Welcome to our series of posts on the A-Z of zero waste!
An overview of everything that has been shared so far can be found here.
This week we are going to focus on why it is so important when living a zero waste life to join in with what others are doing. You may find this topic a strange one, because isn't zero waste living about our own waste and lifestyles? Surely joining in with others is nice but not relevant here? Well, that is where I would disagree.
There are two areas where I believe it is important to consider joining in. One is joining in with people who are also living a zero waste life, and the other is joining in with other who don't yet know about zero waste living. I am aware that that means everyone on the planet. I'm not expecting you to somehow hang out with everyone in the world, but I would recommend that you are joining in somehow in both of these spaces.
Joining in the zero waste community
Given that you're reading a zero waste blog, I would say that you've likely already started this one, so well done! The reason I think it is important that you have joined the zero waste community is two-fold, firstly so you have people more experienced than you who can inspire you and help you out when you get stuck, but also so that you can do both of those things for someone who is newer to zero waste. We all have knowledge to share with others no matter where we are on our zero waste journey and being part of this community means that we all get to learn and do better.
But what do I mean by "joining in" with this community? Following zero waste instagrams and blogs is good but it's not necessarily a true community. We need more relationships for it to be a community, so reach out to other zero waste-ers on instagram. Drop them a message to encourage them or ask them a question about something they recently shared. Comment on one of their posts to ask them a questions, or answer someone else's question in the comments! I work full time and so can struggle to answer all my comments but I love seeing when other community members are stepping in and answering questions for each other. If you see another user who lives in your area, reach out to them and see if they know about any local gems you may not have yet come across! These things all work best in personal instagrams as your messages are more likely to get a slower response from someone with a larger following. Online community isn't perfect (please always consider your online safety) and I wouldn't recommend only having community online, but it can be a great place to start. I was recently prompted to go to the extinction rebellion protest outside the Brazilian embassy in London because someone lovely from instagram shared that they were going and was looking for someone to go with! Community can help you do things you might not do alone.
However I do think that a local community is an amazing resource to have, and more important and powerful than an online one, and I would recommend joining one. If some of your friends are trying to reduce their waste then you already have a ready-made community that you've joined. But if your friends and family aren't very interested I would recommend looking for a local zero waste group. These are amazing resources to find out more about the local community and what is on offer, but also to get encouragement and support! Zero waste isn't always easy but joining a community helps. You can also do things like bulk order food or toilet rolls and share them between the group, making it a little easier for those of us who live in small flats. If there isn't a local zero waste group near you, how about you start one? It doesn't need to be fancy! Advertise it on local social media groups or online places like NextDoor. You can even put up fliers on community notice boards and in coffee shops. If you're wishing there was a community to join then it's likely someone else is wishing the same and just waiting for you to start one!
We also need to join in with zero waste businesses and initiatives in our areas. These are also ways to create a local zero waste community by connecting with the people running them, but are also helping spread zero waste living further into mainstream life. There are so many ways you can "join in" and you can even do this if you're time poor and busy. You may not be able to donate your time to volunteer, but you may be able to donate money or skills or your resources. Even small actions of support can help you join in communities and make a difference:
- Buy from them or support them financially
- Support kickstarters
- Give them a shout out on social media
- Encourage friends to show up to their events
- Talk about them to other people
- Offer your resources (e.g. if they need space to store things and you have a spare room)
- Offer your experience and advice (e.g. sales, social media, advertising - literally anything can be useful if you just ask!)
Joining in with your wider community
If we stay in our own little environmentally friendly bubble we are unlikely to be able to influence anyone to make more conscious decisions. Even on social media you can end up with a bubble where the only people who follow you and see your posts are people who already have the same views as you, meaning that you're not actually spreading information any further. Social media very easily becomes an echo chamber. Engaging in community as a whole means that you can bring elements of zero waste to other spaces. Yes helping with a school event, for example, may not be run in a zero waste manner, but if your presence on the planning committee means that there are more low-waste options then that is still a big impact. Could you get a neighbourhood group to consider running a community litter-pick, or all gather to sign a petition to encourage local government to start a food waste collection?
My church now uses reusable plastic cups for water instead of disposable ones after weeks where I would join in with the cafe team and make the effort to put out the reusable ones (and put back away the disposable ones). It wasn't an enforced decision, it was just me regularly joining in, putting in the effort, and now that's what everyone does as they've seen it enough that it's just our culture now.
There are so many possible places you can join in and make a difference by making them a little more environmentally friendly. I could not possibly list all of them, but here are some general spaces:
- Your school or university
- Your child's school - how about the PTA, school board, or consider becoming a school governor
- Your church
- Your place of work
- Your neighbourhood community group
- Your local library
- A local allotment or community garden
- Charities and non-profits who need volunteers
- Local council or local government (even national government, why not?)
Individual actions, when you join in with others, can be multiplied to be greater than the sum of their parts. You can use all your different skills and resources to do something that you could never do alone. You might have an idea and not know how to make it a reality, but by joining in with a community you might find someone who knows exactly what to do it make it happen!
Join in Globally
A really important way to consider "joining in" this month is to consider joining the Climate strike on September 20th. This strike and protest will be 3 days before a UN emergency climate summit being held in New York, and young people from the Fridays For Future movement are planning their largest global climate strike yet, and so everyone is invited to join them on Friday 20th September.
I understand that there is a privilege in being able to strike from school or work and so this will not be accessible for all. But if you are able to attend, taking a day of annual leave or unpaid leave then this protest can be the biggest yet and really show policy makers in New York that our climate crisis matters to all of us. I am off work so will be going to the climate strike in London. You can find your local event here.
Even if you are not able to attend a march or event, which as a doctor I do understand, there is still plenty you can do! You could organise a work place or community action, take action on your lunch break, or even get colleagues to wear badges supporting the #climatestrike and share photos on social media.
Before the strike everyone can join in by sharing about it on social media with friends and you can find free resources at the Digital Climate Strike website.