I first tried writing a post about this, but there was so much I felt like I needed to say, so these topics evolved into me creating a video simply talking instead.
The roles that privilege and ableism play in “zero waste” lifestyles isn’t talked about enough. I also wanted to share how I was first challenged and continue to be challenged with the zero waste movement, touching on the role religion plays in that.
Here are my main points:
- “Zero waste” is really just low waste because achieving zero waste is completely unattainable in this time.
- I am privileged because I live in an area where bulk stores and resources are available to me and I am supported by others. This lifestyle is a choice for me. Many people don’t have bulk stores, resources, support, or even a choice.
- Now, when you look for resources on living zero waste, it’s often young, white, affluent women. But zero waste living isn’t new. People in other parts of the world live this way and live off of the land out of necessity. And, what is being brought to the table now was already there by black and brown people. Only because white people have affixed themselves to this lifestyle is it now receiving focus.
- Many don’t have the means materially or physically to live this way. As an able bodied person, I can take advantage of going from store to store, carrying containers around, opening jars, etc. Many aren’t able to live this way.
- Many rely on food stamps and food banks as a source of food. Pursuing a zero waste lifestyle is out of reach for them.
- We with privilege are called not just to recognize our privilege and talk about it, but above all, we are to break down walls and dismantle systems, corporations, and mindsets that oppress others from having this lifestyle be a choice and who want to limit their environmental impact. We with privilege are responsible to make this lifestyle attainable for everyone.
- America is obsessed with instant gratification. Others in the world have no choice but to be intentional and thoughtful with what they buy and consume.
- Why does this lifestyle in America seem to necessitate privilege when it is the default lifestyle for many in “developing” countries? Capitalism and colonialism are really terrible, folks.
- We are all called, no matter who you are, to treat the environment well, to care for it and to protect it. That will look very different for other people, and that’s okay. One step at a time. Zero waste is only one way to lessen your impact on the environment. It’s not the end-all-be-all lifestyle for those who want to protect the earth.
- We can’t rely on the government to protect people and the environment from corporations. Not using plastic is an incredibly impactful way to boycott Big Oil, an industry fueled by racism, corruption, and greed.
- Environmental issues affect people in an individual, concrete, daily way, not just the land. Just google “living in landfills” and “rising sea water erasing pacific islands.” We as white people in America won’t hear about this unless we deliberately seek out that information, because it doesn’t affect us personally. So learn about how climate change is immediately affecting black and brown people outside of America, because they’re often the ones who get it first and get it worst.
- I am Catholic, and our Catholic social teaching has seven themes, one of them being “care for creation.” Pope Francis talks about our “throw away culture” not just in regards to trash, but people as well. My faith is a big reason why I am passionate about this and why I am called to action. My faith calls me to live simply and just with what I need. To not live in this way would be contradictory to the religion I claim for myself.
- My actions affect other people, whether I realize it or not.
- Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ encyclical on care for our common home, is a total game changer, and I strongly encourage all folks to read it.
- This movement must be inclusive and those with privilege are to make that happen, which means making this lifestyle achievable and accessible to all.
- We are all called to care for the environment and the individuals within it. If you are taking any steps to limit your environmental impact, whether big or small, be proud of yourself and celebrate it!
What are your thoughts on this? Let me know below in the comments!