How to make progress towards zero waste, not perfection

How to make progress towards zero waste, not perfection

Are you making progress towards zero waste? Or is the need for perfection holding you back?

Trying to reduce the amount of rubbish you create can feel like a huge task sometimes. When you think about all the things you’ve thrown in the bin over the last few days, you might feel like you are not making a dent in the total amount.

In your progress towards zero waste, look back at where you’ve come from

What’s the key to stop yourself getting downhearted about whether you are making a difference?

For me, it is to think about my progress towards zero waste so far. I think back to when we regularly put out 2 bags of rubbish for the council collection. After a couple of years of changing habits, we now average 5-6 bags of rubbish in a whole year.

Progress over perfection image - encouraging you to make progress towards zero waste
Better to make progress towards zero waste than accept nothing but perfection

Don’t stress about perfection – just start small

Like so much in life, think about this as progress over perfection. It’s a journey, with each small habit building up on the previous one.

These articles list some easy changes to make when you are starting out towards a lower waste lifestyle:

Do what you can that fits in with your life right now

Go gently on yourself when you make changes to your habits if you try to reduce waste. Pick some easy wins in one area of your life and home at a time. Some easy and affordable wins are:

  • Buy potatoes in a paper bag rather than in a plastic bag, the paper bag can be recycled or composted,
  • Change from buying meal sauces in a plastic sachet, to sauces in a tin or jar. The tin or jar is easier to recycle,
  • Swap plastic packed pasta for one in a cardboard box,
  • For pet owners, buy wet pet food in tins, rather than in plastic sachets, its also a lot cheaper.
Image of a shopping bag showing progress towards zero waste

Don’t measure yourself against social media images of perfection

I know I am putting myself out there online as some kind of expert.

In reality, I’m bumbling along this path towards zero waste as well. I’m working things out as I go along. I have to work out what is ‘doable’, and what simply takes up too much time or money for me to do all the time.

There are lots of inspirational people out there who are doing really well at reducing their waste. However, their story often gets reduced down to showing how much rubbish they collect over a year, often shown in a glass jar.

This can be disheartening, as it looks so perfect and hard to achieve for a normal, regular person with kids and pets and hobbies! There is a great blog post by Kathryn on about why the trash jar isn’t always a true picture.

People show their ideal ‘best life’ on social media, we are all guilty of that. Try not to measure your progress with where someone else is at on their path towards zero waste. It could be comparing the beginning of your journey with the middle of theirs.

I’m making progress towards zero waste, but…

My Eco confessions

This has been a thought provoking journey so far, I have tried different ways of doing lots of things. However, we definitely have a few ‘eco confessions’. There are some things I just haven’t been able to swap out for more eco alternatives. It’s often due to the cost of alternative products to the ones I usually buy, availability of them, and the amount of time a new habit might require.

My big Eco confessions right now are:

  • We have a pile of things in the garden that are going to end up in landfill. They can’t be reused or recycled or donated. Things like broken sandpit toys, cracked small plastic chairs from when the children were littler, and odds and ends of treated timber off-cuts. The best option here is to make sure they are properly disposed of, and won’t damage the environment. This will mean a trip to the tip, and they will end up in landfill.
  • Items we bought before we ever considered aiming for zero waste. Things we have bought over the years, before we started trying to reduce the amount of waste, may end up in landfill. For example, there is a roll of cling film in the kitchen drawer, that I bought years ago. We will try to reuse or recycle where we can, but some of it is just plastic rubbish. Still, that was in the past, and I wouldn’t buy those things in future. You live and learn.
  • I usually have a stockpile of soft plastic that I am saving for the Soft Plastic Recycling scheme. And need to drop off to my nearest collection point when I’m next in town. Every time I drop a few bags off, I cringe a little, as I am still generating a lot of soft plastic packaging.

Do what you can to move towards zero waste, but give up on perfectionism

Overall, we need to look at what we can realistically do to reduce waste, while not being too stressed or perfectionist about it. If we all make some changes, they really will add up.

More ideas about how to make progress towards zero waste

Zero waste toolkit for Going Zero Waste post

How is your progress towards zero waste going?

Love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

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