Going green can appear a colossally difficult task at first. Once you’ve started, as in my case probably with something small such as frustration with over-packaging in supermarkets, you begin to notice all sorts of areas in our everyday lives which are filled with unnecessary waste or pollution, plastic or otherwise. It’s easy to feel frustrated with the slow progress of governments and authorities to regulate what seems glaringly obvious to you as one of the biggest global threats of our time.
The other problem is that being green sometimes just isn’t that convenient. By asking people to stop using plastic and shop more consciously you’re asking them to return to a life before ready-meals, conservable food products, pret-a-porter clothing, and Starbucks takeaways. It requires a change of habits and reflexes, and even for the most green-minded eco-warrier (or so I tell myself anyway) this poses a big challenge, and often results in numerous #zerowastefails. However, who hasn’t heard that failure is key to success? Or that nothing comes to anyone who doesn’t try?
Here are a few of my own zero waste fails:
Refusing what I don’t need is a new lesson I have to get my polite, British head around. I find this one of the trickiest habits to change. A few weeks ago, Adrien and I were each given a free key-ring at a hostel in Vietnam. My first thought was “I’m never going to use this, and it will end up in the bin.” I said to the lovely receptionist that one was enough for the two of us, and Adrien kept his. It’s difficult because of course you want to be polite, but it’s such an unnecessary piece of material to suddenly become responsible for, and I just wondered how many hundreds of those key-rings were sitting in landfills across the world. Even taking one was too many, but at least we managed to halve our key-ring count!
Composting in a big city. I noticed that in Lyon there were several volunteer-run compost bins, so I decided to implement a simple composting system in our house, where much of what we throw away is inedible food scraps and peelings. The bin overflowed after two days so I squeezed it into my bike basket and cycled painfully slowly to the nearest compost bin (having to stop to pick up banana skins and onion peelings which jumped out of the basket every time I went over a crack in the road). When I arrived, I realised to my great dismay that the bin was only open one evening each week- I presume to stop people chucking n’importe quoi in the bin (seriously, who does that?!). So my compost bin came with me to brunch and then to the bulk store, where the shop owner told me where I could dispose of it. This happened to be at the opposite side of town, but determined as I was, I saw my compost mission to the end. This wasn’t so much a zero waste fail, as a big zero waste inconvenience which I haven’t yet figured out. You Edinburgh dwellers don’t know how lucky you are with your council-collected food scrap bins!
Replacing cosmetics. I recently bought a chemical-free, solid shampoo bar to avoid a plastic bottle, but after three uses it has left some sort of strange sticky residue on my hair and my hairbrush, which no amount of apple cider vinegar was able to rinse out. I don’t know if it’s my hair weaning itself off the chemicals found in standard shampoos, or if the Lyon water is too hard to rinse it properly, but I may need to resort back to polluting and wasteful shampoo bottles until I find a bar that actually cleans my hair. I can at least use the shampoo bar as soap for my body, so it won’t go to waste, but it’s definitely disappointing.
And then there were all the plastic water bottles we consumed on our travels in South East Asia before Christmas. We had water purifying tablets which we used a lot, but when we both got a bit sick we decided to resort back to the bottled water for a week or so. We must have consumed at least three 50ml bottles each a day, an absolutely horrifying amount when you think about every tourist in Thailand doing the same thing.
So there you have it, it’s a bumpy road and impossible to get it right all the time. The most important thing is that we each take steps wherever we can. So go forth, my green friends, and make one change in your habits this week. If it doesn’t work out every time, never mind! You will have another chance! But don’t give up, even if it seems like being green is so much harder than giving in to convenience. Isn’t it worth it, to preserve the kind of scene in the photo above? Imagine that beautiful river polluted with plastic, the pure azure blue dulled by chemicals. In order for that never to happen (and it seems too late for some rivers) we all need to remember the importance of at least trying to lessen our trash impact on a daily basis.