Zero Waste Burnout & How To Get Back On Track

Janaki Krishna, URA Board Member

Feeling fatigued?

Does it feel that nothing seems to be going right, or after every step forward you feel that you’ve gone two steps back? Do you feel you are recycling and making environmentally friendly decisions, only to learn that the rules have changed? Keep doing what you can. Do you ever just want to curl up in a ball and shut off the lights? I do. I’m tired. But it’s ok, we just need to keep muddling our way forward… one step at a time. 

Keep doing what you can, keep up the positive changes you’ve made already, and, with time, this too will pass. We will continue to adjust and find even more ways to lessen our impact on the earth. Desmond Tutu had it right when he said: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”  

Smaller steps are easier. Celebrate the victories, no matter how small.  For me that means breathing deeply (despite terrible allergies this year),  sitting in the garden, and observing the plethora of bees and hummingbirds. Note the variety of bees! Oh, and the sphinx moths are getting bigger! Relish the fact that despite a slow start (and some early pestilence) the grape vines have greater stalks than ever. 

Realize there are little things you can do to change your habits and it is not so bad. Edward Everett Hale said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” So celebrate that “Yes! I can remember to pack a reusable cloth to take to the gym to wipe down equipment rather than using disposable wipes! I can put some reusable containers in the car, in case I need it for takeout!.” (Certainly, I can do better about replacing those once used.)

In my home, given that we’ve increased our home composting and the green waste bin is collecting again, our trash has reduced to so little, we wonder if we should get a smaller bin. The vegetable garden is coming along and in the grocery store, there are more offerings of fruit and vegetables without wrapping, yea! Farmer’s markets are open! We are remembering to put produce bags in the right shopping bags, so they are there when we need them. And maybe, if we force encourage the grocery checkers to learn how to deduct the tare, maybe this will become part of basic training. (My husband and I have different philosophies on this one, he’d prefer we pay the extra and not complicate things. I feel they need to learn how to charge appropriately, even if it inconveniences us every time. After all its convenience that got us into this single-use/ plastic mess) 

Look for other small challenges you can take on. As you come to the end of a product consider a change. Ask yourself: Can I buy shampoo without packaging/bulk or make my own? How does this affect my hair?  Instead of buying cotton rounds can I buy or make reusable ones? Is there a solution to disposable razors that I’m willing to use. There are lots of small challenges we can attempt. We are all busy and have plenty of other concerns and worries in life, but if we are willing to try making the small changes and adopt some into our lives we will be less of an impact on the environment.   

So, what is important to remember is that you don’t have to be doing things perfectly or bear the full weight of the world, just try your very best and do what you can! What the Zero Waste Chef said is true, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”