Zero Waste vs Low-Waste: My Point of View

I often talk about Zero Waste goals in my posts. We’ve covered a lot of things specifically related to making small changes and keeping things realistic. I even had a video about waste in the production cycle, and how that affects our whole zero waste journey. A few days ago, I was having a conversation and we got onto the topic of zero waste vs low waste. It seemed like such a simple thing to talk about, but I found myself suddenly thinking about both things very differently.

How Does Society See Zero Waste vs Low Waste?

Zero Waste at a glance

Here’s the thing. Both terms have come to mean specific things. Zero Waste might have started out as a term in the production and manufacturing industry, but ever since Bea Johnson’s influence took off, Zero Waste came to mean ‘living a certain lifestyle’. More specifically, and referred to living a more simplistic and minimalistic lifestyle that meant cutting out a lot of unnecessary waste and garbage out of your life.

Over time, Zero Waste further evolved. It started to mean using only certain products, or making certain lifestyle commitments. For others, it also involved living off the land at home as much as possible. For others, it meant cutting out animal products, or completely changing the items they used in their homes.

Despite all of that, there is no real way to live Zero Waste, and we’ve covered that. There will always be items that go through a manufacturing system that’s broken. And so, Zero Waste has become something of a misnomer. You might call it Zero Waste living, but it’s more like almost Zero Waste living.

Low Waste at a glance

Low Waste, on the other hand, has come to mean something only somewhat different. It’s almost like Zero Waste’s little sister. Most people believe that low waste living revolves mainly around the concept of recycling. It’s become this societal belief that living low waste is for people who can’t commit to trying for zero waste, and so they do the bare minimum. They recycle. They say no to plastic bags or straws. They try to cut down their waste…

Do you feel like this sounds very familiar yet?

My View on Zero Waste vs Low Waste

Some days I wish that Low Waste was the popular term, and that Zero Waste had stayed in the manufacturing industry. Here’s why:

Zero Waste is unachievable. There’s no denying that. Even if you live on a plot of land out in the middle of nowhere, living of the land… you’re still going to be using items that went through manufacturing. Whether you cut down the trees of your log cabin yourself, or buy the wood, it’s going to make an impact, So’s the smoke from the fire you’re going to be cooking over. Yes, the impact is minimal, and maybe I’m nitpicking, but there will always be some form of impact on our environment.

Low Waste Living, however, is where the real key lies.

When you focus on Low Waste living, a monumental task suddenly seems a lot easier and more achievable. Hundreds of thousands of people are living ‘low waste’ lives, because they think they can’t achieve zero waste living but still want to do something. They feel bad about the ‘small’ changes they’re making when, in fact, they’re doing very well!

In my personal opinion, the focus should be on low waste, and not zero waste. Zero Waste is like a fantastic fad that seems amazing to try for, and then very disappointing when you fail. It’s a term that sets you up for failure.

Low waste is achievable. It’s not something to be embarrassed about, but something to be proud of. It might not sound quite as environmentally dedicated as zero waste does, but it has so much more potential.

Low Waste is Key

If you’re someone who’s been trying to cut down on their waste, but feel like they’re never doing enough, this is for you. Stop putting yourself down because you’re living a ‘low waste life’, while being surrounded by all these zero waste gurus, comments and rules. Once you understand that the goal is actually low waste and not zero waste, you’ll start enjoying your journey that much more.

I hope that you feel more excited about your journey now, and I’d love to hear your stories! Feel free to drop them in the comments below.

You can also follow me on Facebook or Instagram.

Until next time, stay Greenish!

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