RRRRR OR THE NEED TO BE CONSCIOUS
Have you ever had a chance to consider the useless brothel accumulated for a few years before moving house ? We are in April 2017, all our cardboxes, furniture, clothing bags keep us from freely walking around the flat we are about to leave. The left side is the useless one that we are about to throw or donate, and the right side is what we take. At this precise moment, we had only one thought in mind : “How the fuck did we do to accumulate so much mess…?”
Since we left London, we were commited to meet with anyone who could give us advice about organization and consumption.
Back in October 2017, during our time with Carlos at the Casa Verde in Montevideo, Uruguay, we had a brief introduction to the rule of the 3 R “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”. Finally the basis was there ! But was there anything else stronger or more impacting than simply reducing the way we consumme ? We would soon understand that these three R’s rule kept concealed 2 others equally important, that the “Zero waste” movement was about to teach us during our travel through the country of Uncle Sam.
This movement simultaneously ambitious and tacky, is beginning to know a real craze in the US and many countries in Europe. Meanwhile we estimate that the world is quickly drowning under 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day, we decided to go and meet those who had made the bet to live a more conscious and sustainable way of life ! Knowing that an average American throws about 2kg of waste per day, we were eager to meet those who successfuly achieve the challenge of fitting a year of waste into a jar! After leading our investigation, we managed to get in touch with 4 women influencers based on San Francisco in California and Portland Oregon, who share their experiences and their Zero waste lifestyles online every week. Kathryn, Anne Marie, Chloe and Jenica were about to see two inexperienced travelers knocking at their doors.
“Zero Waste aims to limitate the maximum waste that cannot be recycled”. Finally, the definition that we were both expecting so much was thrown by Kathryn. Mic drop. Ok we can rest easy ! Zero waste is a goal, an ideal, but by the definition we just heard, zero did not appear to be achievable but only an ideal. All of them will confirm this, it is before anything a daily quest for a more respectful and ethical consumption mode. But what exactly does it involve? Well, actually it touches a little bit of everything! Changing your lifestyle startd by changing your habits and it is only when they allowed us to step into their intimacy that we were able to understand the project a little more. From the kitchen to the bathroom, through the dressing room, the four of them agreed to play the teachers and give us some precious tips to avoid consuming and throwing away blindly. We took out our notebooks and jumped to the front row of the class. The radiator at the back was not working anyway.
Single-use items were going to be our first challenge ! After meeting with Kathryn, we left each others with this mission in mind : find replacement items to the big 4 known as single-sued plastic cutlery, straws, cups, plastic water bottles. As we were wandering in the city to find some alternatives, we could see them floatting everywhere in the streets. As we weird statement, in our current system it became cheaper to produce something than to recycle it… Throwing has became trendy. It’s fascinating to see how our way of life has disconnected us from our wastes. Yet every year, millions of these objects whose lifespan does not exceed a few minutes, end their lives in places far more tragic than the recycling centers.
Finally we were facing the shop everyone was bragging about : Rainbow Grocery ! It is really disturbing to only buy know after almost 30 years just few accessories that would radically change our habits. Let us introduce you to those who have shared our lives and our backpacks ever since.
We think we get it by know ! Travelling and being zero waste do not necessarily make good matching pair ! Also we started to be very happy with the items we had so far but did not always have the reflex to bring them with us outside.
One of the most important sources of waste we produce comes from packaging. We realize it every day, in our society we pack a little bit of everything: toys, a garlic clove, a soap and even plastic rolls… While they seem impossible to avoid, Kathryn, Anne Marie, Chloe and Jenica showed us the opposite with a disconcerting simplicity. Equipped with glass jars, tupperwares, cotton bags or reusable plastics, we were able to follow their rituals around food. From purchasing goods and fresh fruits and vegs at the local producers’ markets or in the bulkstores supermarkets, to the food storage and the recipes, all desmonstrated creativity and organization! After giving up the idea of building a portable kitchen or storing some glass jars in our backpacks, we simply agreed that we should wait until we are settled back home in order to put in practices all these tips…
Whether it’s about food, fashion products or cosmetics, we’re not going to lie, the Zero waste movement implies a minimum of things to do ourselves. At the beginning we freaked out, but to be honest it’s super cool! Toothpaste, soap, shampoo, eyeliner, makeup, trendy bags, cooking recipes based on fermentation or even furniture, it is possible to make anything you want. Just let your creativity speaks!
For Kathryn, Anne Marie, Chloe and Jenica, this constant search for a Zero waste lifestyle became a daily game, a challenge, to find new alternatives and reduce their individual impacts. Observing, seeking for tips, clues and experimentating ! There is no competition here, only kindness. Maybe it was the good time for us to enter the game and play the green and sustainable version of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson.
Do I want it or do I need it? This is a question that we have probably not asked oursleves enough so far. The barrier seems very thin but have a huge impact. Spending time with Kathryn, Anne Marie, Chloe and Jenica allowed us to question the life and the need of our objects, their production, the way we use them and the life they will have after. Would going zero waste be simply a way to consume less but better, in a more conscious and responsible way ? In a world that tends to individualism and consumerism, can releasing ourselves from objects become a new form of freedom?
One thing we quickly realised it that going for a zero waste approach was not necessarily cheaper. As we started to buy our ustensils, seek to eat local and organic food, we started to think that not everyone could unfortunately afford it. Was that just because we did not have all the tips in mind ? Would that be financially sustainabel on the long run ? Since they have changed their food habits, our four influencers have seen their food budget increase a little. However, by refusing to buy new objects or finding alternatives, they still manage to make many savings.
Buying and possessing might be sometimes good and useful but second hand and sharing is way better ! As we were travelling accross the country and started to dig deeper into the zero waste movement, we found that so many alternatives ways of consuming and trading were already in experimentation! We were blown away ! it is possible to exchange, rent or find in second hand almost everything before thinking of buying it new !
Recovered material from the landfill turned into art material, building materials resources for your own house, tools and toys libraries, clothing swap or second hand thrift shop (to buy seriously or have a good fitting time) we were comitted to meet some of these actors who re-inject life in their neighbourhood through sharing resources, services and items. This sharing economy model based on kindness, the sense of sharing and empathy was clearly for us the way to go once we would be back home. After all, do we all need a lawnmower, a cupcake machine or a vacuum cleaner at 11.20 on Saturday morning?
We’ve found many solutions between San Francisco and Portland, and all these models are developing at very high speed. Many alternative solutions exist when it comes to getting something. Whether it is thanks to local associations, on internet, or exchange of second-hand objects, the palette that is offered to us continues to widen.
-“Do you smell that ?” -“Damn, It stinks !” Before leaving the United States, we realyl wanted to see the amount of garbage and goods people were throwing away every day. Thanks to Alicia and Ken, we were able to access a Metro-managed transfer station where hundreds of tons of wastes transit every single day. Everything we can possibly think about ends up here before being sorted, composted or compacted before being carried away by a float of truvks and burried away from us. Household waste, construction, toxic products, food… We wanted to see the brothel, well… we did! We could have opened any business from scratch as we had everything in hand. Vacuum cleaners, mattresses, chairs, teddy bears, cutlery, neons, appliances. Everything that surrounded us and makes life easier on a daily basis, was laying here, a beautiful mountain of programmed obselscence, lifeless.
We had to stopped listing things in good condition that could have made someone happy. For some selfish reason it is more convenient to send them deep in the arse of the world and forget about them. Throwing away some valuable item and landfills need to remain the last alternatives. So many options are on the table : fixing, swaping, giving, selling. It is not the ideas that are lacking !
And what about recycling ? Well, Ken made it clear, the recycling market is a very unstable market that depends on financial markets. China that was buying plastic from several countries to recycle at low cost, no longer accepts to play the after sale services since December 2017 and in the United States, they still do not know what to do with all this mess.
The smell is getting worse as we get closer to the food section. A beautiful pile of rotting food. In the world we throw about 30% of the food production. Whether it’s in the production, transports or consumption, this outrageaous 30% does not end up in anyone’s stomach but in landfills, generating methane (25 times more toxic than CO2) which plays a huge part in global warming.
Cities like San Francisco and Portland are already ahead since the organic wastes are separate from the rest and serve to produce compost that is resold to farmers. At our own scale it is possible to rot our food as so many options already exist. In gardens or even in kitchens at the 22th floor we can find various options that can answer any situation ! Buying fresh food directly from producers remains the most effective solution against this disgusting world global waste. Many associations also aim to value ugly fruits and vegetables! Just go for it ! We assure you, it tastes the same!
And what about us ? When we say us, we talk about men, people of the male kind. By conducting our research, it became obvious that finding men who share a zero waste lifestyle on the internet, was as complicated as finding the dog in “Where is Wally”. Without really understanding why, Jenica attempted an explanation: “The movememt zero waste is very intimately linked to the household…” Wow wow ! Hold on!!! What??? that could not be the reason… Or at least we hoped not ! Not in 2020 !!
As we were sold from almost day one about the importance of caring we struggled to understand why Zero Waste would at a big majority be a Woman jouney. How great sounds “A sustainable and conscious consumption which aims to reduce our impact on the earth, the animal species and promotes an economic system that respects human beings” ? Let’s go guys ! It looks far too cool and meaningful to not join the ship!
Do what you can, and what you want ! This is the philosophy of these four teachers who make a difference. It’s comforting to know. You can lead a Zero Waste lifestyle and take your car, or be a geek, purchasing new items online, allowing yourself outings and small guilty pleasures. You have to do things because you want to.
Zero Waste is certainly a very confusing term, a marketing word that only finds its place in our imaginary of perfection, but it has the credit to define an ideal goal, a target. These two months spent on the road and all the conscious but not perfect inspiring people we met on the way reminded us one thing : doing our best, it is all that we can do with our own consciousness. We’re human after all.
Wondering with the right questions before buying anything new, here’s our new resolution ! Each consummer choice has an impact on the planet but also on the people. It is easy to forget that we can vote with our money. Vote for something we believe in by using it differently or even refusing to spend it for something we want.
Going zero waste is primarily a goal that aims to consume more consciously and sustainably. In a world where 20% of the richest countries consume 80% of the planet’s resources, this ideal is also an answer to the social injustice that exists alongside this movement. In an ultra connected world we can no longer try to justify the rule that says :“everything that we cannot see is none of our concern”. Each consumer’s choice has an impact somewhere in the world which sooner or later will affect the world on a global scale.
As we “celebrate” the unfortunate and sad Earth Overshoot day earlier each year in a world that will approach 10 billions people in the next thirty years, we can no longer give ourselves the luxury of consumming following a pattern that has shown its limts and require 3 to 5 planets Earth in terms of resources each year.
It has been too easy for us to close our eyes and follow a dictate system since we were born, without even thinking of questionning it. For far too long we indulged ourselves in this surconsumption model, hoping to find meaning. We do like everyone else because everyone does it. Everything is so convenient these days, that we became “conveno-dependant”. But how did they live before?
“Grandma, how was life before plastic, without these packagings, without those iphones, without those wippers, without those straws? How did you drink your soda, how did you carry your groceries? It feels like coffee was invented by Starbucks. People lived without plastic, without Facebook and phones, but we forgot all of this because our system told us to. It can be worth it sometimes to look back in the past to find some inspiration for the future.”
Jenica confessed, many people are willing to switch to a zero waste lifestyle, but they are afraid to annoy people in supermarkets, bars, and feel judged. We can only tell you that since we bought our zero-waste kit, and started using our own bottles in bars, we received more “thanks!” than “get the fuck out”. And to be honest, it’s just so satisfying to be able to say no and start using what is probably the most powerful and impactful of the five R… REFUSE