Waste Reduction: How Low Can You Go? -- Choosing your values

Waste Reduction: How Low Can You Go? -- Choosing your values

Is waste reduction your #1 priority? It's not always mine.

I consider myself advanced when it comes to waste reduction, but waste isn’t always my top priority when making purchasing decisions. Most people care about a wide range of issues and there are so many things to consider that it’s difficult to find products and make decisions that align with every single one of your values. 

For example, you could purchase zero waste meat from a butcher in your own container, but if being vegetarian is important to you, you might have to purchase packaged tofu or other packaged protein products. You could purchase a green pepper from a large grocery store in your own reusable produce bag, or you could choose to purchase a green pepper from the local farmer but packaged in a plastic bag. These decisions aren’t always black and white.

For me, my top priority also changes from day to day. Some days, I really want to support a local small business so I’ll purchase something with packaging. Some days, I want to support businesses run by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour). Some days, I focus on the emissions of getting the product to my home, the sustainability of the product itself, or even just wanting to support a friend.

There is no right way to prioritize your values and you’re the only one that can make those decisions for yourself.

An important note when making these decisions is that some businesses might have the same values as you but might not have the budget or opportunity to put those values into action yet, but with further support they would. An example of this is Elate Beauty Products. It’s difficult to adopt waste reduction practices in the beauty industry but Elate has done quite a good job of utilizing bamboo in their packaging, having refill options and reusable containers, but they acknowledge that they have more work to do and they invest their profits into research and development to come out with even more sustainable products.

This is where discussion comes into play, especially if it is a small business. They might not have thought about packaging yet. That farmer might start selling their green peppers without a plastic bag if someone were to simply ask. Sometimes you have to choose between your values and sometimes you can ask a question and get exactly what you want.