Be better | How to adopt a zero waste lifestyle

Be better | How to adopt a zero waste lifestyle

Don’t read this blog.

Black Friday – the epitome of the excess epidemic. A day that sees tons and tons of textile, plastic and food waste clogging up landfills and overwhelming the waste stream. A day where humans thoughtlessly discard perfectly good items for shiny new updated replacements that they will soon be bored of, and replace again. A day that sees billions of dollars spent with reckless abandon, encouraging excessive production and, even worse, rewarding it. 

But we’re not here to give more airtime to Black Friday. We’re here to talk about the steps to achieving a zero-waste lifestyle; inspired by the philosophy of a very clever campaign by sustainable outdoor apparel brand, Patagonia

The bold, controversial ad launched exactly a decade ago in the Black Friday edition of the New York Times, and featured an image of Patagonia’s best-selling fleece jacket with the message: “DON’T BUY THIS JACKET”

This audacious statement from the well-known clothing brand caused quite the stir and certainly got people’s attention. Ironically, it sent sales of said jacket skyrocketing through the roof. Was this just a case of clever use of reverse psychology? No. 

To cut a long story short, Patagonia made a bold move in addressing a massive environmental problem, putting their own brand at risk at the same time. The problem they were addressing was waste. In all of its forms, not just textile.

The statement acted as an acknowledgment of accountability towards
their own contribution to the problem while also  humanising the consumer’s shortcomings. It was a message designed to encourage everyone to consider the effect of consumerism on the planet and to purchase only what they need. It touched consumers and resulted in the broad-scale commitment to the brand and its devotion to sustainability to grow even larger.

But… we wanted that jacket. Now what?  

It was time for us to look at a whole host of issues surrounding a seemingly ‘normal’ consumer-driven hedonistic purchase. It was the ultimate art of rejection. We all hate that, but know that somewhere, deep down, it’s purpose is to teach us a hard lesson. 

“Don’t buy this shirt unless you need it,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote in 2004. The echoed sentiment in 2011 was set to inspire a circular economy to resolve the consumption crisis. A circular economy system is one where products are purchased, used to their full extent, repurposed or repaired as much and for as long as possible, and only discarded at the very end of their life-cycle.

Adopting a zero-waste lifestyle is an important and hot topic, but it’s not easy. 

​​So, how can we start the process of eliminating waste from our lives? Again, let’s take inspiration from Patagonia’s great example, and look at some of the most effective ways we can manage the woes of waste… 

Just say no. Easier said than done? Of course, especially with the overwhelming amount of single-use plastic suffocating the market. The point is, we have to try. Try to refuse whenever and wherever possible. Make a personal commitment to saying “NO” to certain things, like plastic straws, non-recyclable packaging, and things you just don’t need. You’ll be surprised at how much of an impact the simple act of refusing has on eliminating most of your waste. 

Patagonia’s take? Don’t buy this jacket.

In a world of such exorbitant excess, this is a bold and important step. Reduce your consumption as much as you can. Anything you can use less of is bound to result in a smaller amount of waste. Take note of certain products in your life that may be harmful, wasteful and/or non-recyclable and reduce your dependency on said products by replacing them with more eco-friendly alternatives. They are out there and easier to find than you think!

Patagonia’s take? Do you really need another jacket? 

Choose reusable over disposable every single time. Modern society is so geared towards the throw-away culture – fast fashion, fast food, fast packaging. It’s normal to just throw these items away when we’re done with them, right? Wrong! Reusing encourages us to become creative with our resources (think turning jam jars into mini plant pots), and can give a whole new life to a product. Your ‘junk’ could even be someone else’s treasure.

Patagonia’s take? Sell, trade, or donate this jacket. Just don’t throw it away!

If it’s broke, fix it. So many items are discarded when they break, tear, rip, crack, and become seemingly obsolete. It has become way too easy to just buy a new product these days rather than repair an existing one. If you can, find a way to try and repair your damaged item before simply tossing it. If you can’t? Upcycle! Almost anything can be repurposed into something else. 

Patagonia’s take? Fix this jacket.

Once you’ve exhausted all the other options, recycling is the most environmentally friendly waste disposal method. “Recycling is what we do when we’re out of options to avoid [refuse], repair or reuse the product first,” says Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. “First, reduce: Don’t buy what you don’t need. Then, repair: Fix stuff that still has life in it. Also, reuse and share. Then, only when you’ve exhausted those options, recycle.” 

Patagonia’s take? Give us back the jacket. We’ll take it from here. 

Waste has become a massive challenge for humans and the environment in modern times. Luckily, there are steps we can take to start eliminating it entirely from our lives. The positive impacts are endless. A zero-waste life affects every living thing, reducing pollution in the air, water and soil, and taking pressure off the natural resources of our planet so we can all breathe easier. Be better – adopt a zero-waste life.

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