Whenever I talk to people about my low-waste ventures, I often hear people say “I would love to do that, but…” The problem is, what comes after the “but” is usually something untrue about this lifestyle. Before you knock the low-waste lifestyle, read why these common beliefs about the lifestyle are actually myths.
1. It is too expensive
Green lifestyles have a reputation for being expensive. While this is not true for any green lifestyle, it is especially false for a low-waste lifestyle.
Nearly every aspect of a low-waste lifestyle saves you money.
They key principle of a low-waste lifestyle is minimalism. Buy only what you need and nothing more. If you follow this guideline alone, you are already saving tons of money.
Reusable items also save you money overtime because they are a onetime purchase, rather than a recurring one. Any economist will tell you it’s better to spend a little more money upfront, in order to spend less over time, rather than spending smaller amounts of money over and over.
Buying in bulk, making products at home, buying secondhand, repairing rather than repurchasing, cooking at home, saving leftovers, and throwing out less food all are behaviors of a low-waste lifestyle that save you money.
2. People will think you are weird
A low-waste lifestyle is not the norm. And doing anything outside the norm can be uncomfortable. It feels like the world is going to judge you and call you a crazy tree hugger and whisper about you behind your back and stop inviting you out to after work happy hours.
But none of that is true.
Since starting my low waste journey I have been met with only positive responses from those around me.
Strangers are very intrigued and usually ask me a ton of questions. They seem genuinely interested in the lifestyle and say positive and encouraging things when I tell them about it.
Close friends and family have all been very supportive. Sure, they might tease here and there, but since I began this lifestyle, most people in my life have adopted some low-waste behaviors of their own. And as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
If you approach a zero waste lifestyle in the right way (lead by example and never tell people how they should live) your lifestyle will be an asset, not a drawback, in social situations. This lifestyle is a conversation topic and gives you something unique to bring to the table.
3. Your efforts won’t make a difference
The APA’s Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change conducted a study on environmental issues and human behavior and found that one of the major reasons why people do not take action on global warming is because they believe that their actions are too small to make a difference.
If you buy into this myth, you are not alone. 29 percent of Americans believe that adopting a greener lifestyle will not have any impact on the environment.
The problem is, if you believe this, you are thinking about your impact on the environment incorrectly. It’s not just the direct result of your greener actions that has an impact on the environment.
Yes, saving one plastic fork from the landfill by using a reusable one might seem insignificant. But that is not where your impact ends. Other people see your green behavior and it impacts their beliefs and actions.
Remember when I said that many of my close friends and family have adopted low-waste behaviors after seeing me do it? That’s the real impact. Just by doing a simple low-waste behavior, you are not only decreasing your waste, you are decreasing the waste of those around you. And one day you will raise children and teach them to live a low-waste lifestyle, and they will influence people around them, who will influence people around them, and so on.
As environmental blogger Colin Beavan puts it, “your green lifestyle helps convince people of global warming.” Your small actions get people, a lot of people, thinking about the environment.
This is why, at the bottom of most of my blog posts, you will see “if we all do a little, it adds up to a lot.” Your actions contribute to the green movement, which has the power to change the entire world.
But remember, the only way you can affect other people’s behaviors is by changing your own.
4. It will take too much energy to change your habits
“I bought reusable grocery bags but I kept forgetting to bring them to the grocery store so I just gave up.”
This is one of the most repeated rationalizations that I hear when talking to people about reducing their waste. People think that if they can’t get into the habit of something as simple as bringing reusable bags to the store, then they won’t be successful in changing any of their wasteful habits.
The same APA study found that one of the most important obstacles to pro-environmental behavior is people’s resistance to changing their behaviors.
A low-waste lifestyle sounds like it would require a lot of your habits to be drastically changed, which seems like too much effort for many people.
However, in the spectrum of lifestyle changes, a low-waste lifestyle is relatively simple. Many of the changes simply require you switching from a disposable version of something, to a reusable version. This means that you can still do all the things you are accustomed to doing, just while using different products.
The more difficult changes are breaking your wasteful habits. But, that is not as hard as it seems. A study by Baylor College of Medicine found that people who tackled two or more bad habits at once were more successful in achieving permanent change than people who tackled only one at a time.
So throw those reusable bags in your car, cut down on take-out and remember to eat your leftovers. Commit to switching a few wasteful habits at once and you might be surprised how painless it is.
5. You have to give up too many things to live a low-waste lifestyle
A low-waste or zero-waste lifestyle sounds like something that would mean missing out on all the fun things in life. The myth probably begins by looking at a person with a perfectly zero-waste lifestyle and imaging how different their life must be than yours.
But a low-waste lifestyle is not a zero-waste lifestyle, and it does not have to involve sacrificing or missing out.
Almost every wasteful item, activity, lifestyle choice, or hobby has a low-waste or even zero-waste alternative. You won’t need to miss out on holidays, vacations, concerts, fun times with friends, or anything of the sort.
This is part of the reason that I advocate for a low-waste lifestyle, rather than a zero-waste one. If you are missing out on things, then you are living the lifestyle in the wrong way. A low-waste lifestyle should enhance your life and offer more experiences, rather than less.
The fact is, until you start making the transition to a low-waste lifestyle, you will not realize how simple it is.
6. It’s too hard to maintain
Research has shown that when a person engages in one environmentally friendly behavior, they are more likely to engage in other environmentally friendly behaviors.
This seems to be the case because when a person engages in a green behavior, they have a high internal reward; it makes them feel really good.
Researchers call this “catalyst behaviors” and find that getting people to commit small green acts leads them to commit larger, more radical behaviors later on.
So, if you are thinking that a low-waste lifestyle is hard to maintain, the opposite is actually true. The reward that you get from being greener will lead you to be more dedicated to the lifestyle, rather than less.
Just remember, your assumptions about a life choice are just that. You won’t know truly what a lifestyle is like until you try it for yourself. So before you buy into the myths and dismiss a low-waste lifestyle as something that is not for you, give it a try and see how it feels.