In a green living group, there was someone who said that like many folks during the pandemic, they have been furloughed from their job/working reduced hours. They asked for advice in another sustaining able living group was yelled at for accepting plastic wrapped food and conventional household products from a food pantry. Not only was this family feeling bad about a situation our of their control but when asking for advice they were kicked when they were down about accepting a bottle of conventional dish soap and when what they really needed was ideas of things they could do while they are struggling.
This my way or the highway mentality to sustainable/zero waste/green/plastic free living really makes my blood boil.
100% green/sustainable/zero waste/plastic free living is a lie. Every single sustainable living guru I know has something they do/have that is not the perfect sustainable solution but rarely mention it because it doesn’t look a sexy on Instagram or get you a book deal. Many consider me the sustainable living bad girl because I’m open about the few conventional/plastic items we use and offer well at least it is better than throwing it in the trash repurposing solutions instead of solely crowing about how I reduced our utility use by 32% with new habits and cheap home improvements and that we produce approximately a grocery bag full of trash a week. One of the reasons we reduced our trash output is reapiring and repurposing those "imperfect" green things that life throws our way.
A not perfect world upcycling example is storing bobby pins, etc. in empty prescription medicine bottles. The washi tape tops color code what is what when I’m rooting around in the door pre coffee (in theory) but mostly because it is cute.
I think the most important skill you can develop when wanting to live a sustainable/zero waste/green/plastic free life/home is the ability to pivot.
The Real Trick to Sustainable Living is having a Mental Swiss Army Knife of Alternate Ideas
Now I’m not saying that pivoting is an excuse to just give up and trash the world round you. What I’m saying is to try to find alternatives when your perfect sustainable living thing/product/practice is completely unavailable or you get/have to use something due to circumstances beyond your control (or personal preference or budget) instead of throwing a tantrum that your “perfect” thing is unavailable. Or, worse, you neg on someone else for not doing it your way like our friend in the above example. She feels awful about the situation she is in by no fault of her own and she has to make decisions based on price which may mean less than perfect zero waste solutions in a difficult situation. As a group we encouraged her to accept the not perfect green living/plastic free help because there are probably a lot of other things her family is or will be doing that are more sustainable in the short term.
Sustainable living is all about balance.
For example, if you’re in a situation where you end up with plastic grocery bags because reusable bags have been temporally banned for grocery worker’s protection (seriously. Retail folks have been getting a lot of flack for enforcing policies that they have little control in making.) Find a way to reuse the bags, find someone else who can reuse the bags, or recycle them at a grocery store if it is still available. The extra bits of disposable whatnot that are in place for the safety of everyone involved are temporary during the pandemic. Although temporary may be longer than we like.
In my case, COVID-19 has my husband and I sticking close to home which means no day or date nights, etc. We started a Take Out Date Night as a needed morale boost. We try to order from local restaurants (with the silver lining of trying new ones we probably wouldn’t) but not all of them use sustainable packaging. In The Before I’d drop the few containers that cross our path off at my local Gimmie 5 recycling bin but they are not accepting any recyclables during the novel coronavirus. Instead of freaking out or yelling at someone, I can sustainably pivot by ordering from restaurants that use sustainable packaging when available. I can also pivot by finding a way to reuse plastic take away containers after the meal/offer them to others who can use them until my local Gimmie 5 collection will accept them again (which hopefully by them won’t be as much as an issue because we’ll feel comfortable eating in restaurants again.)
I couldn’t find a tray to corral things on the towel rack/shelf in our shower. A takeout container works just fine (and isn’t too weird looking) and holds the “perfect” locally grown loofah and local(ish) all natural ingredient medicated shampoo and conditioner you can learn about here Disclosure: I am including affiliate links for your convenience.
The small silver lining to this pivot is that everything that can be organized in a takeout containers now is organized - like hardware in my workshop. Also I can find stuff. Pivoting to plastic containers works better for my clumsy self because I’m awesome at knocking glass jars off my workbench shattering them. It’s not a perfect solution but it is better than the landfill - although you may disagree that’s OK too.
I can’t tell you how many people has asked me where I bought these craft room organizers. You can buy similar storage containers here or take out.
No matter what is happening in the world, it is never a nice idea to hold others to your sustainable living standards and yell at them for not doing/using/giving up your pet thing. Chances are they have some sustainable living thing you are not doing/using/giving up and even if they don’t it is rude to tell other people what to do with their lives. It may take some folks a little longer to head in that direction on their own – or not. I certainly use less plastic items than I did when I first started blogging (even then I had already phased out a lot of disposables for reusables) because I waited until things wore out before replacing them in an effort to be low waste. Sure, I now have the stereotypical rain barrel like this one, compost bin similar to this one, patio garden, DIY cleaning products, glass food containers (this kind is my favorite,) bidet (you can learn more about it here,) low waste household and such but we added those things over time as the opportunities presented themselves. On the other hand, if you are in a situation where you want to add those things in one fell swoop – go for it!
We had to start composting because our soil is so bad our plants kept dying and is the reason why I named this blog Condo Blues. The first time I saw an earth worm in our garden is the day I really believed in the power of compost to turn a garden around!
Just remember, perfection is not 100% sustainable, trying is.
Looking for more sustainable living ideas? Check out the following options - and more! - below!