The Zero Waste movement seems to be exploding across the world, which is fantastic. Our own Zero Waste Facebook group in Ireland has grown from a few hundred last year to over 5,000 now! Our group focusses on very practical advice on where to buy things sans packaging or good quality, long-lasting items to invest it when replacing items but this doesn’t always tally with portrayals of Zero Waste that i see in the media. Often articles on Zero Waste focus on the aesthetics of the movement; labeless mason jars, cloth produce bags, stainless steel water bottles, and increasingly a sense that there is ‘right way’ to do Zero Waste.
Lets face it, Zero Waste is unachievable. So anyone aiming to produce absolutely no-waste at all, particularly in Ireland, is in for disappointment. That’s why a lot of people in the Facebook group talk about Zero Waste in terms of a journey. We’re all on a journey to reduce the amount of waste we create, whether packaging, food or energy and the choices that you make on your journey will be different to the choices that I make. In many instances it’s not about choosing the best option but the ‘least bad’ one, which, even more frustratingly, changes as technology advances and new research emerges. All we can do it our best.
Even the whole idea of buying second-hand stuff is up for debate. Some argue that buying second-hand mass-produced items supports a market for them, thereby ensuring their continued production. Instead they suggest that buying new items from companies that have invested in sustainable, close-loop, low waste production systems is a helping a move towards more sustainable practices.
I’m not sure the whole issue of sustainability is as black and white as this. Is buying one organic mattress from a supplier in Europe more or less sustainable than buying a standard mattress that’s been shipped in bulk to an Irish retailer? I don’t know the answer to this and I don’t have time to work it out. I’m just going to make a decision based on my values and be done with it and if at some stage in the future I find info that persuades me that I made the wrong choice, so be it. I did my best.
My advice is not to worry too much about this. Make decisions based on your values and the information you have to hand. Both may change in the future and if they do so too will your decisions and if anyone criticises your choices just tell them you’re doing your best and find someone nice to talk to instead.