The unexpected happened. You scrapped through Plastic-Free July and barely survived a few perfect days. Maybe you pulled off a perfect week and you suddenly can’t unsee all the plastic in your life anymore. Your frustration over not getting it perfect is symptomatic of any beginner who first attempts to go trash free. But in today’s blog, we will not be discussing any tips to help you.
- Because the truth is, no matter how hard you try, the “Take-Make-Trash” system is actually not designed for you to succeed at living zero waste. Which means that every little step you took to avoid making any trash is an act of real rebellion.
- You already have everything you need, to start a sustainable lifestyle, THE INTENTION to change. It’s “Intentional living” and not “a-perfect-mason-jar-with-years-of-trash Living”. The nitty-gritty of being perfect is something you learn along the way and slowly get accustomed to overtime. It could take several months, probably even years. The idealistic zero waste life is never possible in a 30-day challenge.
We can understand the anxiety of slow progress If you’re a perfectionist.
But there is still good news!
Unintentionally, you have developed some social skills in your attempts to go Plastic-Free. In your simple attempts to refuse single-use disposables, there are deeper things you have uncovered about people around you. This experience-based wisdom may be more important than any zero-waste tip you’ll ever hear from someone.
- You notice yourself struggling for the perfect words and eventually develop a standard response which can be the most informative in the least amount of time. We are told to just “REFUSE, REDUCE, REUSE” but the confused reactions of the closed ones around us are harder to tackle than the 3R of sustainability! You realize it’s not just about avoiding plastic and but it’s about wasted resources, and you update your explanation every time someone asks you “WHY?”
- You grow a lot of patience because not everyone is ready to handle the truth and even your most polite replies spark a defensive behavior. There is no point in winning these debates as you realize you can only lead by example. You soon discover for some people the best reaction after an explanation, is a smile.
- You acknowledge your laziness & begin to notice how most convenience-based services are the epicenter of the trash problem. You notice how it is connected to the grand scheme of problems and resolve to tackle your laziness rather than directly resolving to go zero waste first.
- You get comfortable being the quirky one in public. If normal is trashy, you’d rather be abnormal! Taking out your reusable box to store leftover food in a restaurant, making special requests, being that unforgettable consumer with quirky demands. You begin to start appreciating how standing out is not embarrassing, but empowering.
- You understand the importance of the “Right time & Right place”. You cringe secretly every time you see disposables being used by someone. You may not even be the one demanding it, but you know it may not be the right time to start talking about plastic pollution while someone is literally holding plastic. Silently sitting beside people who aren’t aware makes you feel like a non-smoker in a group of smokers. The discomfort reminds you even more of why you need to keep going! You decide to pick a later time to mention a polite suggestion.
- You start predicting questions every time you refuse disposables, and you may have even graduated to turning it into fun mind games. Each opportunity to refuse turns into a mini-presentation for everyone who makes the curious mistake of asking you “But why?”. You end up becoming the unintentional PR of the plastic-free movement in your social circles.
- You grow a massive appreciation for your mom’s homemade snacks and food items. All packaged junk food is off-limits. You also feel incredibly grateful for all the Indian street food which you can still enjoy by simply requesting them in your own box.
- You try to relate yourself to everyone’s first reaction rather than feel attacked by it. Instead of feeling sad about pessimism, you understand most people have a knee-jerk reaction to the “impossible” attempt to live trash-free. It took you a long time to get to a place where you could admit you can try going plastic-free this July, hence you understand that being patient is not the same as silence. It means you respect them enough to give them their space to have their epiphany in their own time. Imposing sustainability has never worked on anyone, and neither was a zero-waste lifestyle ever imposed on you.
- You are more creative than ever. If you have been successful with plastic-free July, it’s probably because you didn’t shy away from any difficult situation. You take things as a problem-solving opportunity and not as systemic hopelessness. Being low waste gets your brain cells active and you find yourself looking for answers to the simplest details which have occurred to you for the first time.
- Your perception of the words “Dirty” and “Clean” have completely changed. Suddenly the bin with mixed waste in your house feels dirty even though your entire house may be clean. This happens because you have understood the consequences for every trash you create. Whereas storing recycling waste after rinsing and composting wet waste feels like a much cleaner concept to you, even though it visually may look a bit messy in a corner of your house. Your perspective is shifting from “Visually Clean” to “Ecologically Clean for the whole system”.
These are skills which you won’t be told in an awareness poster or any article that gives you tips on going plastic-free. It is not easy to shift our mindset from human-centric thinking to planet-centric. It requires us to unlearn generations of cultural conditioning. Until we try something disruptive that questions the society we live in, there are so many unspoken norms we never notice ourselves following. For generations, we have served our own needs without imagining what role we play in the world. But now, every Plastic-free July, millions of people step out of their comfort zone to notice disposable single-use plastics that pollute the environment.
If you are someone who has felt like you are failing at your zero-waste lifestyle, we want you to stop and realize these behavioral changes that you have perfected over time. Imagine the lives you touch every time someone notices you refusing single-use disposable. For the person watching you, you take the power away from helplessness and bring it into personal control. Irrespective of whether or not you succeeded in the attempt, you raised questions in people’s minds that they never had before. In the end, that’s the real success we all hope to achieve.