The most recent green bandwagon is “zero waste”.
Zero waste is generally understood to mean moving towards generating nothing that gets disposed of in the general rubbish. People are meant to reuse what they have, compost, recycle, not use plastic bags and so forth. This is all admirable and necessary and if, like me, you grew up in the 70s and 80s, you have been living your life like this since then (hey, remember the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle”?). But, very little has changed since those decades. Sure, there are more recycling facilities and recycled products, but we have not reduced the quantities of waste we generate, quite the contrary. In this piece, I assume the reader is vegan or already understands that any discussion about waste reduction or environment must acknowledge that animal agriculture and its concomitant waste has a devastating effect upon humans and the environment. Many pieces have been written about that man made catastrophe and this is not one of them.
Let’s take straws for example. Those of us who are conventionally abled and healthy do not need them. We have hands, mouths and can lift a container to our lips, pucker up and suck. We do not need straws of any kind, whether plastic (certainly), bamboo, glass, steel or paper. Remember that all those “green” straws must be manufactured and then shipped. All these processes generate waste; therefore, even if we buy non-plastic straws, we are generating waste (and refer back to stuff ending up in landfills… rinse… repeat). However, we are now being marketed these “green” straws and we are buying them to be part of zero waste and feel good about our consumer choices.
And let’s not even begin the conversation about the ubiquitous cotton shopping bags. How many of those do we need? Does every business really need them? After all, they are marketing tools. I am not saying that we should not use these bags. I have several at home and in my bag and I use them daily. But are they more or less harmful than plastic? And how do we even begin to measure that harm?
I have raised more questions than I have answered, which was my goal. My hope is that these questions will lead us to think critically and learn more about these issues. My hope is also that we recognise that all our choices have consequences and that we should continue to make “better” individual choices wherever possible because that matters a great deal even if they are imperfect. As consumers we have a vast amount of power to effect change and the greatest power of all is to abstain from consumption altogether. If we want to lead a greener or more zero waste life and lessen our impact upon the world, then we need to consume less. And that is no small feat.
Going vegan must be at the heart of any environmental discussion. And going vegan is easy and this will help you get started.