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Zero-Waste: Is That A Helpful Term?

The other day, our kids were at school, so my husband and I took a rare walk just the two of us. Like many couples these days, our conversation turned to current events and the upcoming election. We discussed climate change and the need for the United States to re-join the Paris Climate Agreement. He said that big, government moves must happen in order to make a difference. I immediately thought of GreenLifeNH and our aim of “Inspiring Positive Change Toward a Greener Tomorrow.” Sure, strong federal policies are imperative, but we can also do things on a personal level. Collectively, we can make a difference. For example, think of how many plastic bags have been avoided since bringing your bags to the store has became more mainstream. It’s not a law in many places, but it stills happens and helps the Earth.

It would be dishonest to say that all of my home’s earth-friendly habits were immediately welcomed and embraced. It took a while to get this house on-board with composting, dousing everything in castile soap and saying goodbye to paper towels. We still keep a few paper towels on hand for “emergencies” (they’re hidden away in order to avoid thoughtless use) and sometimes Windex really does work the best. But, nevertheless, our routines have evolved over the past few years, one step at a time. As I mentioned here, sometimes people initially balk at new ideas and then slowly grow to accept and enjoy them.

Take-out has been a source of happiness for us during the pandemic. We order-in about once a week and recycle and compost a lot of the packaging. I also think we should be supporting small, local businesses during this time. But is it zero-waste? No

During our walk, my husband also shared that he finds the term “zero-waste” unrealistic. Does it make people afraid to embrace this type of lifestyle? It might. No matter how hard we try, waste and trash happen because we live in the world and can’t be perfect all of the time. Not to mention, we are also living through a global pandemic. Protecting our mental health is important too.

A recent morning after I’d been working and the girls had been playing. Some of our toys were handed-down, others were purchased new. Honestly, some broken pieces will likely end-up in the trash. But we will also pass a lot onto others.

So what can do? Should we change the term from zero-waste to less-waste? Maybe we should! Take one step at a time – do a trash audit, buy some fabric napkins, eat less meat. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And if the term “zero-waste” makes you uncomfortable, say good-bye to it! Embrace the term “less-waste” instead. Or, better yet, call it nothing and just keep truckin’.

– Rachel

*The “Real Change” photo was borrowed from @sherylsandberg

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