Taking a Business Ethics class in my college years was a monumental moment to say the least. It opened my eyes on how wicked modern civilization is towards the environment. I felt utter shame and guilt to the point where I couldn’t even look at the water bottle I bought before the class in front of me. As I threw it away, I pledged that it would be my last ever plastic bottle I would ever use in my life. Lol.
When researching more into a new lifestyle, I got exposed to the so-called ‘zero-waste’ movement, which is heavily influenced by the owner of Package Free Shop (one of the biggest green retailers in the United States), Lauren Singer. She claimed to have fit six years worth of her waste into a tiny mason jar. Damn, was I inspired. Even though it felt kind of off that she lives in a rather luxurious apartment loft in New York (just from what I saw on YouTube)I began to worship this movement wholeheartedly, as I tried my best to live a low impact lifestyle.
Two years down the line, I can’t help but notice how fucking expensive this lifestyle is. Switching plastic-packaged strawberries that I used to buy for $3 to a recycled paper packaging for $5 is a hefty 70% price increase. I keep telling myself “it’s for La Madre Earth” and that it is ultimately worth it. I also realized how defensive I have become when people argue that this movement is not as impactful as I thought. It’s safe to say that I’ve put a general vibe of I-am-the-earth-warrior-and-you-know-nothing type of vibe.
With the recent Black Lives Matter movement becoming more apparent, I learned that the zero waste movement has its own flaws that I somehow can’t just pass through. Here’s my reasoning:
- Added emotional labor. I resonate with this one a lot. Refusing plastic straws in coffee shops, bringing my own boba cups, explaining to people who clearly don’t give two shits about this is, to be honest, tiring. One time, I brought my own jar to a supermarket and filled oats in it. It took 2 minutes for the cashier to figure out how to deduct the jar weight to get the actual weight of the oat.
She even had to call her supervisor for help. People who were lining up behind me were staring at me, annoyed because I made them wait longer. Awkward. Exerting way more energy to realize my ideal lifestyle seems really, really demanding.
- Most of the time, zero waste people have a super narrow perspective of their carbon footprints being limited to ONLY what they throw in the garbage. I constantly used my personal car to drive to somewhere within a mile range. My house uses an air conditioner during the summer. These all constitute the “invisible” waste.
But for some reason, I don’t feel guilty about doing it, simply because it’s “unseen.” It’s surreal how much energy zero waste people claim to save in certain areas of life, but completely disregard the rest. But no worries, keep on using your AC, drive your personal car, and soak up in a hot bath because nothing you can’t see goes to the landfill 🙂
- Green-feminine stereotypes / The eco gender gap
One study found that men could be disinclined to carry a reusable shopping bag for fear of being perceived as gay.
Similarly, a 2016 paper in the Journal of Consumer Research found that “men may be motivated to avoid or even oppose green behaviors in order to safeguard their gender identity.” Plastic Free Shop also has said that 90% of their customers are women. That being said, this movement is only effective to one segment of demographics, women! Hence the sad truth of the eco gender gap.
Nonetheless, I truly understand that there is no absolute right answer on how to minimize our carbon footprints. All initiatives come with risks, however, I keep asking myself whether this movement exists to solely help our dying earth or an underlying purpose of branding tactics to favor the new eco-friendly startups?
To all the environmentalist folks, keep on inspiring people to be a conscious customer but we need to push for radical changes so policymakers who don’t give a single f*ck about our earth (like the president of the United States who doesn’t believe in climate change) to wake up and start facilitating major plans towards a more sustainable world.
Until then, I strongly urge you to not stare at people who drink from a single-use plastic! (This is me talking to myself).