Zero Waste Living

A letter to those who are new or returning to the climate movement


Welcome to the climate movement (or welcome back). We’re so glad you’re here. Truly, we are. It’s OK if you’re brand new. It’s OK if you’re returning after some time away. It may feel scary and vulnerable to enter this space, but know that most of us are not out to make you feel guilty, shamed, or judged. When I say we’re just glad you’re here and ready to learn, it’s the truth.

Many of us have been in this space for years, decades even, and to be completely honest, we’re tired. We’re burnt out. Some are feeling pretty defeated. But seeing people like you jump in and ready to rock help us re-spark that motivation.

Many have been where you are now. It’s OK to feel scared – we all are. It doesn’t make it better but it helps knowing you’re not alone in feeling that way. The data and research that is coming out is scary. People are starting to experience the effects of climate change first the first time. It’s scary.

It’s OK to feel overwhelmed – even those with the most “experience” in this space get overwhelmed. There is a lot of information out there. There are a lot of people who will try and tell you one way is the *right* way to take action, but it may not feel right for you.

You may find yourself really overwhelmed when you start to see that the climate crisis is intertwined with racial and social issues, human health (physical and mental), the economy, and pretty much everything else. In order to solve one we must solve the others.

It’s OK to feel confused. Once you start learning about the impacts of the climate crisis and how we as humans have contributed, it’s hard to “unsee” things. You may find yourself wondering why more people aren’t “seeing” what’s happening. You may question why people aren’t taking more action. You may not know where to start. You may find yourself questioning if your individual actions are really going to make a difference.

Some of the solutions out there may go against what you are used to. It may go against societal norms. It may be different than family and friends.

It’s OK to feel mad. How did we get here? Why don’t the people in charge care more? What type of world are we leaving for the next generations?

Every single thing you feel in this movement is valid. And you’re not alone.

Did I mentioned how glad we are that you’re here?

  1. Start Small: It’s tempting to want to jump in feet first and do all the things. Don’t. You didn’t develop the habits you currently have overnight, and it will take time to unlearn the old and relearn the new. If you’re looking at reducing your waste, I recommend starting with a trash audit. I break it all down in this post (scroll down until you see “zero waste trash audit”).
  2. We can’t buy our way out of the climate crisis: Hard truth – our overconsumption is a major contributor to the climate crisis (and contributes to social and racial issues as well). You may see lots of products available to buy that will help you on your journey (especially if you’re venturing into reducing waste). I’m not saying that you can’t buy anything, but it’s important to start interrupting the initial instinct to buy and consume. It helps to remember the 5 R’s: refuse, reuse, reduce, repair, recycle.
  3. Community is necessary: As someone who is 100% introverted, it took me a long time to come on board with this one. I often thought that I could do it on my own. But, I can’t. And neither can you. But you know what? Having another person or a group of people who are passionate about the same things you are, who can support you, and who you can bounce ideas off of is truly amazing. So whether you are looking to get connected in your physical community (friends, family, neighbors, town), or find a group of people online, find a community that fits you right away. Here are some free community-based ideas you can do.
  4. You can’t do everything: We’re limited by our own resources – money, time, mental and physical energy, physical and mental abilities, location, and more. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to do it all.

    We all have our “focus” within the movement. As for myself? I love growing my own food (including sharing that food and seeds with other), encouraging people to get rid of lawns, and grow more native and pollinator friendly species. I also create content on this blog and my podcast, Raising Eco Minimalists to help build community and connection through sharing stories and learning.

    I’m not into protests or marches, I don’t eat 100% plant-based, at the moment I’m ordering more online because of our rural location….you get the idea.

    What works for me may not work for you, and vice versa.

    I like to look at the climate movement as a pie. Each slice of the pie is a different area to get involved in. Each piece of pie needs to be accounted for! And maybe there are a few people out there, but most of us could never tackle a whole pie in one sitting.

    If you’re not sure what area fits you best, that’s OK! For many of us, it’s trial and error. To help, I’ve created an easy quiz that will help you get an idea of where to start. It won’t tell you exactly what you should do, but instead provide inspiration on where you can begin your search.
  5. It’s normal to feel like you’re not doing enough: The climate crisis seems huge, and daunting. And it is. There is going to be a point in your journey that you feel like you’re not doing enough. We’ve all been there. You may feel tempted to give up. Please, don’t. We need you.

    This is a perfect time to practice self-compassion – something our society is really bad at. But it’s a good skill to have not only with the climate movement, but for your entire life. It’s so important that I’ve got an entire post with ways to practice (with actual examples).
  6. It’s easy to get burned out: Burn out runs rampant in the movement. It’s 1000% a journey, not a sprint. That’s why I recommend taking it really slow when you’re first starting out or returning. Even so, we’ve all been there. It’s OK to take a break. It’s OK to slow down. Make sure to regularly take time for yourself – it’s vital. Here are seven ways to practice sustainable self-care.

As I say at the end of every podcast episode and regularly in other places, in order to live sustainably, it must be sustainable for you.

Thank you for being here. Truly. We’re so glad you’re here.