Last week was not exactly a resounding success for my zero waste lifestyle.
Ever since we dedicated ourselves to the challenge of living more sustainably a couple years back, my partner and I have sought out new ways to minimize our impact on the environment and create a safer tomorrow for future generations. We’ve made improvements in various facets of our lives, including purchasing reusable straws and produce bags and actively working to reduce our plastic intake. When the COVID-19 pandemic prompted shutdowns across the state and globe, my job transitioned to a remote format, which greatly reduced my average weekly driving. It wasn’t until Colorado began reopening businesses that I realized that despite the improvements we had made to sustainable living this past year, we’ve also lost lifestyle habits that had kept our landfill footprints low.
In celebration of the warmer weather last week, my partner and I hopped in the car to take our pup Ruka on a hike and to the dog park, which quickly became a day-long adventure. It was phenomenal to get out of the apartment and enjoy the warm (if not mildly windy) early spring weather. What we were missing, however, were the zero waste items that I normally kept prepped in my car, which I had removed nearly a year prior when my car trips never took me outside of the apartment for more than an hour or so. So when we pulled up at a coffee shop drive-thru (me entirely enthused that they still existed, as it had been over a year since I had indulged in anything but pre-ground, bagged coffee at home), not only did we not have my typical stash of reusable portable mugs, which likely could not be used anyway, but I also had forgotten to return my reusable straws to my glove box. Items to go in the trash for this trip? The coffee cups, stirrer sticks, and single-use plastic straws. Bummer.
Over the weekend, we decided to use our two ski passes left over from the previous winter. We hurriedly left the apartment later than anticipated and neglected to bring any breakfast with us. So, less than 30 minutes into our drive, we pulled up at a fast food joint. Here, we racked up a few wax-lined food containers, two sets of single-use plastic silverware (still hadn’t remembered to bring a few metal forks back to my car from our earlier outing that week), and an absurd amount of individual packets of ketchup scattered across the bottom of the paper bag. Oops.
So we weren’t perfect. Far from it, in fact, and we came home frustrated with the amount of trash we had managed to produce from just two meals out of the house. Lesson learned: zero waste takes preparation. With the shifts in daily structure that the global pandemic has caused, we have managed to forget that, yes, being gentle on the planet takes some forethought. It is up to us now to recondition ourselves to think ahead and pull ourselves back into positive habits. We all, collectively, need to make space for the humanism in us all as we strive towards a better world, and allow ourselves to take both steps forward and steps back on occasion. Allowing ourselves to be imperfect while pushing towards higher standards is an emotional journey, but one that is SO worth it. So let yourself mess up sometimes and celebrate when you meet or exceed your expectations. After all, we’re all human - let’s act like it.