How to Advocate for a Low Waste World

Every purchase is a vote, but zero waste is not all about shopping.

As consumers, one of the most powerful tools we have to drive change is where we choose to spend our money. Every plastic Coke bottle or plastic bag of lettuce demonstrates demand for these items, which in turn tells companies to produce more. Every purchase is a vote and through our choices we can demonstrate a strong demand for change. Companies pour millions into consumer insights; trust me-they are listening.

But zero waste can be about more than where we spend our money.  It should also be about advocating for a more sustainable future: not only leading by example but speaking up for better choices from companies and government. 

The way we truly get to zero waste is when consuming zero-waste and package free is so easy that everyone can get involved - not just people who have access to bulk stores or have the time and money to search out zero waste alternatives. Here are 8 ways we can all help push for the systemic changes necessary for a more inclusive zero waste movement.

  1. Have conversations.Tell people about what your waste reduction efforts in a non-judgemental way and hear what they have to say in return. You’d be surprised by how many great conversations with shopkeepers and baristas I’ve had. People are genuinely interested but have no idea what to do. It’s always fun to speak with like-minded people, but we can make a bigger impact when we broaden the circle.

  2. Vote.Vote for officials who care about the environment and about regulating waste. Support people that stand for your views.

  3. Contact your representative. Send a quick email or letter and ask for stronger regulations on single-use plastic. If you’re in the U.S., you can find out who represents you in Congress here. If you’re in the Netherlands, look here.
  4. Support organizations that work toward plastic and environmental regulation.There are many effective organizations that work tirelessly to advocate for the planet. I’ve worked with closely with Greenpeace and NRDC for example and have seen first-hand how they get companies to act. You can also find a list of worldwide accredited environmental organisations here.

  5. Provide feedback to stores and brands. Contact brands via email (always listed on the label of a food product) or more publicly on social media to praise them when they get their sustainability efforts right, and challenge them on what more they can do to move away from single-use plastic and packaging. Save a message on your phone or computer that you can repurpose to make it super easy. Copy, paste, send.
  6. Drive change within your company. If you work in a company, speak with the office manager or others about how the company can reduce paper and kitchen disposables. Sometimes its as easy as changing printer settings and asking employees to bring in their own mugs and cutlery.
  7. Organize an event in your community.Raise awareness of plastic pollution by organizing an event in your town. Maybe it’s a trash clean-up or the purchase of a community compost bin.
  8. Teach kids.They are the future, and if we don’t have honest conversations with them show them an alternate way, to live nothing will change. 

Only when we speak out, act and provide the demand for zero waste will governments and brands do better, and only then will zero waste at scale become possible.

The possibilities for a zero waste future are endless! Beyond the basics, what are your ideas to be a zero waste advocate? 

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