Hi zerowasteXchange community. This is my first article in what I hope will become a series. I got to know the creators of zerowasteXchange (Jenna and Dennis) over the Hamburg meetup group on zero waste. It was such a revelation to meet others who genuinely shared with me the same care for the environment. I remember so clearly how excited I was to finally have found a bunch of people, with whom I could talk to about aims and struggles in reducing or even going zero waste. I remember we were talking about vermicomposting on the first meetup I attended. I had gathered some experience in it and was overly happy to share it with people who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say.
When Jenna told me about the blog, I really wanted to participate and share my experience. At this point reducing garbage has already been part of my life for a couple of years. Part of my approach has been and is growing vegetables and going to the farmers market on Saturdays. Meeting the zero waste group gave my efforts another colour, as now I could talk to actual people and ask for advice on certain topics (such as feminine hygiene products), which I simply have not done to that extent before.
My attempts at “zero waste” living are far from perfect. This is the perspective that I am writing from. While I have the intention to reduce waste in my life as much as I can, I notice that I am somewhat in the middle.
Sharing about imperfection
I want to share my view and inner world experiences connected with waste reduction, because I think other people might experience similar distress and it might be beneficial to read about it. I also want to write about my experiences to show the reader, how having the intention to strive for zero waste and being perfect are not the same thing. I find sharing about these kind of struggles brings us closer together. And I personally experience a lot of love for the messy kind of imperfection that underscores most of human life, including my own. I think wanting to be perfect can hinder us a lot on the journey toward waste reduction and that having a conversation in which others share their “imperfections” puts us on the same page. Being honest about our imperfections opens the door to conversations about how we can personally improve from wherever we find ourselves on the journey to waste reduction.
One thing I found on my journey is that I care deeply about the environment. I think actually it is a daring step to care deeply. It is daring to confess to myself and to others that I care. It feels like carrying my heart open on my chest. Out of this caring pours love and therefore action, as I can’t help wanting to do something about it.
And then when I proceed with these findings, I think I am always moving within the realm of my belief system. And while caring provides me with fuel for action, I realise that I also take everything that I believe with me into my actions. I want to share an example from my daily life with you that might clarify this further- because I found it quite revealing to notice how my beliefs about what others think about me hinder me in following my heart.
Buying Take Away
So, one day I want to buy a baked potato (here in Hamburg it’s called “Kumpir”) to-go. I am still at home when I think about it. I know that if I don´t bring Tupperware with me, I will end up bringing home a huge amount of plastic and aluminium foil in the form of takeaway packaging. It’s easy to get angry here, but it’s hard to fault the shop, as they might have just chosen the best, affordable packaging they could.
It’s now up to me now to choose between either producing waste or taking my Tupperware with me. Bringing my Tupperware puts me in a vulnerable position. I am there to confess that I care and I am so scared of what other people think of me. Will they accept my request to put the potato in the Tupperware? I am not even sure about that. Shall I call before I go there? Will I just try? Will they laugh about me? I just imagine standing there and blushing red, asking them to please put the potato into the Tupperware. It´s a vulnerable place to be in. And this example might just show you what I meant in saying we take our belief system with us. I am limited by what I believe about how the shop owner and the other customers behind me and the ones sitting in the shop (able to observe me), will react.
I in that case am limited by the fear of what others think about me. What I came to conclude from my experience is that environmental action like the one in the Kumpir restaurant is putting me way out of my comfort zone.
I am sure you became curious about how this particular story turned out in the end. Well that time I decided to not take the potato away with me, but to eat it in the restaurant instead. With that solution I did’t need to draw attention to myself and also did not produce waste.
Environmental Action equals having a conversation in which I am speaking my own Truth
Concerning the example I just shared, there might be moments when I dare to bring my tupperware with me and there might be some where I don’t. In cases that my fear is too high to ask and speak my own truth, I won’t do it. I think environmentalism is about daring to be vulnerable and to speak my own truth. I want to state here that I believe the biggest issue in having that kind of conversation is our own belief system. Freeing ourselves from limiting beliefs through questioning them might just help us to live in closer alignment with the messages of our hearts.
Meeting myself in the middle
What I mean by meeting yourself in the middle is the following. There is a point of knowing ourselves well enough, so that we are able to see how much we care and also what we fear. This, for me, opens up a kind of dance in which I can notice my fears and move along with and also beyond them.
What helps me greatly to expand my comfort zone and to prepare me for those kind of situations is, to talk to like minded people. To share my struggles and to ask for advice. To simply just lose the perspective of being alone in this caring and therefore to feel supported. It also helps me a lot to inform myself about the practical options out there (and we to have the internet nowadays which is so awesome). And to inform myself about how others deal with these issues. What do they say? How do they ask? How do they manage to stay true to themselves without crossing their own boundaries?
And I do not mean boundaries shall not be bent and increased, just for me it does not work to cross them violently. At first I was also thinking to write about laziness, but I don’t see it as a cause, rather as an effect of our mindset. Procrastination and rather taking the plastic straw and not saying something to the waiter in the case that I have it on my mind (as opposed to having forgotten about it), I think is not born out of a place of laziness, but that laziness is born out of a place of fear. That’s my experience and you might disagree with that. But I found that love and caring are followed by action, unless some old beliefs are standing in my way.
Let’s keep the conversation going
Let’s shift it and work together, having conversations and daring to speak our own truth are fundamentals that this forum and group is striving for and I love that and think that kindness can go a long way.
I want to close this article with a quote I recently discovered by listening to a talk Edward Brown gave (http://www.audiodharma.org/talks/audio_player/618.html) (about the third time around anyway 🙂 and he talked about this poet, called William Stafford. He said William would write a poem each day. In response to being asked how he managed to fulfil this task, William simply replied,
“I lower my standards”.
Stay tuned folks and continue your beautiful work out there! And tell me in the comments below if you experienced similar situations yourself.