As January 1st came around and many bloggers started to share their new year’s resolution, the surprising change of choice seemed to be going plastic free and reducing waste. Second only to Veganuary (check out Laura Thomas’s post about that particular trend) it is starting to feel like adding a minimal waste eco-credential to your bio is just another trend for health blogger to stay relevant.
Just to be clear, I have been consciously reducing my own waste for months now (see my minimal waste gift guide), and am participating in Veganuary for the second time (or will be after my birthday this week!). So I am just as involved as the next blogger. But with such a big rise in people taking up both respective challenges this year, it got be thinking. Is environmentalism just another fad? And does that even matter?
The how vs the why.
Normally, getting involved with something just because it is a trend can run the risk of negative consequences. Take some of the psuedoscience-based diets out there. Yo-yoing from one juice cleanse to another form of restriction can have some serious implications on one’s health. By contrast, if a health blogger is ditching single use bottles because her new S’well one is more instagrammable, she is saving the same amount of plastic as the one who is doing it to reduce her impact. So does it actually matter if some out there are coming into the idea of minimal waste because several influencers are doing it as well? Arguably not. If the concept of reducing environmental impact is driven through social media, then great. It doesn’t matter how the message spreads so long as it does gain traction.
A Longer Term View of Minimal Waste
But what happens when the initial interest dies down and minimal waste becomes less spoken about over social media? When the month-long challenges have finished and old habits start to revert themselves? This is my main concern with the flurry of interest in minimal waste that’s occurred in the last few days. With so much plastic on our food and everyday items, reducing waste and plastic is no mean feat. Will the fact that it is such a big challenge put off many from continuing post-January? I really hope not. The term sustainable actually has longevity built into its meaning: to meet current needs whilst not impacting upon the needs of the future. In light of this, I think I’d rather see more gradual changes that can be maintained.
Another point is that, like many wellness trends, going minimal waste or waste free is a bit holier-than-thou. It risks putting the participant on a pedestal that not everyone can achieve, especially when the blogger is also a slim, active and healthy wellness blogger. Take the reduced section of a supermarket for example. There are many who rely upon this section to afford fresh produce, or just something a bit nicer than the usual basic veg. Almost everything in this section will be packaged in a UK supermarket, even the items that were sold loose at full price. Whilst everyone pushing for plastic free could save money in the long run by reducing tax payers money spent on curb-side waste collection and disposal, for someone stood in a supermarket, that reduced food is the cheaper option. Often, plastic-free options are more expensive, pricing those out who can’t get their yoghurts in glass jars from whole foods.
All this being said, if you have committed to reducing your waste this year, then go you. Thank you for caring about the environment enough to make a change. Small drops make up an ocean. But please do keep up the momentum as much as you can, even if after a few weeks you have to review and realise that, for the time being, there’s some packaged items that you can’t compromise on just yet. Be proud of what you can do and avoid the comparing against others. I really do hope that making more environmentally friendly decisions will become more common place. Rather than being perfect, if we all see if we can do maybe a couple of things, from minimal waste to more (not necessarily exclusively) plant based eating to thinking about commuting/travel impacts. That way, we can build up a momentum rather than burn out, and keep the minimal waste movement growing.