The Zero Waste Trap
This past summer I fell into a zero waste marketing trap.
“How is that a bad thing?” You might ask. To which I reply
“It has been proven that any trend promoting consumption has it’s downfalls.”
It started with the trendy Swell water bottle a few summers ago. I rarely consumed bottled water but it felt like a useful purchase to encourage hydration…plus this bottle held a whole bottle of wine, I was sold. Then a Keep Cup for my already expensive coffee habit, next was metal straws, reusable zip baggies, a bento lunch box and anything that made me feel progressive in eco consciousness. I’ve spent more than necessary on eco items for the sole purpose that I thought it would help me make better choices.
I admit that these small acts can make a difference but I can’t help but wonder “is getting a Keep Cup really solving the problem? Wouldn’t not getting coffee on the go be the best solution? Why are we all getting so much coffee anyway? Am I the only one feeling confused about the insane coffee consumption norm?”
I've long realized that this idea of people getting coffee on the go is a clear indication of how much we value busy-ness in this society. Back when Marie Kate & Ashley were seen with their venti lattes outside of school with perfectly disheveled hair to enforce their “I couldn’t care less, I’m too cool and too busy” vibe. But let’s get real, you are either grabbing an "I’m running late coffee" which is poor time management or an "I’m bored coffee" so you’ll fill this time with liquid consumption. Which is also a weird habit.
What’s conflicting to me is it’s often marketed as your moment of calm and comfort. But every time I grab to go I feel like I can’t even enjoy it. I’m usually carrying other stuff or walking briskly; so I end up pissed I have one hand occupied with something hot & spillable. Not to mention my Keep Cup lid dripping.
Anyways, my purpose here is to discuss the idea that sometimes, the most ecological & economical thing to do is not buy. The best choice is to reuse, consume at home, buy thrifted, and only if necessary buy new. But how can we stop ourselves? How can we train our inner dialogue to cut the crap while every company is trying to reel us in?
If I am totally honest, I’m probabaly only 5% more green since buying hundreds of dollars of zero waste reusable stuff. So this process has brought me to wondering, where did we lose the ability to make good buying decisions? I assume it has something to do with this strange sense of urgency that we need things NOW. Which is in complete opposition to our habits maybe just 20 years ago. Remember putting things on lay-away?
I recently thought that gift giving had gotten boring in adulthood because we can all afford the things we want. The truth is we just shop too much. We can’t even answer the question “what would you like for your birthday?” because we have swapped the wishlist with a buy list (or an amazon prime cart).
The wide adoption of low interest credit cards has us feeling like whether it’s bought now or later won’t change anything. But again, let’s be real, just because I can afford a 200$ item doesn’t mean I can afford it every month. And believe me, I’m tempted many times per week to shell that out. And the more I buy the less I feel proud, happy or connected to my choices. For some reason it feels better to spend 500$ on my credit card than it does to take $500 out of my savings, which just proves I probably don’t want it that bad anyway.
So how can we rekindle the old ways of saving for a prized item, purchasing with certainty and having full gratitude with every purchase?
I hate to say it, but the cliché is true. Less is more. I don’t need to stop shopping, I need to shop less, like once a month. Only use cash I have while actually saving for the bigger purchases. Is it possible? Can I do It? I have no idea and I don’t really care either because I’m all about trying, failing, adjusting and trying some more. Perfecting the art of systems for a happier simpler life.
So here’s my game plan that I’ve already failed (but I’ll get into that in the next article)
1: Have a budget
2: Take my shopping budget and save it in a separate account weekly.
3: Keep a list of items I’d like to buy in my phone (using the apple reminders/list app)
4: Once a month take a look at The List and buy the most desired item I can afford or save for the bigger priced item.
Makes sense right? This is what people used to do, without internet, Instagram, Amazon, eBay and other fomo-inducing media that has infiltrated our day to day. I’ve already spoiled the punch line that I didn’t quite succeed last a month but still, my awareness is there. So, I invite you to think about it & we rejoin next week for part 3.