Starting a transition to a new lifestyle is not easy, especially if you are trying to revise routines you have followed your entire life. Any time you try to change, break, or start a habit it will be challenging. But just because this change is tricky does not mean that you must struggle every time you make any choice. There are ways to make it easier, and the further along you get in the process, the easier the changes become.
When I first started on the path of going zero waste, I learned just how challenging these changes can be. I had to alter the entire thought process I use while making any choice (choosing what to eat at the dining halls, what groceries to buy, and more). However, I also learned that the easier I could make these changes, the better I would do in my transition. So I started with one change that would force me to think about choices I make every day.
I started with changing the way I eat. This is the first choice I made because I had multiple reasons to change my eating habits. My reasons were based on the following:
· To reduce my waste (both before I get the food and after I’ve eaten it)
· To reduce my energy use and carbon footprint from production/transportation of my food
· To reduce the amount of sugar (specifically chocolate) that I eat, and
· To eat healthier overall and eat little to no processed foods
After figuring out the reasons for my decision, I tried to think of some rules I could give myself and questions to ask myself when making decisions. Almost a year after deciding to make this change, it still helps to think these through. The rules and questions include:
· What packaging does it come in? Plastic, glass, cardboard/paper, or various types?
· What impact does the production of this item have on the environment, and what environmental impact will its waste have?
· How processed is it? How much sugar/sweetener is in it?
· Choose grains, vegetables, nuts, and fruits instead of meat for most, if not all, meals
· Choose turkey and chicken over any other meat; if you need to eat other types, choose in this order: fish, pork/ham, beef
Choosing this as my first habit to change was the best thing I could have done to make the transition easier. Because I needed to think about it 3+ times a day and I had multiple reasons to make it work, starting with this change was way easier.
After making all these rules and questions for myself, it was still a challenge to always remember these while deciding what to eat or what groceries to buy, but the longer I continued with it, the easier it got. And about a month in, it became almost effortless. And once I made this change, I found that it was much easier to start making other changes, including ones that I might not think about every single day (like bringing reusable bags to the store).
The thing about transitioning to living zero waste, as we’ve said before, is that it is a constant process. No one is ever perfect. Everyone makes mistakes at some point (I know I have). It is just about getting better at making decisions that are better for you, your wallet (in the long run), your health, and our world.
So, if I were to give you any advice for starting this process, it would be this:
Choose to start with one change that you will need to think about every day and that you have multiple reasons to make work.
~Written by Jennifer Beyer~