Why You Fail at Zero Waste

Pixie Green
7 min readApr 22, 2022

If you consider yourself an environmentalist, I’m sure you’ve ventured into the realm of a zero waste lifestyle. Though it is a noble cause, living free of trash or plastic — as zero wasters often resort to the latter for practical reasons — is almost truly unattainable, and it’s made nearly all of us tree huggers who wanted to reduce our carbon footprint by reducing our trash stop and wonder what the hell’s the point.

I was first introduced to the concept of lowering my carbon footprint by living a zero waste lifestyle sometime in 2019. I was very intrigued, and as a budding minimalist, I thought living zero waste would be a nice complement to minimalism. From the start, I was realistic. I knew I would never be able to get a day’s worth of trash to fit in a glass mason jar, let alone a year’s worth. My ferrets produced more daily trash than a glass jar will hold. But I did everything I could think of to reduce my trash and recycling. Yet it all fell apart once Covid-19 entered the picture.

Covid-19 forced many to create trash

At the very beginning of the pandemic, before every state had mandated stay at home orders or masks, I remember being very mad at Etsy sellers sewing cloth masks and selling them online. I reluctantly made my own woven cotton mask because I couldn’t enter the grocery store otherwise. I wasn’t an anti-masker, but to an outsider, it certainly looked that way.

My belief was that the pandemic would only last a few months, and if people bought millions of reusable or disposable masks or gloves and threw away pens after one use at the bank, we were going to ruin the planet by creating a lot of permanent trash that wasn’t needed in my opinion. I began to panic, not that people would lose their lives (because I foolishly believed they’d stay home), but that we would kill the planet sooner due to the amount of garbage we were producing.

Living zero waste became impossible for anyone who needed to leave the house. I stopped wearing my Doctor Who cotton mask because it didn’t fit, and instead of convenient ear elastic, it had bias tape ties for the back of my head and neck. Mr. Green picked up some free masks for me where he worked, and I wore about for disposable masks a year to reduce my waste as much as I could.

Many grocery stores banned customers from bringing reusable cloth shopping bags into their stores. Cloth shopping bags certainly don’t spread Covid any more than my jeans…

Pixie Green

I’m that one friend you have who you know you can count on to be blunt, honest, and give it to you straight. We’ll figure this shit out together.