At the behest of Lisa, a customer who wanted to meet other people in our community who placed a high priority on reducing the amount of plastic and clutter in their lives, Earthwell Refill recently held a zero waste gathering at the local playground. I was fortunate to meet four incredible people to discuss their minimalist journey. Before that time I had used the term “zero waste lifestyle,” but as Monica of the A Girl for A Clean World blog pointed out, we can never live a zero waste lifestyle because we are not in charge of the pre-consumer process. For example, even though the soap we sell in our store is sold without any packaging, we cannot control the way our vendor gets the supplies needed to make the soap. The same can be said for a cup of coffee ordered at your local coffee shop… even if they use porcelain mugs and silverware, you cannot control how the coffee is shipped to them or their distributor.
With this in mind, we discussed how it was crucial to understand that this is a gradual process with many peaks and valleys. We have to be flexible when striving to reduce waste. We should be compassionate with ourselves when we forget to ask for no straw with our drinks or we forget to reuse the plastic bag we saved to bring spices from the bulk section at our local grocery store. Of course, it’s always best to remember, but we all make mistakes.
As our discussion continued, Kristy expressed how frustrating it was to watch her co-workers throw away a styrofoam cup each day after drinking their morning coffee. As a result, she suggested to her boss that her company provide coffee mugs. Unfortunately the reply was “no,” because people don’t clean their own coffee mugs! We agreed that we were combatting a system of convenience that permeated our society.
On the other hand, our approach to reducing the amount of new goods we used also made us self-conscious when putting our philosophy in practice. For instance, Sam, a new resident of North Park, explained how uncomfortable she feels when using her own containers at her local grocery store. We are aware that more local vendors who encourage less waste are needed in our community. We also see the need to speak with our local vendors about offering items without packaging. Moving forward, we decided to organize a clothing swap in the New Year to encourage more people to share their experiences from their minimalist journey.
While writing up this summary, I’m reminded of one of Poor Richard’s quotes, “Waste not, want not.” It sounds like a simple idea, but in reality it’s very hard to pull off in our disposable world. But I am heartened after meeting with these ladies and after talking with people who come in the store. If we can build the community we are striving to create, with a conscience effort to reduce the clutter and live simply, great things can be achieved. We should all feel proud of what we’ve accomplished so far, while resolving to do even better in the future.