I am not totally zero-waste. Not even close. But I’m on a mission to one day produce no waste. Mission is the wrong word, it implies speed and focus. It’s more of a pilgrimage. The journey is straightforward, however, the pilgrim (i.e. me) is unfit and fairly incompetent, falling at every pothole.
I first heard people talking about zero-waste three years ago. Honestly, my first thought was: ‘That’s a bit intense.’ I’d always cared for the environment and recently been learning about how our broken relationship with the environment is a form of injustice; but zero-waste seemed a bit much.
ANNIE LEONARD, FOUNDER OF THE STORY OF STUFF PROJECT SAID: ‘THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AWAY. WHEN YOU THROW SOMETHING AWAY, IT MUST GO SOMEWHERE.’
It’s blindingly obvious, yet it stopped me in my tracks. When I put things in the bin, they do not disintegrate or disappear. When I realised this, it made me zoom out and see the wider picture of what my consumerism leads to… then I started to think about what zero-waste might look like. Increasingly I felt I could no longer cry when I watched Blue Planet and forget about it the next day. I had to engage with my waste. Properly.
I am not writing this to tell you why you should start cutting back on your waste, I am just suggesting you actually start. God is serious about calling us stewards, He is serious about shalom. By shalom I mean the complete wholeness and harmony God designed us to be in both with ourselves, him, others and the earth. He is serious about restoration when shalom gets broken. Our planet is suffering; the instability of climate change has a massive impact on those living in poverty, particularly those dependent on the land for their living or without strong defence. If God is serious about us being stewards, and He is serious about restoring shalom, why aren’t we?
I started with the bathroom. Instead of sprinting for Boots when I finished products, I went to Lush for toothpaste tablets and a shampoo bar which comes paper-wrapped rather than in a bottle, Mabboo for my toothbrush and Georganics for floss. I’m taking it slow. It’s ridiculous to expect that my habits would be transformed immediately. I’d be inevitably disappointed which catalyses guilt and shame; and probably would have ended up quitting.
So if you’re keen to join the journey. Remember your motives: remind yourself of God’s feelings towards environmental injustice. Then, it’s one step at a time, first brave the bathroom, then maybe your desk. Look in the bin – what’s filling it?
Finally, surround yourself with people better than you. I am part of a Facebook group called Zero Waste Heroes which a) makes me laugh because it rhymes, b) makes me feel like a legend despite the fact I offer nothing to the group, and c) exists for people to ask for zero-waste alternatives to everyday living. Alternatively look up zero-waste blogs or #zerowaste on Instagram for practical ideas of small, decisive changes. Surrounding yourself with other positive people on the journey is motivating and inspiring, as well as helpful.
So what’s my point? Let’s take God’s call to stewardship seriously. Slow and steady wins the race, slow and steady rids the waste.