Zero-waste living - Women are leading the pack
Before an ‘influencer’ was even a thing, Jane Austen - in 1811 - penned these words in Sense and Sensibility: “It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” We think that is pretty ‘sensible’ advice in a 21st-century context with a particular bearing on pursuing a zero-waste lifestyle.
From the dawn of time, women have had an innate ability to be influencers and change-makers in their families and communities. Their multi-tasking skills are off the charts, and juggling home, family and work is par for the course. So why not add ‘save the planet’ to their daily to-do list? And when it comes to the concept of zero-waste living, women are leading the pack and changing the world.
To follow in their footsteps, here are a few simple things you can do:
Change how you think
Here’s the issue: the first-world interpretation of zero-waste tends to be Instagram-worthy; pantry staples beautifully displayed in glass jars and minimalist bathrooms showcasing handmade soaps and DIY beauty products. All you have to do is invite the iconic Home Edit Team to pop in or follow Marie Kondo's mantra. (Although it is worth mentioning that a zero-waste lifestyle does tend to ‘spark joy’).
That will not, however, resonate with the majority of South Africans and it is not sustainable in a third-world or developing country. (The discussions are always more complex, political and nuanced). But simply put, the zero-waste movement is all about cutting down on packaging and single-use plastic to reduce our landfill problem and marine plastic pollution crisis. (Not such a pretty picture, but definitely doable).
This is where women are uniquely poised to step into the gap. As nurturing activists, they are focused on investing in future generations; becoming catalysts of change (with or without a public following) in their homes, places of work and communities - one plastic bag (straw or water bottle) at a time.
"Now that environmentalism has become something more immediate and relevant to our daily lives, you see women much more engaged." -Sociologist, Emily Huddart Kennedy
The aspirational ideal of a waste-free, zero-waste society is simply not realistic in the broader South African context. But changing our mindsets to take the eco-conscious stats seriously and become plastic-conscious is a good starting point.
Change how you shop
Our throw-away culture has spiralled into a careless way of living and shopping. That is why it is kudos to large retailers (like Woolworths) who have already forced us to change our shopping habits and made us more plastic-conscious.
Women are, generally speaking, ninja shoppers. They are also savvy shoppers. That gives them the opportunity to impact real change and make a real difference when it comes to applying zero-waste principles to their shopping habits.
Their influencer power in this area is huge as they educate their children, and those in the queues behind them, just by what they do. Refusing plastic shopping bags, using their own reusable shopping bags or baskets, or shopping at package-free shops - either in-store or online - is the beginning of an exciting zero-waste journey.
Change how you recycle
Probably the easiest starting point is auditing your daily throw-away habits. You don’t need to suddenly rush out and invest in 5 recycling bins; you just need to think differently about your rubbish.
The biggest impact is separating out your plastic waste products. This not only puts bread on many tables in South Africa but is also an inspirational opportunity for women entrepreneurs to become self-sufficient, provide for their families and educate their children.
This may seem contrary to a plastic-free and zero-waste existence, but as mentioned before, the discussions are complex, political and nuanced. By recycling household plastic products, we are reducing the landfill crisis, empowering women and being responsible consumers.
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero-waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly" -Zero-Waste Chef
Change how you post
There is no denying the influencing power of social media. What women post has the potential to educate, inspire and motivate. This social media activism can spark action in communities.
"Once you start sharing information and putting it on social media like Instagram or Facebook, all of a sudden it becomes something social, and something bigger than just the individual." --Sociologist, Emily Huddart Kennedy
Your potential online community reach and influence cannot be overstated. If you are passionate about being plastic-conscious and embracing a package-free lifestyle, then using social media platforms to share relevant zero-waste posts can create awareness, encourage conversations, motivate action and affect unprecedented change.
The Unwrapped Co.
Becoming plastic-conscious, changing your daily habits and choosing a zero-waste journey may take a little effort, but since when have women been afraid of effort when it comes to a good cause?
If you are feeling overwhelmed about where to start, simply head over to The Unwrapped Co, a local online zero-waste store with a vision to help you adapt your lifestyle and practices to become more sustainable and less wasteful. (Feel free to like us, follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and share our posts on your social media feed. It’s the sensible thing to do). 😉