Zero or Low Waste?
Changing Our Habits
for a Better Future
Logically it’s virtually impossible to lead a zero-waste lifestyle. Waste is essentially a part of life, however western society up until the early to mid 20th century gave little to no regard to the refuse that our needs and lifestyles demanded. We used to dump everything into our rivers, lakes, and oceans. Basically anywhere that was “out of sight.” Obviously we now know better than ever before that our garbage and waste doesn’t disappear if we don’t see it. For god’s sake, we have a garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean that has over 80,000 metric tons of plastic! Though less well-known, the same is also happening in the Atlantic Ocean, truly disgusting since so much of our marine life travels through these waters.
This is why there has been a growing movement in leading low-waste (I choose not to use the term “zero waste” because it doesn’t make sense) lifestyles and why consumers are demanding from companies that they also do the best they can to reduce waste, both in their supply chains and in their consumer-facing packaging. This has always been a point of common sense for us, and the planet being in the state it currently is, it seems appropriate now, more than ever, to be as sustainably minded as possible when creating and structuring Maison/Made.
From a more individualistic perspective, there are a number of steps a person or family can take in order to reduce the amount of waste they produce. It might mean making some changes, but believe me, most of them sound harder to do than they actually are. Boiling them down to three main buckets, a low-waste lifestyle (or company management) is about considering full product lifecycles, the reusing of goods, and the consideration of packaged goods.
What I mean by full product life cycles is thinking a bit about what it took for that product to get made, how far it had to travel to get to the shelf in front of you, and what will happen to it when you’re finished with it. Essentially, what were all the resources necessary to make that product appear before you. The farther a product has to travel, what it’s made of, the more components it has, and the way it’s packaged all influence that particular product’s carbon footprint. Keeping this in mind, it makes sense to shop local whenever possible and to bring your own bags, and even containers for food shopping. With Maison/Made we take this to heart by buying our supplies as local as possible and avoiding excessive and unnecessary packaging. That is why we don’t include presentation boxes with our e-commerce orders.
Regarding the reusing goods, here I’m referring to the latter part of the point above which is to think about if there are any uses to a product after you’ve expended their primary purpose. With food products like fruit and vegetables: is there a composting program you can participate in? If you buy tomato sauce in glass jars, do you throw them away, or reuse them for storing rice, grains, trinkets, etc? This mentality is important when thinking of a low-waste lifestyle. For us, it means using glass pipettes instead of plastic ones during our formulation R&D, reusing the packaging from our suppliers, and traveling with our plants from our farm in our suitcases instead of shipping them (when we can). On the farm, this idea permeates even further: we use leftover stinging nettle as a fertilizer and natural pesticide, grow plants over the winter like mâche greens that we can eat after they revitalize the earth, and a variety of other biodynamic processes that you can read about in our Biodynamic post here.
I dont think its a big secret that the way we package our goods (as a society) is generally wasteful. Here in the US, if you buy a pack of gum they automatically put it into a plastic bag unless you tell them not to. I mean, we have hard boiled eggs packed up in plastic… The best way to shop is to bring your own shopping bags, and even better if you bring your own containers for the bulk aisle: your grains, nuts, and seeds. If there isn’t a bulk aisle, purchase the larger containers of the things you often use, and don’t use those thin plastic bags for your veggies and fruits (you have to wash them anyway). Don’t buy bottled water, invest in a water filter (personally I love the Berkey’s), you’ll end up saving money and having high quality water (bottled water is generally not good water…).
From a brand perspective, we do our absolute best to lead with low-waste initiatives. As I mentioned, we don’t include presentation boxes in our e-commerce sales to avoid unnecessary paper, we offer calendula flowers as packaging filler instead of paper, plastic wrap, or packing peanuts, and the use of other eco-friendly materials. Wherever possible, we use components that are not only recyclable, but biodegradable, like our labels.
It’s important that we all try to make changes in the way we purchase our goods, and what we demand from the companies that we purchase from. Even if you know there isn’t a more eco-friendly option of whatever it is you’re buying, ask. Just by asking you communicate to the store or brand that that is what you want. The more we all make these changes the greater the effect will ultimately be!