LOW-WASTE LIVING AS ACTIVISM
WORDS & IMAGE: KATE WEINER
In many ways, living low-waste has transformed my life. Taking accountability for my trash has helped me to deepen my mindfulness practice, nurture relationships to a growing community of activists, and reconnect to my little square of stardust. I have been better able to weather our fascist regime's daily assaults on all people, places, and things, because I am living a (deliciously flawed & full) life that aligns with my values. I'm pretty much never perfect, but I am always striving to do better, and finding passion and purpose by doing just that brings me the kind of inner peace that stands strong in the face of external strife.
In spite of this, I rarely feel comfortable sharing my low-waste living journey with friends. Many popular mainstream zero waste "celebrities" have created a limiting perception of low-waste living that exists isolate from issues of social, economic, and ecological justice. As my rad friend Liv of Zero Waste Habesha pointed out in conversation yesterday, zero waste is too often labeled as lifestyle-y—even though choosing to reduce and refuse is a valid (and vital) branch of activism.
So what gives?
The patriarchy, man.
Delegitimizing the diversity of philosophies & practices within the zero waste movement is a way to write off the significant social impact of a thriving community that has been largely shaped and sustained by non-patriarchal bodies. Many popular low-waste living practices—such as creating healing herbal remedies and cultivating a trash-light home—are considered "feminine" pursuits. And so, like everything "feminine" in our mainstream culture, it's discarded.
Lucky for us earth advocates, we don't have to buy into that B.S. We can choose to uplift, honor, and practice the kind of environmentalism activism that defies conventional definition. How you live your everyday life is as impactful a kind of activism as your decision to protest in the streets, submit comments to public office, and call your representatives. Our daily decisions have a collective impact—which is to say that every plastic disposable we refuse, garden we grow, love we give, food scrap we compost, and magic we make adds up.
So if you are striving to refuse, reuse, and reduce, take pride in your process. What you are doing is activism too, and your personal practices truly have the power to change the world.