My Zero Waste Diary: Guilt

There’s a great quote by Paulo Coelho that states “The world is changed by your example, not your opinion”. This is a great reminder that, while we are all entitled to our own opinions, the opinions do not move mountains, do not make change – our actions do.

While our opinions and thoughts propel our actions, it is those actions that we take that then ripple into our every day lives and the choices we make. Those choices are the things that others notice which is what inspires others to make changes. Unfortunately, when you are the only one making this changes, you feel as though you are the only one doing anything. Either that or you see the examples that others are setting and you feel inferior in comparison.

Guilt is such a funny thing. We often guilt ourselves over things that we should not feel guilty about at all, things that are by no means bad … or at least I do. When it comes to zero waste, the pressure to reduce waste to as limited as possible often leads to feelings of guilt over what we are still producing. We feel guilty because of what we are not doing instead of feeling proud of concentrating on all of the great strides we are making.

I’ve found, as I go about this journey to lower my waste, that this negative headspace can be a real setback. I get bogged down in of the things I am not doing, all of the plastic I still consume, all of the disposal items still in my kitchen and bathroom. The plastic condiment containers, the food I’ve accidentally let go bad, the junk food I find difficult to resist at the grocery story. The trash jar is another problematic area for me as I find that it makes me feel inferior or as though I cannot say I am striving for ‘zero waste’ because I still use a garbage can. All of these things fill me with frustration, usually at myself and my own limitations.

When I go shopping, I notice all of the plastic around me and wonder if what I am doing really matters or if it will ever make a difference. All of this fills me with dread for the state of the planet and frustration for my fellow man. This pent up frustration will eventually come to a head and I will cave and feel overwhelmed, causing me to give in and buy something in plastic – usually junk food (my go-to eat my feelings food).

Every time I forget my coffee cup, every time I forget my straws or give in and order a soda in a disposable cup (even though all of these things are becoming more and more rare), I feel guilty. Sick with guilt. It’s as though I think I am killing the planet myself.

I am not.

I own three reusable stainless steel water bottles (one that doubles as a thermos and one thats secondhand). I have a stainless steel coffee cup (with plastic lid – whoops). I own all glass containers except one. I own tons of mason jars and jars that I’ve saved once emptied of products. I use soap berries instead of laundry detergent from a plastic container. I buy produce that mostly comes unpackaged, with few exceptions. I make most of my meals from scratch, again, with few exceptions.    I save my veggie scraps in a freezer container to reuse them for vegetable broth. I drive in a carpool to and from work. I buy mostly secondhand clothes and I use the library instead of buying books. I don’t use paper towels and am trying to use up the last few tissues that are in my house.

While I make mistakes and feel I could be doing more, I am trying to get better at reminding myself of all the things I am already doing. Positivity is the key to success!

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