Producing Less Waste For Completely Selfish Reasons

My selfish reasons to generate less waste

image source: portolasprings.org

I don’t like taking out the trash (or recycling)

Super straightforward. Taking out the trash and recycling is boring and time-consuming. The less stuff I have to lug downstairs to throw out, the better.

I save loads of space by dealing with less disposable stuff

One thing I really like about highly-reusable objects is that I only need to have one or two of them around, instead of filling up my cabinets with huge packs of disposables. It’s been great reclaiming all the physical space that disposable objects used to fill up.

I save loads of time and energy by dealing with less disposable stuff

I also love the huge savings in brainspace I get by not dealing with disposable objects! With disposables, I need to stay weirdly aware of (1) how much is left, (2) where to buy more of it, and (3) remembering to restock it next time I go on a shopping errand.

unintentionally ironic photo of being caged by neverending consumerism copyrighted to walmart.com

I save money long-term by dealing with less disposable stuff

Reusables last for many years, and functionally pay for themselves very quickly.

Disposable stuff runs out at inconvenient times; reusable stuff feels reliable

Running out of household disposables is usually a mere inconvenience. However, it occasionally crosses over into urgent territory, such as if you run out of toilet paper while pooping, or you run out of disposable period products but the nearest convenience store is miles away.

Outdoor markets are delightful and more COVID-safe than indoor grocery stores

photo © leonori

I love thrifting

There are some things I don’t buy secondhand, like underwear and socks. But there are a lot of objects where I actively prefer secondhand over new, such as furniture.

Bulk bins are fun and save me money

photo via zerowastenerd

Textural & aesthetic hedonism (YMMV)

Okay, this is more of a luxury point, but honestly, I just really like the way natural materials feel. The reason I enjoy cotton & paper bags over plastic bags is the exact same reason I enjoy wearing nice fabrics.

Owning fewer non-essentials just makes my life more pleasant

photo © Shelter Wise tiny homes, Salsa Box model

Personal bonus: My cat has a weird habit of loudly chewing on plastic bags, which is curbed if I have fewer plastic bags around

photo of my glorious orange meowmeow © me

Juicy resources

  • r/ZeroWaste — an extremely wholesome subreddit full of ideas for creatively reusing things and minimizing waste.
  • ZeroWasteHome’s Bulk Finder is a crowdsourced map of bulk shops that let you reuse containers.
  • Restaurant supply stores are another way to reduce your waste packaging around staple ingredients. Buying in bulk = less packaging per pound. I get 25lb sacks of bread flour at my local restaurant supply store for $10.
  • Plastic-free home goods creators, such as: KhalaCo, Life Without Plastic, No Trace Shop, and a LOT of creators on Etsy

Plastic-free starter guides

Random tips for tricky no-plastic areas

Disclaimers & systemic/privilege unpacking

As a massive disclaimer, this whole “reduce my waste” thing is probably significantly easier for me than the average American because many of my existing lifestyle preferences & privileges already happen to be sustainability-enabling. (Some of these factors are also foundations that I’ve spent years intentionally building into my life.)

Luck of the draw

  • Although I do have invisible disabilities, I’m usually physically able-bodied enough to do my regular commuting and errands by bike. Urban bike commuting saves me enormous amounts of money and time over car commuting, or even over public transit. However, it is not physically practical for all people, it is not very practical in rural areas, and it’s challenging and dangerous in cities that lack bike infrastructure.
  • Socioeconomically, I am middle-class. Since I’m not living paycheck to paycheck or working multiple jobs at once, I can financially-afford to do things like save long-term money by buying food in bulk, and I can time-afford to cook all meals at home. Since I have disposable income, I can afford to pay higher upfront costs of eco-friendly reusable products to save money long-term. (However, I strongly prefer to use existing objects rather than buy new objects.)
  • I don’t have any severe allergies or food intolerances. This makes it a non-issue for me to buy food out of bulk bins. People with anaphylactic allergies or celiac disease may not able to do this because of the risk of cross-contamination.

Lifestyle preferences / choices

  • In most cases, I strongly prefer reusing thrifted, secondhand, and free furniture/gear to buying new stuff. This lowers my cost of living.
  • I strongly prefer living with social housemates in a co-op-like environment. This makes our rent at least 3x lower than if we were living alone or with only a partner, and makes it easier to group-buy stuff in bulk. It saves us each loads of time and energy because we like to group cook, and we all contribute to chores. We also spend much less per person on household items, because we can pool our tools, appliances, and household supplies.
  • I strongly prefer cooking at home (although I do cook super lazy minimum-effort meals that usually take between 5 and 25 minutes). I am also mostly-vegan by choice. These factors hugely lower my cost of living, since I almost never get takeout and my monthly grocery budget is now half as expensive as it was when I ate meat.

Part luck, part intention

  • I live somewhere where there’s a disposable-bag tax, so reusable bags are normalized here.
  • I am extremely crafty and mechanically inclined. I love building and repairing things, I do my own home improvement, and I enjoy creatively reusing objects in a lot of different ways. This lowers my cost of living, though it probably doesn’t save time.
  • I strongly prefer living in cities, and I have the privilege of living in one with half-decent bike infrastructure, inexpensive farmers’ markets, and bulk bin options that are less expensive than most chain grocery stores. This makes it easier to buy many of my essentials from local businesses (& shop by bike) and reduce the amount of shopping I do online or at big chain stores.

Things I’ve deliberately laid the groundwork for

  • I just spent the last two years deliberately streamlining my possessions and reducing my buying habits after viscerally realizing that owning less excess stuff made me a lot happier.
  • I spent 2018–2019 deliberately becoming vegetarian, and then gradually slid into being mostly-vegan. This happens to be conducive to a lower-waste lifestyle because it’s significantly easier to buy inexpensive plastic-free vegetables & grains than inexpensive plastic-free meat.
  • I have deliberately set up my life so I can do all my regular errands by bike, e.g. by prioritizing living in cities with adequate bike infrastructure, learning how to maintain my bike, getting to know my neighborhood and the safest bike routes in it, etc.

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rhetoricize

rhetoricize

autotelic polymath with an overwhelming compulsion to reverse engineer things I’ve never tried before