Living Zero-Waste: Mindful Consumption as an Extension of Our Yoga Practice
The Zero-Waste movement has been growing in prominence lately and, on the surface, you may have seen some evidence of it in your immediate social circle or online communities. Reusable fabric shopping bags, metal drinking straws, water bottles that keep beverages warm or cold for a whole day, and all kinds of back-to-basics products – all intend to curb the patronage of single-use (i.e., disposable) goods, mostly plastic, that end up in our landfills and polluting our lands and oceans. Skeptics may scoff at it as another passing trend, and for those who do work towards living zero-waste, it can also be daunting to think that efforts may be futile. After all, decades of consumerism, and with our fast-paced lifestyles creating the demand for convenience products that are often disposable and/or wrapped in plastic, have made “healing the earth” a Sisyphean endeavor.
Start somewhere, anywhere. Start where it’s easy.
If we have hard-core zero-waster friends who compost and produce only a mason jar’s worth of trash a month – that may make us feel discouraged because we can’t possibly do that much! But the good news is, anyone can start on a zero-waste journey by looking at the few things we can easily change, some things we may already be doing right now without us noticing. The list below is by no means exhaustive, but simply attempts to illustrate the many ways we can take baby steps.
We don’t need to buy fancy products to replace everything we have. In fact, getting caught in the trap of buying new, pretty things labeled “zero-waste” may even defeat its very purpose. Instead, think about how you can avoid acquiring things that will potentially end up as trash in the first place.
- Let every purchase occasion be a mindful exercise. Ask – do I really need it now? Is it something I can use for a very long time?
- Refuse plastic straws from restaurants when you can drink straight from the glass, decline when the store offers to pack something in a plastic bag
- Stop getting freebies at events
- Politely explain to friends and family that you would rather not receive things as gifts on your birthday or on Christmas.
What can we do less of to avoid creating waste?
- Can I lessen food waste by remembering to eat them before they go bad?
- Can I lessen the packaging I throw out by buying products in bulk or buy products with no packaging at all?
- Do I really have to buy multiple kitchen appliances that have overlapping functions when one appliance will do?
- Can I shop online less frequently to lessen packaging and the carbon footprint it takes to deliver?
- Can I buy the best quality product I can afford so it will last me a long time (maybe forever)?
REUSE AND REPAIR
Avoid single-use products as much as you can, use something over and over until it is beyond repair.
- Bring your own water bottle, ask for your coffee to be served in a “for here” mug at your favorite cafe, maybe even bring your entire cutlery set. We may think disposables are convenient and reusables still consume water and time – but what is not so obvious is that the amount of water, resources and time it takes to manufacture a plastic spoon is far greater than what it takes when we spend a few seconds washing it.
- Look into the other things we use every day and ask if you can use something reusable instead – washcloths instead of toilet paper, a loofah instead of a dish sponge, menstrual cups or washable pads, old-fashioned refillable razors, an electric toothbrush, perhaps?
Contrary to common notion, just because something is biodegradable does not mean it will naturally break down and return to the earth. Food waste and other organic materials need to meet certain conditions in order to decompose. Unfortunately, these conditions are not present if we throw them in the landfill –instead, non-decomposed organic waste turns into methane gas which is a major contributor to climate change, and it will make it all the more difficult to recycle the non-biodegradables that are there with it.
- The best solution is composting – turning organic waste into soil that creates life. This may be a huge(maybe not immediately feasible) project for a lot of us, but definitely worth looking into.
- And when you have the fertilized soil, the next step is to grow your own plants! Simply picking your food from your own garden is one way to reduce trips to the market and the packaging that comes with it.
Recycling is at the bottom of this list because ideally, it should be the last resort. The heart of the zero-waste ideal is to avoid the creation of waste in the first place, especially since we do not have centralized recycling centers in our communities. We also need to keep in mind that materials can only be recycled a few times and after that, will eventually end up as waste anyway. A few notes:
- If you can, collect rainwater for use in flushing toilets, cleaning or watering plants.
- Clean recyclables thoroughly! Materials cannot be recycled if they are disposed along with organic matter or non-recyclable materials. And as a consideration to garbage collectors, we can make things easier for them by cleaning and sorting our trash properly.
- Consider making eco-bricks out of non-biodegradable and non-recyclable materials. Stuffing them inside PET bottles not only create useful materials for simple building structures in communities, but for some, also is a therapeutic exercise in becoming more aware of how much waste is created and how to further reduce it next time. Click here [insert link https://www.facebook.com/groups/buhayzerowaste/permalink/1004507313050274/] to know more about eco-bricking.
Much like starting a yoga practice, sometimes all it takes is to keep the mind open to new ideas, building good habits and committing to the practice. We need to look at things in a different way and become more aware of the impact our actions have on others and our surroundings – we are all connected after all.
- Remember that we are responsible for the things we own – even up to the very end of their useful life. It is also our responsibility to dispose of them properly.
- Connect with like-minded people to help you along your journey and to educate yourself. One way is by joining online communities such as Buhay Zero-Waste.
- Eat a plant-based diet – not only is it proven healthier, it also helps reduce the waste produced and resources consumed by animal agriculture. Bonus – being vegan is in line with our innately compassionate nature towards other sentient beings.
- Do not underestimate the power of collective small efforts. Even the least you do can inspire others and create a ripple effect. Vote with your peso – try to buy produce from the market or bulk stores, or eat only at restaurants that provide reusable utensils. Businesses will catch on and evolve when they see the demand.
- Finally, be forgiving of yourself and others in this journey. Like yoga, it is not about perfection. While “zero-waste” as term sounds so lofty a goal – think of it as a means to an end, where the end is living joyfully according to how you want the world to become.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” – Robert Swan, OBE
Glady teaches FNR, Gentle Flow and Restoratives at Urban Ashram. She is a self-proclaimed cat whisperer and a full-time slave of The Ginger White Quartet (all rescued cats), animal welfare advocate and an eternal dabbler in various artistic pursuits.