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zero waste or low impact: do terms really matter?

Photo by: Laura Mitulla
Are you low-waste? Sustainable? Or zero waste? And does it really matter which label you choose? bare market blogger Josephine explores why the term zero waste has fallen out of favour and why our actions are more important.

Author: Josephine Agueci 

It isn’t breaking news that perfection is both beautiful and tragically unattainable. The pursuit of perfection can often lead to unhappiness and feelings of inadequacy. When it comes to zero waste, these feelings of imperfection are unfortunately all too common for those who are new to the movement. “How can I fit four years of trash into a mason jar?!” you might ask yourself at 1am while frantically sewing napkins and stirring your homemade deodorant. Sound familiar? We can all get a little caught up in the idealistic zero waste lifestyle projected via Instagram. You can crash and burn before you’ve even begun, getting fed up and overwhelmed while trying to do it all at once.  

The seemingly perfect, pristine image of a zero waste lifestyle - from the perfectly stocked pantries with matching jars, to the minimal, crisp white and marble homes – paints a picture that we should be consuming more in order to fit the zero waste mould.

But this is the complete opposite of what the movement is supposed to preach! A zero waste lifestyle is all about living consciously and with intention, using what we already have before replacing things with more sustainable options. Do all your jars really need to match in order to make positive climate impact?

Photo by: Laura Mitulla 

zero waste 

Even the term 'zero waste' can create issues. Calling the movement zero waste can be intimidating for many who are looking to make a difference but may not be in the position to bake their own bread from scratch or darn their socks. Currently, we live in a linear economy and haven’t reached the nirvana that is a circular economy ...yet. And because we don’t live in a society that is set up for a waste-free lifestyle, we can’t beat ourselves (or each other) up about not reaching those lofty, zero waste standards.

So what’s the solution? A term that is gaining momentum as an alternative to zero waste is known as the Low Impact Movement. While the term zero waste is more well known, the term low impact may be helpful for those looking to identify with a more accessible sustainable lifestyle.

low impact movement 

The Low Impact Movement was developed by influencer Immy Lucas, better known as Sustainably Vegan on Youtube and Instagram, in February of 2018. Tired of feeling guilty for not always being completely waste free, Immy was motivated to introduce a term and lifestyle change that could be more accessible to those who felt excluded or disconnected from the zero waste community.

Another goal of the Low Impact Movement was to amalgamate the zero waste ideals with other sustainable living values to create one comprehensive movement. These include eating a plant-based diet, striving for minimalism, and making ethical purchases and choices, in addition to producing minimal waste. The growth of the Low Impact Movement is helping to empower humans to change their habits for the better whilst fighting for a cleaner, fairer planet.

In the end, both zero waste and low-impact are only labels that are helping to inspire change, one human at a time. It can be argued that neither term matters at the end of the day, but rather the actions that you take and choices you make are what truly make a difference. Others argue that a more inclusive term is necessary to produce positive, sustainable growth. What do you think? Tell us in the comments below!

About the author: Josephine Agueci is a third year student at McMaster University studying Honours Earth and Environmental Sciences with a Minor in Sustainability. She is passionate about environmental education and believes that sustainable living is a never-ending process - there are always new opportunities for growth and improvement! She’s incredibly excited to be involved with bare market and the beautiful community it is creating.

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