Since starting a zero waste journey, I’ve been trying to keep in mind that not everyone can take the steps I can. I shared on my Instagram, but I’ll repeat it here:
I want to tell you all that it’s okay if you can’t do it. I’m coming from privilege that allows me to be educated, to have access to farmers markets and health food and zero waste gear, to have access to compost and recycling, to have free time to devote to clean ups, meal prep, etc. I don’t have a disability, I don’t come from poverty, and I learned the bulk of my earth knowledge at a four year university that I didn’t have to pay for. I wouldn’t want my enthusiasm for earth friendly practices to translate into judgment for people that don’t do it, unless it’s out of pure laziness. In which case… Anyhow, I want people to care about the earth, but I understand when other things have to take precedence and I’m lucky to be able to focus so much of my energy on these practices. I hope we’re all just doing the best we can.
Point is, we can’t all do the same things. That’s fine. I’ve been trying to think of suggestions for everyone that work for everyone because I really want to give you the knowledge you need to take care of the planet. It’s not a job for future generations. It needs to start now. Here are my first suggestions, FREE suggestions. Most people should be able to do these.
Do not litter. If you’re producing trash, make sure it finds its way into a trash can. This will help prevent the wind from catching it and taking it somewhere it doesn’t belong. This might mean you have to carry it a few extra miles in your car or a few blocks if you’re walking. Some neighborhoods in New York City have fewer trash cans than others. This is a real problem, BUT you can still find one. We have to stop throwing garbage onto the ground.
Pick up other people’s trash. You can definitely purchase gloves for this, if you want, and I definitely don’t think we need to touch disgusting items. I will never pick up a dog poop bag, for example. I mean, that’s reasonable. But if you see a stray plastic bag? Candy wrapper? Get it. I personally think buying latex gloves is okay for this. If it gets trash off the ground and into its proper place, I’m willing to sacrifice a pair of disposable gloves to prevent myself from touching an unpleasant or harmful substance. Can’t afford gloves? Just pick up the low risk (dry) items. A plastic bag flew into my foot today and I carried it to the trash and washed my hands after. Very simple.
I think this one is especially important at the beach! That trash is so close to entering the ocean. Do not let it. (Watch A Plastic Ocean documentary for more info on this. It’s on Netflix.)
Host a cleanup with your community. This one is cool because you can combine and share resources. Maybe you can’t afford to buy trash bags and gloves for everyone, but your neighbor can. My block recently hosted a cleanup and flower planting party to celebrate Mother’s Day. One person bought everything, but the whole street was invited to participate.
You can also just do this with friends and it doesn’t have to be planned. It’s the same as… picking up other people’s trash. I was recently with my husband and a friend walking down a beach in California. We stumbled upon a food wrapper and I picked it up. We spent the next 5 or 10 minutes scanning the sand for trash we could comfortably touch and toss into the bins (that were literally 50 feet away ugh). Spontaneous community cleanup!
If you’re reading this, you at least have access to a computer. Be an ally for the earth. Research, research, research. I love research. I mentioned in my first post about this that it’s really important to learn about what you’re doing before you do it. There are tons of documentaries and articles and blogs devoted to caring for the earth and limiting our environmental impact. Once you learn, share. Social media mostly sucks for me, but it’s a great place to be vocal about things you care about. I don’t really care if people say otherwise, ya know? What’s the point if you can’t post what you want? Which brings me to…
If you have friends or family littering, tell them to stop. Hurt some feelings, save the earth. Lol. Not really (try to be kind), but there will be people who just don’t understand your passion. It’s okay. Just keep doing what you can and don’t let the haters get you down, man.