I'm Not Perfect (and Neither are You)

Hi friends! It's April and it's also been quite awhile since I have posted (3 whole months in fact!). I really haven't felt much like writing because I didn't have much to say. I swear since I started posting more IG stories, there hasn't been as much to say. Until now (dunh dunh dunh!) :)

Notes someone took during my presentation
Today's post is all about not being perfect, ahem, as the title suggests. I'm pretty passionate about the planet, as you likely know being a reader of the blog. With it being Earth Month, the topic is pretty timely. One of my passions is reducing waste. I actually did a fun presentation in February for Energize Boise, which was titled exactly that- Reducing Waste. It was the first time I have ever presented on the topic as well as the first time I have presented outside of my normal job, and I admit I was nervous. My parents were on the board who organized the event and encouraged me to submit an abstract. I did hesitate because I don't feel like an expert. I don't get paid to do any of this. I don't have a degree in even a remotely similar topic and I haven't been to any sanctioned educational events on the topic either. I've learned everything I know from the interweb and word of mouth. But I've been reducing the waste I create for many years now and have learned a lot by following influential people and reading their blogs and books. The presentation I did went really well and I could tell there were a lot of light bulbs that turned on for many people! 

Mason Jar full of trash. You can read why it's bullsh*t here
So what does that have to do with perfection? When I first started to learn about this movement, it was through a few resources that resonated with me. To be honest, most of them look like me. For whatever reason, many individuals in the Zero Waste community are white women with long brown hair. Odd, isn't it? And many of them were keeping all of their waste (that wasn't composted or recycled) in a mason jar. It was a badge of honor to be able to show the world just how little garbage they made. And I get it. I found it inspiring. I thought, "hey, maybe I can do it too!" and thus began my journey. 


After following one person, and then another, I eventually started following many people in the Zero Waste community, and was quickly learning more and more. Zero Waste is NOT a singular issue. The concept might be singular but the root of the issue is so much deeper and much more complex. Why are we driven to reduce waste? Well because it is affecting the planet, right? We see trash the winds up where it isn't supposed to, namely places where animals or humans are having to live surrounded by trash. But it's not just an aesthetic issue. The trash is often plastic, so it's not going to break down in our lifetime and if it keeps piling up, we have a huge issue on our hands. In addition, our planet does have a finite amount of resources. We don't have another Earth. And every year we are using way more resources than are sustainable. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY more. Also, what are the by products of the items we are making? What are the conditions of the people who make it? And wow, what privilege I have to make a choice to buy items that are packaged due to my race and socioeconomic status and where I live and a million other fortunate circumstances I find myself in. It is so complex! 

Back when I was in nursing school I heard this analogy and it really stuck with me. Imagine you are walking along a river and you see a baby floating in the water (why a baby, I don't know but whatever, go with it). Concerned, you rush to the baby, get her out, see if she is okay, and then sigh a sigh of relief. Thank goodness you saved the baby! But then you look to the river again and there is ANOTHER baby! You set down the first baby, get back in the river and save yet another baby. Then you see another and another... you keep rescuing the babies over and over again. Someone pulls up and asks you what you're doing. You tell them you are rescuing all the babies that keep coming down the river. This new person then drives off. You're livid. Why the hell did they not stop to help? What about all the babies?!?! A few minutes later the stream of babies stops. You think, "Finally. I saved them all." Then the person who drove up before comes back and tells you they stopped the person who was throwing babies in the river. This person went to find the root of the problem instead of reacting to it. Mind blowing, right?

And to me, that's the difference between recycling, composting, reusing, and all of the END solutions. They don't get to the root of the problem. And unfortunately the root of the problem is engrossed with serious challenges. Let's say I bought everything in bulk, only purchased things that didn't come in packaging, never traveled, only used resources sparingly (like gas and electricity), I could probably get all of my trash into a mason jar. I could probably have a super low carbon footprint. I could be doing it all "perfectly." But the thing is that there is no perfect. At least not for the majority of people. I live in a landlocked state with 4 very real seasons. I rely on farmers and travel to get food to my area that I cannot grow myself (nor is grown here all year round). I do my best but the odds of growing any type of real citrus is low. And y'all remember scurvy, right? Even if I buy in bulk, those bins are often lined with plastic. The items were likely transported in plastic. If I ever want to eat out I take the gamble that they use paper or plastic. If I want take out, I have to be prepared with my own container or just say no. 

So do I give up? Do I say, "F*ck it" and not try? Absolutely NOT! I am grateful for so many advances in the world that I do think are necessary. For example, I am really grateful that there are other places in the US that can grow food year round that can be transported to me. However, does that mean I need to eat tropical food all day long in December? No. Should I be eating tomatoes in January? Probably not. Eating as seasonally and locally is important. Is buying a 20lb bag of rice better than getting a box of Uncle Ben's? Heck yes it is! Will I never eat out again or get take out? No, but I can do it less and I can try to do it smarter. 

Most days I make very little trash, if any at all. The average American makes over 4 lbs per day. I also don't eat any animal products, which makes a huge environmental impact. But no, I am not perfect nor do I expect you to be. Do what you can when you can. When you know better, do better. Some days I feel like we're all doomed and the world turning into Mad Max is so real and close that it's terrifying. I've even had people tell me that living the way I do won't make a difference (which trust me, is real easy to want to share some choice words with them but, I take a deep breath, and ask them to become a conscious consumer. If you won't be a part of the solution, at least admit you are part of the problem). But way more people have said just the opposite. They have told them I inspire them. They have told me that I'm the voice in their head that tells them to plan ahead to avoid making trash. My mom even says to herself, "Where would Stacy put this?" when she has an item to throw away. I've been told by people that their family is now getting inspired to divert food waste to the compost now instead of the trash. Or that their children are now following me on IG and are working at veganism and zero waste. Is it hundreds or thousands of people? No. But it's a ripple. And those ripples end up making all the difference. 


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