I talked about doing without as an important zero waste rule in a few of my previous articles, but I thought maybe this was a good time with the pandemic to expand upon this principle even more.
Doing without is one of the fundamental principles of zero waste since the best way to make sure you are not contributing to your waste is to just not buy or consume in the first place. This can be hard for some of us who have become creatures of habit and routine that have their certain products that they just cannot live without.
As an advertising student, I learn about all the ways that companies have used to market products to consumers, especially the ones that they don’t need. For instance, in the 1930s, paper towels were created by accident in a toilet paper factory, when a machine was incorrectly set to manufacture rolls that were much longer than a standard toilet paper roll. Instead of taking a loss on the product, the company decided that they would market the rolls as a new product. They made people feel like they needed the paper towels and marketed them as a luxury product, since the idea was that you could afford to just throw away the used paper towel instead of using a reusable towel that you then had to wash. It was something so simple, but paper towels have now become an unneeded “necessity” in our day to day lives. There was nothing wrong with using a reusable cloth rag, but marketing and advertisement made us think so.
Doing without can also result is substituting something with another product that can pull double duty.
A common thing that I’ve come across in my own day to day life that works this way is lotions. I have a moisturizer that I use for everything, my face, my body, and my hands. I was putting on some of it after I got out of the shower, and my mother saw that the label on my moisturizer said “facial moisturizer.”
She gave me a weird look and told me, “Um, you know that that is meant for your face, right?”
I looked back at her and was honestly a little taken aback. My mother is one of the most frugal people I know, so the fact that she didn’t understand what I was doing kind of shocked me. I looked at her and said, “Mom, lotion is lotion. It’ll work the same on my legs as it does on my face. They just advertise it like that so you buy multiple products.”
It was kind of funny to see the realization that came across my mom’s face, because it was almost like I put glasses on her that made her see the truth in that moment. To me it was common sense, but it made me realize that not every one thinks the same way that I do or has the same information as me.
With the pandemic looming over us every day, it can be a frightening time to go out to the store to go shopping. Now, I’m not condoning that you try doing without food, but I would like you to try doing without some of the things that you believe to be a necessity in your life once they run out, like paper towels, some beauty products, etc. I think you would be surprised at what you really don’t need, and this time in quarantine is a great time to develop new habits. The best part about doing without is the amount of money that you can save from not buying those non-essential items. You can then use that money to be put into savings (which is not a terrible idea at this time) or put it towards the purchase of a higher quality, zero waste item that will make your day to day life more sustainable.
So I challenge you to take stock of what you use in your daily routines and see what happens when you run out of a certain product and don’t go out and repurchase it right away. Maybe you’ll find out that their is a more sustainable way for you to get through your routine, and that you really can just do without.