I want to make another argument for the zero waste movement. This movement, for me, is about owning less and using less. It’s about being more aware of what I’m putting in and on my body. Being good to the earth is a positive side effect of this movement, of course, but I have to say that I am doing it for selfish reasons.
But be selfish!! Because I’m going to tell you that the zero waste movement has quickly raised my level of confidence.
Part of owning less means not being able to define myself by my possessions. And the things I do own are things I’m proud of, things that have a story behind it. I’ve loved to travel for the past several years, but now I can do that with even more intention. Instead of just buying a bunch of things and souvenirs, I’m looking for experiences that don’t cost me money or cost the earth its resources. It makes every thing and experience so much more special. And I don’t need things to prove I’m fun; I can just have fun.
Part of paying attention to the specifics of what I put in and on my body- food, cosmetics, clothing, and more- means actually paying attention to what my body really needs. I’ve hated my body for my whole life. I was too short and the line in Twilight about how Bella was slender yet soft always stuck out to me. I mean, really. I remember a line from Twilight. I wanted abs, ya know? I wanted to look good and I wanted perfect teeth like my friends. I wanted to know how to apply makeup and cover my blemishes and faults. Like, I really hated my body a lot. Now I don’t.
I’ve surrounded myself with like-minded friends who care more about their impact than their appearance. Friends who praise me for my writing, for taking care of myself, and for my efforts in everything (even if I fail). Now I use coconut oil on my face because I know my skin needs moisture. I use a vegan, organic, small business makeup brand because it helps my skin glow and also makes me feel good for using products from the earth, rather than created in a lab. Whatever, I love the earth and it’s so special she gives us resources for everything imaginable. The “beauty” routine I have is now to take care of my body, not to mask it. I’m also being more careful about my clothes. I want to know who is making them and what they’re made of. I buy second-hand, which forces me to try them on. No longer am I buying clothes I don’t need, hoping they’re going to make me beautiful. I buy them because I like it and I need it.
And my relationship with food. Wow. When you hate your body, it’s hard to find any energy to take care of it. I used to eat fried chicken and sweet tea for every lunch. I ate frozen dinners and didn’t care how my food was wrapped, where it came from, or if it had nutritional value. As it turns out, my stomach has trouble processing sugar and gluten. I spent several years being bloated and feeling fat, but it was actually a side effect from eating sugar. Anyway, being zero waste has forced me to face this. It’s forced me to take care of myself. I shop at farmers markets when I can, meaning I eat so many vegetables and fruits. I eat things that are good for me. I don’t physically get sick after I eat now! And that means I don’t beat myself up for eating bad foods. I don’t eat vegetables now because they will make me skinny; I eat them because it supports farmers and it makes me feel good.
There’s a movement in the food world that I learned about in an Italian food and culture class. It’s the Slow Food movement. It’s growing and eating seasonally. It’s taking the time to enjoy a meal. It’s a lot; you can just Google it if you care enough. I understood the concept okay in college, but now I live it. And live in in all aspects, not just food. It’s so much more pleasurable to slow down. Slow down and think about your buying, eating, living choices. Make careful choices that bring you JOY. Spend time with your choices. Make every little choice an experience and value experiences over things.
I won’t be insane and say that Zero waste is the direct cause of joyful living, but it has magnified it so much for me. It’s not just something I’m doing to produce less trash. Zero waste is just the name of the movement and it’s the one I’m going to use. But, really, it’s intentional living and it is bringing me so much appreciation for life. And it’s helping me love myself better.