Why The Zero Waste Community Needs More Inclusivity
By now, most of us have heard the term “zero waste”, which one of the simple ways to put it, means to send little to no items to landfill. Zero waste living is about consuming less, being more conscious about our purchasing habits, supporting eco-friendly companies, and overall reducing our environmental impact. We’ve seen the zero waste community grow immensely over the past decade, especially as the Climate Crisis continues to rise.
But the issue with this community, is the lack of inclusion for our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Big advocates tend to be White, seemingly middle-classed women. A typical day for them consists of them making their weekly batch of almond milk and placing it in their perfectly labeled jars, putting on their $350 dollar dress that was made completely out of plastic bottles, and the plastic free produce they just purchased from their local Farmer’s Market (which of course was only a five-minute bicycle ride from their house). For some, it comes off as an unattainable lifestyle if you are not White and not in the middle-upper class, but that simply is not true.
BIPOC communities have been living zero waste lifestyles for thousands of years. Most cultures live this way without even identifying themselves as “zero waste”, as it’s just something they have always done; repurposing empty containers to store leftovers, hand-me-down clothing, using every part of an animal they just harvested, etc. Thrifting was once only for low-income communities and was only for “poor people” because it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing or “cool”. Now that it has become trendy, everyone is doing it.
Zero waste community members have a responsibility to ensure their environmental sustainability is working towards:
- Ending Fossil Fuel extractions and Fossil-Fuel based products like plastic.
- Getting commitment from agencies and local governments to stop funding false or short-term solutions like waste-to-energy.
- Addressing Food Insecurity and Food Deserts in BIPOC communities.
- Addressing Environmental Racism.
- While Indigenous people comprise 5% of the world population, Indigenous People protect about 80% of the Earth’s Biodiversity in the Forests, Deserts, Grasslands, and Marine Environments in which they have lived for centuries.
- Studies have shown that White neighborhoods have at least 4 times as many grocery stores as predominately Black neighborhoods.
- 58 incinerators, or 79 percent of all MSW incinerators in the U.S. are located in BIPOC and low-income communities. Living near these sites increase the risk of health issues as they release heavy metals and mercury into the air.
These are just some of the many reasons why this community has to be more inclusive if it is to survive and achieve its end goal in protecting Mother Earth.
The movement needs to better reflect more diverse experiences to broaden its audience. BIPOC struggle to resonate with the zero-waste movement when they do not see their own personal environmentalism experiences in conversations. It must go beyond the conversations of what zero waste products you are purchasing and consuming.
To create a more inclusive Zero Waste community, we must follow/spotlight more BIPOC leaders, broaden the topics/issues within the Zero Waste Community, & have current advocates acknowledge how their portrayal of their lifestyle comes off as inaccessible to most people, especially within the BIPOC Community, and change the narrative of what it means to be Zero Waste.
More Resources available here:
-Glass Jar, with Sealable Lid
-2 Cups Filtered Water
-1-3 Tbsp. Jojoba Oil
-1 Tbsp. Alcohol-Free Witch Hazel
**Optional- 15 drops of essential oils (rose, lavender, & chamomile are great for sensitive skin)
Add all ingredients to a mason jar, or any glass reusable jar you have available and shake the mixture. Apply a quarter-sized amount to a reusable round and apply all over your face. Can be gently used over eyes.
Shake the jar before each use.
All-Purpose Citrus Cleaner
-2 cups worth of peeled Citrus (Orange, Lemon, or Grapefruit. You can use more than one type if you’d like/have it)
-2 cups of White Vinegar
-2 cups of Water
-1 teaspoon of Castile Soap
-Mason Jar or Glass Spray Bottle
1. Add citrus peels and vinegar to a sealable jar. The citrus should be at least half full of the jar. Add vinegar (It should fill the whole jar. Add more vinegar if need be).
2. Seal the jar with a lid. (Avoid a metal lid, if possible, as the vinegar can corrode the metal)
3. Let this infuse for 2-3 weeks.
4. Once it has infused, strain the vinegar, discarding the peels and place the vinegar into a glass spray bottle. (If you have any leftovers, the vinegar mixture can be stored in a sealed jar, in a dark, cool spot.)
5. Add the water and castile soap.
6. Shake the bottle once all ingredients are in the spray bottle.
Shake before each use.
1 cup Filtered Water
1 Tsp Baking Soda
10 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil
10 drops Peppermint Essential Oil
1 tsp of Xylitol or Stevia
Combine all ingredients to a jar and shake.
Shake jar before each use.
**Never swallow the mouth wash, always spit out.
Bentonite Tooth Paste
2 Tbsp Bentonite Clay
4 Tbsp Filtered Water
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1/4 Teaspoon Stevia or Xylitol
1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt
10 Drops Peppermint Essential Oils
5 Drops Clove Essential Oil
1. Mix powdered clay with water in a small, non-metal bowl, with a non-metal spoon (metal causes the clay to be less effective).
2. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well blended.
Store in a sealed jar, in a cool spot.
-8 drops of each Essential Oil: Citronella, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, & Mint.
– 2 oz of Alcohol-free Witch Hazel
– 2 oz of Water
Add all items to a glass spray bottle, shake, and you are ready to go! Shake bottle before each use. Apply liberally, avoiding eyes.
Find all of the ingredients for these recipes at your Davis Food Co-op!
Co-op Owner and Shopper Tips for Plastic Free July!
The availability of bulk products at the Coop determines how well I am able to keep plastics to a minimum. Before the covid-19 restrictions, I brought jars, metal bowls with lids, and homemade fabric bags to get all of my herbs, spices, vinegar, beans, grains, oats, flours, nuts, peanut butter, almond butter, tofu, produce (including salad greens and mushrooms), dish soap, shampoo, and more. As I patiently await the return of these items, there are a number of things I can still do in my effort to keep my plastic consumption down.
Many people may think it is time-consuming and even daunting to say no to plastic, but its really just like any habit change – a little challenging at first, but quick and easy once you get some experience.
- Buy in glass: milk, ketchup, mustard, salsa, yogurt, olives, herbs, and spices, etc. This may mean branching out from favorite brands.
- Purchase nut/oat milks in cartons, not plastic or tetrapaks. The empty cartons can go in the city compost (remove plastic spout first), and are good containers for messy or smelly compost items, possibly stored in your freezer until garbage day.
- Make your own iced tea.
- If you drink seltzer water, consider investing in a Soda Stream.
- Make your own yogurt – easy and kind of magical
- Put those fruits and vegetables loose right in your cart. The clerks at the Coop are very respectful of your produce, and you’re going to wash it before eating anyway.
- If you must put produce in a bag (beans, mushrooms, etc.) use a paper or waxed bag. If the bag is not in good enough shape to reuse afterward, you can put it in your compost bin.
- Store leftovers in jars. A couple of corn cobs fit well in a half-gallon mason jar, which can be stored on its side in the refrigerator.
- Use bar soap, unwrapped, or wrapped in paper that you can recycle or compost.
- Consider toothpaste sold in aluminum tubes.
- Get dish and laundry detergents in cardboard boxes that can be recycled.
- To treat stains on clothing, consider a bar of Fels Naptha, or other stain treatment products available in bar form, packaged in paper.
- If you didn’t bring your shopping bags, put everything back in the cart and unload it into your trunk, where hopefully you have your bags and can use those, but if not, tough it out and deal with all of the items when you get home.
- If you order take-out food from a restaurant, tell them you do not want utensils, napkins, packets of soy sauce, etc.
- At the Farmer’s Market, bring your own bags and juggle the produce into it, you don’t need a plastic bag for that one minute from the scale into your bag. You can also bring your plastic clamshells to reuse.
- Do you really need a plastic liner in your trash can? If you’re composting the wet food waste, probably not. Use the inevitable pouches so many foods come in to throw the occasional gross stuff out.
Reduce food waste and unnecessary packaging while saving bucks!
Why Buy Bulk?
Bulk buying is a great option for reducing waste and saving money.
When buying in bulk you also have more flexibility in the amounts that you purchase, this way you can get exactly what you need and avoid getting excess.
For example if a recipe calls for an ingredient that you know you won’t be using again anytime soon you can buy a small amount of that item in bulk as opposed to buying the typical packaged amount.
This way your ingredients will always be fresher too because you are buying as you need.
Alternatively bulk buying can be used to buy large amounts of an item to store at home for later use. This is a great option for dried goods like beans and grains because they store well and are much more affordable when purchased in bulk.
Whether you have a family to feed or are living with just one or two people, batch cooking is for you!
Batch cooking helps to make cooking less of a chore while also keeping your health on track by having home cooked meals prepared and ready to go.
When batch cooking you want to double or even triple your recipes in order to have leftovers to put in the fridge or freezer. Instead of cooking every night you can batch cook once or twice a week.
For example, you can cook up a big batch of quinoa and then use it in stir-frys, salads, soups, and grain bowls.
It’s important to keep in mind all food groups when batch cooking! Make sure to have a balance of protein, grains, fruits and veggies in every meal for optimum health.
How to Meal Prep:
Batch cooking and meal prepping go hand in hand.
Once you’ve batch cooked ingredients you can then come up with different recipes to use them in and prepare meals ahead of time.
Meal prepping is an investment that takes time while you’re doing it, but pays off immensely in convenience when you can grab a healthy home cooked meal to-go!