A Mental Hurdle to Zero Waste

Throughout my Journey Towards Zero-Waste, I've constantly sought council from people practicing zero- / low-waste lifestyles.  Their advice, support and encouragement has been transformative for my life and for my footprint.

Some have given simple advice, that can be implemented on the spot: start drinking tap water instead of bottled water.  Others have recommended products and companies, that become habitual: bring a mug to your coffee shop.  Some advise on nuances of decision making: an EV might save a lot of gas production, but utilizes rare earth minerals that are often wasted.  But the most groundbreaking, but also difficult council I received was about overcoming the mental hurdle for MORE.

Classic literature on The American Dream, paint a story of an overbuilt home full of relatively unused furniture.  Implicitly tying happiness and success to buying something bigger and grander.

Movies and TV shows are among the worst culprits for trying to get people to buy products which they didn't even know they "needed".  Not only through direct ads, but also through more subtle but expertly crafted subliminal messaging: the coke can that has its label facing the camera perfectly.

And of course, Facebook wouldn't sell $120B if not for its advertising: literally designed to make you buy more "stuff". 

Kind of reminds me of the Expedia commercial's script which starts with: "Stuff. We love Stuff."

How to Course Correct

Okay- now that we've established that all past actions are forgiven and the fault of multi-billion dollar corporations designed to get you to buy more, let's answer what we do about it?

The first piece of advice I was given was after buying my first pair of jeans.  My mom said "Will you wear it?" (or more commonly "Do you like it?")  Simple enough- hopefully we all do that already, but it is definitely a good first filter.  If you don't like it- definitely don't buy & waste it.

The next advice is: "Will this make you happier?" Fast-forward dozens of personal pursuits and readings on happiness, and I still struggle to answer this one.  According to those books, movies and commercials mentioned above- yes, I'll be happier with anything I buy.  But reflecting further, I often find the true answer to be no.  No, I won't actually be a happier person because I have the new Apple product.  Even though I like it and am an apple fanboy, no- it won't make me happier.

The solution. Limitless

The most important filter for decision making is: "Do I absolutely need it?"  This is by far the hardest question. To start- it probably depends how you define "need".  Do I need coffee or just want it?  Do I need a TV or is it just the norm to have?  I'd argue it doesn't matter how you define it, what matters is that you're engaging with this concept of "need" for every single thing you buy.  You're asking the question and weighing its true value in your life.

What This Unlocks

If you can make a habit of asking these questions to yourself with each purchase, I can guarantee you'll start producing less waste, save money and likely live a happier life (who knew I was writing self-help?).

You can take this exercise and implement it across many micro-decisions.  Do I need the utensils they're giving me with my hand-held sandwich, or is it just more to throw away?  Will this plastic cup make me happier than bringing my own washable mug?  Do I actually intend to wear that shirt?  Do I need it in an Amazon box, bag and bubble wrap, or can I walk down the street and get it?  You'll be surprised by how many near-purchases you don't need.

If you have an example of a recent near-purchase that you didn't need, share it below in the comments, or tag us on Facebook / Instagram.  We love encouraging you on your journey and celebrating every little victory!  Plus it'll help to inspire others in living a minimalist life.

In an attempt to replicate Ewan McGregor in the Expedia commercial, I'll end with the rhetorical question:

Do you think any of us will look back in our lives and regret the things we didn't buy?

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