bits of plastic. Bits of plastic make their way into natural areas a couple ways: either through spills at recycling facilities, or new plastic manufacturing facilities; or from broken down plastic left to erode into our oceans and in natural landscapes.
Big pieces of plastic break down due to sun exposure and erosion, but they never decompose in the sense that they go "away". These tiny plastics eventually find their way into the ocean or other areas leaving wildlife vulnerable.
Animals mistake plastic of all sizes for food. Since animals do not digest plastic, their stomachs get filled up so much that there isn't any room left for real food, and they die of starvation. Every year this problem is killing 100,000 marine mammals. One scientist filmed an autopsy that she did on a bird who died of plastic in it's stomach. The video is disturbing, but we think it's crucial for people to see how big of a problem this is: watch it here.
If you are interested, here is a clip from the documentary A Plastic Ocean that helps to demonstrate how big of a problem this is.
Another problem with microplastics is that they are the perfect environment for toxins to latch onto. Their jagged edges keep toxins locked inside, so when whales or small animals like krill eat these microplastics they are absorbing all of the toxins. So even for animals that don't mistake plastics for food, they could be eating toxins that work their way up the food chain.
The Solution: Mindfulness & Zero-Waste
We always talk to people who say "there is so much doom and gloom around climate change, I don't know what I can even do". It is so easy to be discouraged and feel like nobody is working to solve the issue.
The reality is, you don't have to fight anyone. And you don't have to protest at every opportunity. And you don't even have to do clean-ups every weekend if you don't want to. Although all of these actions will help immensely, there shouldn't be any pressure to be "on" 100% of the time. Just by making change yourself and being outspoken and open about it, people will see and as always: monkey see, monkey do.
We are the changemakers of our generation, and by changing out own actions and living more mindfully and zero-waste we will encourage others to join us. I love this TedTalk about how to be a leader and start a movement.
The best thing you can do to be a leader in your community is to be the "lone nut" who starts off on their own (potentially be ridiculed) and encourage others to join as equals. How do we do that in this context?
1. Say no to single-use plastic, turn off the tap before cleaning up the mess. In this case though,
2. Cleaning up the mess isn't a bad idea. When doing clean ups pick up not only "sexy" garbage but also the teeny tiny bits that are on their way to do some damage too.
3. Don't rely on recycling, only 9% of what goes in your blue bin actually gets recycled. And this number is threatened by purchasing countries like China starting to restrict what waste they will accept.
3. Buy second hand when possible. Buy things from second hand shops or even trade things with your friends. Don't have friends willing to trade? Download Bunz, an amazing trading app in your city. Did you know that in most stores, clothes come packaged in single-use plastic with a new plastic hanger and all? Plastic is everywhere even if you don't see it. Textile factories also pollute water that villages rely on, often abuse child labour, and is one of the biggest culperates of waste worldwide.
4. Support local businesses and those with solid missions. These businesses are more in-tune with what you care about, use your dollar as a vote for what you believe in. Also, local businesses can be more accomodating and transparent if you're asking questions about their practices.
5. Be an advocate and educate people around you. You will be surprised how much you start to learn when you start to change your own behaviours. Familiarize yourself with your local recycling rules, because trust us, people will look to you for the answers.
There is a lot to consider. If you're still feeling lost, we have made a couple eBooks to help you sort out what you can do:
Still feeling overwhelmed? Reach out to us over email, we offer one-on-one help and training to propel you closer to your zero-waste goals. Also, sign up for our newsletter (below) to get monthly inspo and zero-waste tips