Words by Alyssa Gabrielle Chen
Let’s face it. Zero-waste is an unrealistic goal. There are and will always be circumstances wherein we are forced to create waste, but this does not mean we do not care for the environment.
I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist. Whenever possible, I try to avoid single-use items and choose the more eco-friendly option. I bring a tumbler when I buy milk tea. I use eco-bags when I go shopping. We recycle PET bottles at home.
I try my best to limit the waste I generate every day and encourage others to do the same.
However, there are times when I find myself helpless as I grab a bottle of shampoo from the supermarket. I know, I can use the shampoo bars produced by Lush, which are indeed more eco-friendly than the bottles that come with liquid shampoo — but it’s double the price and we can’t afford it.
There are also times when I choose to eat from a nearby kiosk who serves their food in a plastic bag rather than a restaurant that serves their food on a ceramic plate. I know that choosing the restaurant is definitely more eco-friendly — but I also know that the kiosks need more support from customers.
Sometimes, because of these choices, I often get ridiculed for being a “fake environmentalist” or a “hypocrite.” It hurts — because people expect that being eco-friendly means being zero-waste in every way — it is as if we have to cease living just to stop all the adverse effects we have on the environment. But that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.
For me, zero-waste is technically impossible, but aiming for it isn’t.
We are never to reach zero-waste just as we are never to reach infinity, and there is nothing wrong about that. We have been so obsessed with associating the word “environmentalist” to being “perfectly zero-waste,” undermining the people who at least make a little effort to make the world better.
There’s no reason to feel guilty for not doing zero-waste perfectly. You brought a tumbler once but forgot it for 99 times? Great! That one time still made an impact on the environment. You refuse single-use plastics but still eat meat? That’s fine! You still contributed to lessening pollution.
Do not worry so much about how you are not doing zero-waste well enough. Instead, celebrate and be proud for being able to take part in the movement — even if it’s just a little bit.