Is Zero Waste Unfair to Low Income or Disabled Persons?

 

I hate lumping this into one post, but people have written me quite a bit recently about their frustration with the zero waste movement and how discriminatory and ableist it can seem. To hear some describe it, it's the "You can't sit with us!" of environmentally-driven movements. I'm definitely guilty of saying anybody can be zero waste, and I'm sorry for that, because it isn't practical for everyone and not always appropriate. Judging by the comments on most articles about zero waste bloggers, many feel the lifestyle is overwhelmingly represented by young, affluent women who can afford pricey stainless steel containers and have the time / ability to run all over town for ingredients before investing the labor necessary to make vegan food and natural beauty products. What about people suffering arthritis, or those confined to a wheelchair? How about those who are on food stamps or rely on food pantries? Shaming people for buying plastic or pre-peeled fruits and vegetables isn't an effective motivator towards environmental change. Nobody should feel obligated to lead a zero waste life- being conscious and aware of our environmental impact is good, but people shouldn't be judged for their personal choices, which vary by circumstance.

It's important to realize that until hemp, cellulose, and chitin packaging becomes the norm, plastic packaging and convenience foods have their place. Those who can may drive consumer demand for biodegradable materials on the retail end, and those who can't shouldn't feel bad about using products that improve their quality of life. There are many disabled or low income people who are naturally environmentally conscious; here are some things they do to save money or strength while still lessening their carbon footprint.

Going Zero Waste (Without Spending a Lot of Money or Energy)

  1. Eat less meat and dairy. I grew up with a single mom, and while she worked really hard to give us a great life and we're very comfortable now, there were times when things were really lean. Our income qualified us for government subsidized food programs in our state, but our celiac disease, which there were no provisions for at the time, precluded us from taking advantage of it. She managed to feed all of us, sometimes for as little as $2 a day, with creative, delicious meals made from vegetables, beans, dried spices, and rice. We stayed healthy and got plenty of protein, and my brother and sister are very tall, so it's not like it stunted our growth or anything. Lentils and beans are cheap in bulk, and homemade plant based milks are less expensive than cow's milk (this obviously doesn't apply to everyone, but my neighbor, who is over 70, makes one tiny bag of garbage per week, and has arthritis along with other health problems, says putting ingredients in her blender is easier than opening a Tetrapak). If you don't have access to bulk bins, don't worry about bags or cans. Eating vegan just one day a week saves so much oil, energy, carbon, and water! In Paris, there's a vegan, gluten-free delivery service called Funky Veggie that contains everything you need for one vegan night per week, all in recyclable packaging, so people don't have to run all over town sourcing ingredients for a healthy meal- perfect for a city with limited handicap accessibility. Just remember that your health and well being comes first. I do know frugal people who used their food stamps to shop at Whole Foods, they just skipped the fancy stuff and focused on bulk, frozen, or canned items. In Ohio, many farmer's markets will accept food stamps or SNAP cards.
  2. Shop secondhand / reuse. Saves money, saves resources, and, at least in Paris, spares people with limited mobility running around because it's one stop shopping for household goods, clothing, etc., instead of heading to the little specialized shops favored by the French :) I noticed many Emmaus shops around here are handicap accessible, whereas some of the more expensive places are too crowded and lack ramps or elevator-equipped Metro stops. Also, I feel like a jerk for saying this because I recommend Weck jars all the time, but don't feel like you need a matching set of Weck jars or the same "zero waste essentials" another zero waste blogger uses. Reusing the bottles you already have is beautiful too! Before I moved here, I didn't even have a mason jar. I reused all my mom's old stuff and only bought jars and bags secondhand when I moved and couldn't take it all with me.
  3. Grow your own / make it yourself. This applies more to people with low incomes than with disabilities, although when I worked with disabled and terminally ill children, they found gardening and making seed balls easy and therapeutic. Freecycle or Craigslist often has listings for free seeds, clippings, or even mulch, and sometimes people give away canning equipment (which you can often buy secondhand). Making your own condiments and preserving your own fruits and vegetables can cut down on expenses, depending on where you live. Growing your own herbs or re-growing from food scraps saves a lot of money, and composting means free fertilizer! 
  4. Clean naturally. I received emails from people with ALS, MS, arthritis, and lupus that they love their Brush with Bamboo toothbrushes because of the easily openable, plant based packaging- remember the plastic toothbrush packaging you had to struggle to cut open? Using baking soda is also easier for some people than dealing with a twist up deodorant or squeezing toothpaste from a tube, not to mention cheaper. Save money by cleaning with plain soap and vinegar from an easy-to-use spray bottle, instead of harsh, expensive industrial cleaners and detergents with child-proof packaging. Switch to rags instead of paper towels and try water only or no poo to slash expenses.
  5. Incorporate reusables judiciously. Safety razor shaving, menstrual cups, and cloth diapers save so much money. I was amazed at how much my monthly expenses went down just by switching to a safety razor and Mooncup alone. Using cloth napkins and real silverware is a one time investment, and sometimes shops give a discount if you bring reusable bags (Target still does this, and all the family run groceries in my hometown).

 
Volunteer run community garden in Paris, filling reused jars at zero waste shop Day by Day

Also, I hope it's okay that I write this, but one of the ladies suffering from ALS said she loved bulk wine in the swing top bottles too- maybe for some people it might be easier than using a corkscrew? I was also thinking that eating bulk snacks from drawstring bags can be more convenient for some handicapped people than struggling with plastic bags you need to cut open and reseal. I can't imagine what it's like to suffer from daily pain and still carry the weight of the world's environmental problems around with you, and I feel bad that people feel that way. These people should be proud of doing the best they can without sacrificing their health or their dignity. Those of us who do not suffer from a chronic illness or who have more income at our disposal can work to make zero waste more inclusive. For instance, in Paris and in Cleveland there are programs that turn brownfields or abandoned / unused space into community gardens, to give people in food deserts access to fresh, free fruits and vegetables. On Rue Leopold Bellan, there is even a free herb garden one resident started (pictured above), inspired by the movie Demain. Paris also has some shops with bulk bins situated low to the ground, so people in wheelchairs can use them. Could you volunteer to collect food that would otherwise go to waste and redistribute them to the needy? Petition local shops for more accessible bulk bins? Or assist handicapped or elderly persons in your community with the grocery shopping? The point is to be balanced- obviously there are more important things in life, and you can't spend all your time and energy on zero waste. Anyway, I tried to avoid using insensitive or ableist language here, but I don't always know what's politically incorrect anymore, so please tell me if any of the suggestions seems unrealistic or offensive. I believe zero waste shouldn't be solely a function of privilege, but maybe, as things stand now, it actually is.

Paris to Go

54 comments:

  1. This is a thoughtful post. I teach a course on the "political economics of development" at Wellesley and in my course we talk about the structures of oppression that cause suffering and limit people's opportunities. In class, two books have been incredibly helpful and accessible for undergrads to read: Poor Economics by Banerjee and Duflo and Pathologies of Power by Paul Farmer. In Poor Economics, the authors postulate that poverty creates a particular and peculiar set of incentives that guide people's behaviors in ways that those from a position of power and privilege do not face. Consequently, what might seem like the affordable or best option from the perspective of rich/powerful/wealthy might not make sense for those that are poor/lacking voice and power. From this lens, zero waste may seem more or less attainable depending on the structural oppression that a person faces. I am not arguing that zero waste is unattainable for those facing poverty but that the hurdles they face to living that lifestyle are likely complex to navigate and worthy of close examination. I highly recommend checking out the books.

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    1. Hi Nadya, I always look forward to your comments because you always have such thoughtful and interesting advice and recommendations!! I will read those books. In school we debated a lot about why environmentalism seems to be skewed socioeconomically towards the more affluent. The general consensus was that the affluent don't have real problems, so they can worry about the environment more, which of course, is a very reductionist way to look at it (reductionist is not the right word but I forget the English word, I'm sorry! Hopefully you understand what I mean). I looked at the Poor Economics website and plan to read the book on the plane next week.

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    2. I second Pathologies of Power. (Ps go Wellesley! Class of '06 here.)
      Thanks for addressing this - I can sense the frustration in comments on sites like Zero Waste Home when the author's response to questions of this nature is basically "you're making excuses-you can ALWAYS do zero waste."
      Re: language, Wikipedia "person first" language and you'll get a quick primer on what's considered preferable terminology by many in the disability community. One quick fix is saying "people with disabilities" instead of "disabled people" or "the disabled." It puts personhood first and ability second.
      Leah from www.thriftshopchic.com

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    3. Ariana, I understand what you are saying. You are so wonderful to take on a tough topic. I think you will love Poor Economics, it is a really good read.

      Leah- Go Wellesley! I started as an assistant professor in political science in 2011:) I usually shock my classes when I tell them about my second hand and zero waste tendencies. I have a section of the class on alternative growth and consumer models (GNH, zero waste/minimalism/voluntary simplicity).

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    4. Hi Leah, I never heard of person first language but I fixed it just now! Thank you! Nadya your class sounds so interesting- I want to take it now!

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    5. You're welcome, Arianna - I learned about it recently and am happy to pass it on.
      Nadya, I love that you teach alternative consumer models/growth. College can be such a formative place (for example that's where a classmate introduced me to Paul Farmer, big shift in perspective!) so I bet you're planting lots of seeds for future zero wasters/secondhanders/etc.

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    6. Many disabled people (like myself) find person first language irritating or offensive, as it tries to separate the person from the disability. You'd say "blonde person," not "person with blonde hair," so many of say "disabled person" instead of "person with disabilities."

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    7. Hi Brittany Nicole, thank you for telling me this. I'm sorry I offended you. In the future I won't edit these things, I will leave it as a record and apologize if I offend anyone.

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    8. Brittany Nicole, thanks for mentioning the other side. I used "many" as opposed to "all" in my initial comment because although the disability advocates I know personally have said they prefer this language for themselves, a quick internet search showed me it's far from universal!

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  2. In Georgia, SNAP is doubled at Farmer's Markets which is a very cool program. Not sure if this is occurring in other states as well, but I thought I'd add it to your list. :)

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    1. Hi Mikella, wow that is so awesome! What a great initiative! If you ever hear one of Philippe Cousteau's speeches (I think food inc or one of those documentaries touched on this too) he talks about how food stamps recipients are more likely to be obese, because junk food and fast foods are subsidized by the health care industry. People in poor areas usually have narrower food choices and less access to fresh, healthy foods, so it is incredible that a state is doing something like this. I'll have to look up and see if Ohio does something similar. This is really nice!

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  3. Dear Ariana. You are so helpfull and sensitive! Please do not feel as though you are offending people, you are the probably the kindest person on the entire Internet. I we could all be so kind, and try to make only a little difference, imagine how our world would look!

    Personnally, I can only testify that living a less consumerist life, trying to make as little waste as possible saves me a great deal of money: especially on the beauty front.

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    1. Aw Emma you are so sweet. I am so glad that fighting against consumerism and minimizing your impact has such great results. Hope you and your man are good!

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  4. As someone who has worked in universal accessibility/ergonomics-related fields, I can say: less packaging is typically more accessible. The mechanics I've gone through to get into plastic blister packs... :(

    Also, the one-handed "peeling" motion for many plastic storage containers is not ideal ergonomics for anyone. Lever-action tops could (I haven't done/read research on this) be easier to open for a wider range of abilities. I've seen some demonstrations of traditional Tupperware for persons suffering temporary arm mobility impairment (translation: one arm is in a cast), and it's startling the bad positions they quickly get into in order to manipulate the object.

    I guess my point is: MOST products, zero-waste or otherwise, are designed for able-bodied people. The gold-standard for me would be UA products that are also zero-waste. Putting those into mainstream circulation lowers the cost for all.

    That was a bit rambling. I may or may not be in a meeting...

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    1. Another thought: mainstreaming bulk bins, reuse networks, etc. makes all of that more widely accessible. It's specialty shops in out-of-the-way places that make it seem like a niche market; it physically is, in some ways.

      I can think of several examples where a standard that is set by a mainstream audience has carved a path for policies and procedures to make that same resource available to people with different modalities. Sports are a great example.

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    2. Hi Bonnie, these are excellent points I never thought of! Thanks for sharing your expert perspective! I'm going to do more research on universal accessibility (which I probably should have done before writing this). I do have a friend who doesn't have an arm who told me after reading this post that she really likes the limonade bottles too because the flip top is so much simpler. Must be that lever action. Great ideas, thank you so much!

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  5. How kind of you to offer these suggestions. I don't have the health challenges mentioned but I am on a budget and didn't think I could afford to move toward zero waste. But I love all your suggestions. You offer hope that it can be done! Well done post!

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  6. This post. Thank you! You have stated all of my thoughts so eloquently. It's easy to get caught in the trap of thinking - I could never afford that. But, it really is so much cheaper. And, you don't have to be perfect to grab a couple of tips or make a couple of changes. It's not all or nothing and it's definitely not about perfection!

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    1. I really loved what you said on the Going Zero Waste Facebook page- anybody can make small changes! Everybody can make a difference! And that's the truth. I know social media can put a lot of pressure on people sometimes but just a few little tweaks to an everyday routine can make such a great environmental impact.

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  7. Great, great post. Thank you for writing this. I have been having this conversation with environmental educators. While everyone can not make all the changes someone else has, does not mean they can't try something else to suit their life. I always stress in my talks that saying no to a plastic bag or takeaway coffee cup is a huge, gigantic action. And both of these actions require no huge costs, yet they speak volumes.

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    1. Thank you Erin! That is a great point- just saying no to these small reusables makes a big difference! Everyone has different circumstances that they can adapt these principles too.

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  8. Ariana, I love that you address this and with such compassion. I personally so enjoy your blog because I feel you do make it very accessible and also, are presenting a it as an option, not as dogma.

    I also grew up economically disadvantaged. For most of my life we struggled and while very comfortable now, we certainly qualified for many programs but also had difficulty accepting them for dietary reasons. But we also, in more practical ways than not, practiced many of the things you show here.

    One of the things I do so love about Paris-To-Go is the amount of amount of practical, old fashioned wisdom in the posts. The idea of owning only a few of each item and spot treating it- or how to find quality second hard clothing that would wear more and gain us more for every single dollar spent were critical skills for economic survival. We used and learned a great deal of wartime survival skills that my grandparents had surviving war in France and England. We stored things in jars because, frankly, in many living situations the buildings aren't well kept and roaches and rodents are a problem. I remember my neighbor teaching me how to cut the leg of each worn tight and wear them double to have a full pair and then to use the cut off pieces to make "Alice" headbands. And I learned how to darn, very early on.

    At that time in our life, we made very little trash - to be honest - because there was no money at all, not even for used or Goodwill ,and so we saved the containers things came in and reused them. Our button tins are famous - we have buttons in there that are four generations old and still waiting to be sewn on something. We break them up and redistribute as a housewarming gift. :)

    My son and I started working on reducing our waste simply when I realized that as I'd grown more affluent, I had the luxury of discarding more and not being as careful with every item I own. I also realized he was not being handed down a great legacy of knowledge from his great grandparents. I only have my own life experience to draw on from, really, and a handful of friends from growing up that were there with me, but so much of "Zero Waste" for me hearkens back to that same economy we had to practice just because without exaggeration, every tiny thing counted.

    I do think that it's possible for almost anyone to make adjustments. Perhaps not one can of waste a year, but an examination of how we use items and discussion on reducing shame of reusing items is really merited and overdue. I know that we have really enjoyed your blog and how you write. This piece especially. Thank you.

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    1. This is so beautiful Kat! This should have been the post! My grandma said she lived zero waste when she was poor during the war and Japanese occupation in Korea but she can't understand, now that she's comfortable, why she should live that way again :) (although she does compost, recycle, and reuse pretty much everything still lol)

      The stink eye people give you when you bring reusables needs to disappear, and I notice it is starting to. A few years ago I did a zero waste conference and we handed out reusable shopping bags as favors. All the sustainability experts were saying either 1) That they didn't have any reusable bags yet and were afraid they would be accused of stealing if they used them or 2) That they felt it looked "cheap" to reuse a shopping bag. Sustainability experts! The mindset really shocked me.

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    2. ^The bag anecdote amuses me. Come to South Australia, we all have 300 of them and constantly try to use them as our Goodwill bags/'leave' them at other people's houses etc... I take stuff to work in them and then leave them in the office. God knows for what, sometimes it comes in handy though.

      Banned plastic bags years ago in shops, not sure the (presumably?) polyester canvas alternative is much better considering we now have so many and they sell them everywhere. I'm careful not to let any more in the house, and if I ever needed to replace or buy more I would be very careful to buy sustainable bamboo or cotton or something. As for why we all have so many? Forgetting them at home or popping into shops unplanned and bought the 'green' bag out of guilt/got them as show-bag freebie/bloody family left some behind and don't want them back etc etc hehe :D Aren't humans a funny lot?

      Before you think we're all super-green - no. Lady today put ham in my container and then said it was the "weirdest request ever". Confusion I understand, but how is it weird?

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    3. I think people don't realize the embedded energy that's still in reusable bags. It can be so easy to acquire them too! Good for you for using your own container despite that lady lol. Who is she to criticize?

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    5. Speaking of heritage wisdom....It took me a while to find his name - but this fellow: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Elm%C3%A9_Francatelli)

      wrote an excellent cookbook called Plain Cookery for the Working Class. I found my copy in a small shop in San Francisco, it was a reissue of course. He was Queen Vicotria's cook and felt that many of England's working class could better benefit from habits to reduce their waste in cooking. It's a fascinating read, some items (such as feeding sick children only gruel) don't really apply to what we know for nutrition now-a-days. But there is so much in there that was insightful or inspiring.

      It's that gentle reminder that bread pudding and "french" toast were made to use up sour milk and stale bread.:)

      Shame is a hard thing for people to overcome with reuse. I'm in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle area) so it's a bit easier for us with resuable bags and containers. Zero Waste is still a newer concept however. I have had people pour things like berries in my jar and then chuck the container...frustrating but all part of a dialogue.

      But where I encounter the shame aspect most is with my children. People feel terrible not buying them new gifts. My son is not really a "things" person. He has a dog and that's pretty much the best toy ever - anything else that followed the dog plays second fiddle. Truly getting people to understand that gifts need not be new is very difficult. For my daughter, I've simply asked family that when gifting her clothing to please buy resale or second hand and buy it in her "Season Colours." So far it's only working half way but I'm hoping to photograph her "collections" so family and friends can see that really it is doing her no harm second hand, she's not in mismatch outfits at all. But people are embarrassed to gift a small child used at all as it shows they do not love her enough. The people that do understand most are the older generation of the family who were a little taken aback at first, but soon embraced it.

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    6. Very interesting! I will look that up! So there is still a real stigma attached to buying secondhand? Good idea photographing her clothes so they don't worry :) How great that your son isn't consumed by things. This will benefit him so much in life!

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    7. I hadn't heard of Charles Elm Francatelli or that book before, but it's on my reading list now! Also, it's available as a free ebook (on Amazon, among other places) so it's very easy to find!

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  9. Beautiful written and thoughtful post. It's easy for people to assume that zero waste is too difficult, too expensive, and too 'out of the way' to reach. But again, it's all about the small baby steps. Zero waste definitely didn't happen overnight for me (and I'm sure everyone can speak to this who's on this journey), but slowly and surely, I see the benefits of living the lifestyle as it grows on me, though it may be inconvenient and a bit out of the way for myself at times.

    I'm sure it'll be also constant battle in a society that values convenience, buying cheaply and getting the best deal, but when it comes to going zero waste, buying stainless steel containers and high quality goods (so that they don't break in the future, or for the betterment of local economies, the environment, and health!) shouldn't happen over and over again -- I find that most of the purchases I have are definitely an investment (which I'm quite pleased to say, because I get tired of constantly having to replace items over and over again). Again, I'm sure we'll get criticized for our actions, but I'm all about thinking in the long run and what it means for future generations (:

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    1. Hi Christine, thank you so much. Yes, the buying cheap aspect of it is a real barrier for some people. Not everyone can afford to buy top quality goods, but many of the ones who can would rather get a deal without thinking that other people are being exploited or enslaved or otherwise paying a high price for them to get those goods. Things like the Mooncup or safety razor are an upfront investment but they save so much money in the long run.

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  10. Great post! Your comment about containers reminds me of my grandparents, who definitely have a Depression-era mindset. They have plastic butter containers from the 1970s floating around their house to be used for all sorts of things. My grandmother washes and reuses ziplock bags and clingwrap. If you asked them about zero waste or sustainability, they would look at you in puzzlement. For them, it's merely how they grew up living.

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    1. Yes, the idea that it has a name and a hashtag now is totally foreign to another generation! It seems like zero waste is still the way a lot of frugal people live... my friend was telling me today that in Belize, nothing was ever wasted because the people couldn't afford to, so they reused and repurposed everything! Living by the ocean really made them aware of the negative consequences of plastic usage, too

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  11. What a great and thoughtful post. Even though I am neither poor (though I did grow up quite poor, also with a single mother who qualified for government aid) nor disabled, I do also find that Zero waste could seem inaccessible-at least at first. Now we are four months in, and we are getting in our groove and seeing a huge difference. But I do have my own business and two preschool aged children, and it is a struggle at times when I have to go to four different stores AND the farmer's market each week to buy what I need. My wonderful co-op where I buy all of our bulk food does not have bulk dairy and meat. We have a local butcher's shop where I have to go to buy meat (which is of course closed on Sunday, the day I typically grocery shop). I go to yet another shop to buy my cheese because it's the only shop where cheese is cut to order and the owner will put it directly in my jar. A fourth shop I go to every couple of weeks to load up on milk in returnable glass bottles (I use this to make my own yogurt). We eat meat only once or twice a week, but I have been vegan and it isn't for me (My body has a tendency toward vitamin deficiencies, and I have been anemic in B-12 and Iron, both of which are most accessible from meat. Taking vitamins was not sufficient). My point is, at this point, zero waste can at times give me a headache. But it's worth it for me. I don't always get cheese or meat. Some weeks I skip. I think by living this lifestyle and urging my shops to change, I will one day be able to hit one store and get all of my needs.
    There is a great food pantry in my town that specializes in local and organic food. They provide fresh fruits and vegetables and many organic products. In addition, they have community gardens around town to supply those fruits and vegetables. Finally, they have classes all the time to teach people how to utilize those nutritious foods (meaning, how to cook; how to bake bread; how to make pickles, etc...). For this food pantry, the idea that being poor is a barrier to eating nutritionally is absurd. I think for everyone--poor, disabled, and able-bodied alike, zero waste requires a major lifestyle change. But once you get there and figure out what works for you, then it is doable. No one should be judged for what they do or where they are, but I think we could all make an effort.

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    1. I actually don't think being vegan is necessary for zero waste. Reducing meat and dairy consumption the way you have, however, assuming a person is consuming both at American levels, does have a big impact on a person's carbon footprint, even if for health reasons they can't give it up entirely. And it doesn't take much effort to make a nice meal of veggies :) But yea, you shouldn't have to run to a bunch of different stores when you have kids to spend time with! I hope the movement will gain momentum so that the whole process can be simplified, universally accessible, and more widespread. That way people can make one quick stop and not have to struggle so much!

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  12. Being on assistance in order to purchase food is sometimes looked at in a negative way. This is hurtfull whe someone says those folks shouldn't be shopping at Whole foods or eating organically. As a chef I give big thumbs up to all those who are making the most of those benefits. It is difficult to have food insecurity. What if someone had to choose which is more important, food or electric or medicine or water. Thanks for the good read and the positive look at those who need food assistance. I have my own business where I help people learn how to cook and eat healthy and make the most of their budget. I teach menu planning and how to re use leftovers.

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    1. Yeah I don't understand why people criticize those on food stamps who try to eat healthier. They deserve good food they feel safe eating, too! Reusing leftovers is another great way for people with low incomes to reduce waste and their budget all at once.

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  13. Just wanted to drop in my two cents, and say that I am an extremely low-income young person, and zero waste has been a savior in cost and mental peace of mind. My apartment building is falling apart and the carpet full of allergens, but cleaning with vinegar, baking soda, and soap have gone a long way for my health and wallet (cloth towels instead of paper help too). Our allergies are much improved. We're hoping to get a bidet soon -- there's one on amazon for barely more than a jumbo pack of TP. Same comments on being mostly vegan (or "plant-based"), life is much improved and costs are way down.

    This is a really good topic to cover and I think you handled it well. I think the prevalence of rich young bloggers is more to do with the people that have the time, cute decor, and nice cameras to make their blogs popular than that it's a lifestyle only attainable to the rich. Your blog in particular is great though, because you provide the simplest, one-ingredient solutions.

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    1. Hi Anika, thank you so much for sharing. I'm so happy to hear your allergies are better and it's so great to hear this from your perspective. You bring up a great point- the people who choose to blog have the time and income to do so, but they do not represent the whole spectrum of zero waste persons! I remember what it's like to be extremely low income and have no time, and while maybe I've gotten out of touch with the realities of what life used to be like, I know simple solutions always worked best for me... zero waste means not wasting time, either :) Thank you so much for this comment!

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  14. I like in Brooklyn, which is the NY mecca of equal doses good intention and hippie/yupster pretentiousness. What I see a lot is this eco-conscious elitism and people jumping on a bandwagon without having a holistic worldview and half the time not even knowing what they are talking about with their main sources of info being Instagram and blogs. I agree the middle class and above are the ones most tuned into this lifestyle because yes, what other real issues do they have?... and it looks cool. Hell, my neighborhood is gentrifying so fast but most of these trust fund kids moving in are more worried about being seen in Everlane clothing and drinking fermented kombucha and cha seeds than about the neighbors next to them being displaced. Should people give up their green lifestyle, no, but I think some more thoughtfulness about priorities in the world is needed. And do they even know that there consumption of quinoa is creating socio-economic issues in Peru?

    I wanna be minimal and reduce waste out of practicality. I am pretty poor as a recent college grad, working a part-time job with no support from family. I do the best I can as far as living mindfully. That said at the end of the day I chose what makes sense for me and my budget. Sometimes that is the zero-low waste choice and sometimes it isn't.

    Such a well timed post.

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    1. Yea, when you think about it everything has a huge environmental impact and if you think too much about it you wouldn't be able to eat anything! Paris is gentrifying too much too, to the point that no real French people can afford to live in all but a few neighborhoods anymore :( People should always come before zero waste though, I think.

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  15. I have just discovered your blog and love this post. Since organic products use to be more expensive, people use to associate being sustainable with being rich, but there are a lot of sustainable alternatives that may, in fact, help ypu to save money. I would include a simple one:: just BUY LESS. Think if you really need something before buying.
    Very sensitive your approach to disabled people. I confess I have never thought about this, and I think your words are absolutely right! Thanks for such a wonderful post!

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    1. Thank you! Great point, buying less would ease so many environmental woes! Everyone wanted to consume like Americans before and now they are realizing it's not sustainable.

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  16. My question is sort of unrelated to the topic of your post but I found it fascinating and now I have a few more book recommendations! I'm so excited. When you buy in bulk, and use glass containers, how do you ensure you're only paying for the food and not the heavy glass? Even at my co-op, where you can buy coffee, spices, oats, etc. in bulk, they weigh it at the checkout. Doesn't the glass add a lot of weight and skew the price?? I would love to bring my own containers when buying in bulk but I'm also on a budget. Not sure the logistics of this. Any advice would be amazing. This is my favorite blog, thank you for providing endless ideas on how to live a life that is simpler and better for the environment.

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    1. Hi Becca! Thank you so much! Sorry for my late reply, I was away for work without my personal computer. I don't really use glass containers, only cloth bags which hardly add any weight. When I do use glass containers for wet items only, I use weck jars which already have the weight on the bottom and the cashiers subtract the tare. I think the cashiers here are really used to people bringing their own containers. Can your co op weigh your glass containers ahead of time and write the tare on the bottom so you don't have to pay for the glass weight?

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  17. My grandmother has a neurological condition that makes opening packaging difficult. She likes to buy loose produce and bulk (she washes and reuses the store bags). She's always been a little bit of a minimalist as she likes a clean clutter-free home. THey use handkerchiefs (I would imagine that they would feel a bit weightier in-hand than a kleenex-- an important difference when your hands are numb. One day we were chatting about zero waste and were happy to discover that she is already doing many things the zero waste way. She will never use Bea Johnson's fancy jars because of the closure, but mason jars and pyrex snapware still prevent plenty of waste.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this great experience! I notice the older generation still already goes zero waste despite health problems- it's just simpler, my grandmother says. I love that she still uses handkerchiefs, they are so much better and easier on the nose than Kleenex :)

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  18. Fantastique! I love this post and how you are working to break down barriers and being inclusive! I was drafting a similar post for my blog when I read this; I love what a small world we live in. Keep up the great work of passing on the practical sustainability messages for everyone. Cheers!

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    1. Hi Lara! When you're done with your post I'd love to link it here. Thanks!

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  19. Life will always be unfair. There will always be people whose economic advantages give them more choices than other people. Privilege exists. But, that doesn't blot out responsibility. If you are privileged and aware, you must act on that awareness. Plus, use that advantage if you can to improve the world for everyone. I can't see any reason why packaging-free, cheaper food alternatives couldn't be made available to everyone. It has to start somewhere.

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  20. Thank you for this post. You are such an inspiration. < a huge hug ! >

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  21. I am disabled, and I have a very low income. I do not live entirely without the garbage, but I try where I can do something different, more ecologically. When I have a little more cash (with gifts, also sold a pieces of jewelry that I didint wear anyway) slowly buy various expensive reusable things like stainless steel thermos, straws. In my country soap with no packaging costs on average 15 times more than in the package, I buy the cheaper one but instead I avoid junk in other areas of my life. I do not buy food in town, if I go out I take tea in a thermos and food in a reusable box. For many years, together with family we collect food waste into compost. I rip old or damaged sweaters and crochet new things. Modify cards printed on one side for notebooks. When I have the packaging for recycling undress them apart (I remove the labels, small parts, and from what I see in waste containers for recycling, I do this as the only one in my building, even though I have problems with hands). I would like in the future, to live more sustainable, but for now I'm doing what I can and it seems to me that I'm doing more than some non-disabled people.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your story! This is so beautiful. Your efforts are wonderful, what a good idea to crochet new things out of the old sweaters, and the notebooks too! You are so creative.

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