In the summer of 2015 at a festival, and there was a talk on called ‘how to change the world’. I went along with absolutely no idea of what to expect (‘changing the world’ is pretty vague!) This lovely, softly spoken woman spoke for about 40 minutes about this lifestyle she’d been following for a few years: Zero Waste.
She told us that the waste we create doesn’t just disappear when we throw it in the bin, about how it has to go somewhere, be it a hole in the ground that emits harmful gases, or a developing country where children pick through it, risking their lives to make a living; about the increasing instances of floods and droughts throughout the world, directly caused by pollution.
Before this point I used to divide my life into two parts: the stuff that impacts people and therefore matters, (poverty, disease etc.) and the stuff that is less important and is just personal choice (the environment). I thought of being eco-friendly as a responsibility, something I should put some effort into, but that my waste was being dealt with and the problem wasn’t that bad. I realise now that the way I consume does have an impact on people’s lives. I may not know them personally, but the energy I use, the items I throw in the bin and the places I buy from have a direct impact on people (often people who are too poor to do anything about it). Me producing less waste means that I am actively making sure that I don’t cause famines in countries where global warming means they don’t get enough rain, and hurricanes and floods that destroy homes and lives.
As someone who is motivated by relationships and helping people, this talk changed the way I saw waste. It wasn’t just a thing that we made. It was something that had a tangible effect on people’s lives.