I recently watched I Am Greta, Hulu’s documentary on teen climate activist Greta Thunberg, and it left a mixture of shame and inspiration swirling in my gut that I can’t ignore. Usually, when something like this moves me, I jump in head first with sweeping declarations of major lifestyle changes that I can’t keep up with, get disappointed in myself, and slowly give up, exercising equal parts forgiveness and self-congratulation as I ease my way out of it. This time, I want to make changes that stick, so I’m introducing these changes slowly. And while Greta lit a fresh fire under me, it didn’t take this documentary to get going.
Earlier in quarantine while others were maintaining their sourdough mothers, I embarked on a kitchen challenge of my own: eliminating paper towels. The amount of paper towels my family was consuming made me queasy, so that’s where I started. I ordered one roll of “unpaper” towels and a pack of these reusable cloth wipes, both in rainbow to make them more appealing for the kids. Now, I’m not forcing my family to join me on my zero waste journey, but I’m hoping to lead by example. Although so far everyone’s happy to opt for cloth as long as I keep washing and replacing them. And since I started this in May, we’ve gone from roughly two rolls of paper towels every week to one roll every three to four weeks! We only use them for extra large spills and super nasty stuff like pet messes.
But since watching I Am Greta, I’ve realized the paper towels aren’t enough. There are plenty of people watching Greta’s selfless work from the sidelines and applauding her. She needs more of us to do the work with her… especially from our generation. It shouldn’t be up to the kids to clean up our mess. Again, I’m not going to impose my choices on my family or even you, but I’m hoping if you see things are adaptable for my lifestyle that you might think about making more sustainable choices for yourself. The next big changes on my zero waste journey: giving up red meat, quitting seltzer water, and setting up our compost bin. It’s kind of gross how many cases of La Croix we go through every week. I will save so much waste (and money!) switching to tap water. Also kind of gross: our compost tumbler that’s been ignored on the side of the house for a couple of years with rotting food waste and not enough carbon or “brown” material.
I don’t think I will ever get to absolute zero waste, or even be one of those people who can flaunt my entire year’s waste in a mason jar (you go, Lauren Singer), but if stopping seltzer now means my grandchildren won’t have to ration their water supply?? Well, it’s quite literally the least I can do. Which is why I plan to do more. I really want to cut back on our plastic usage: plastic wraps, Ziplocs, etc, but all of these Stasher bags are quite expensive. Does anyone out there have a more budget-friendly alternative? I’d love to hear about your zero waste choices!