When we started working on waste-free living a number of years ago, we weren’t really thinking about the massive problems of landfills filling up and the over-consumption of resources to make and ship things that are only used once. We were thinking paper plates and napkins cost a frickin’ fortune. We have perfectly nice dishes and cloth napkins, we should use them.
Which is what we do. I gotta concede, it can be a nuisance. After all, you have to wash ceramic or other dishes and launder napkins. They don’t necessarily last forever. Plates and glasses occasionally break, it doesn’t matter how careful you are. Napkins eventually wear out and/or get stained.
The bottom line is that there are always tradeoffs when it comes to doing anything that’s going to be better for our planet. But there are advantages to waste-free living. For one thing, it’s frequently cheaper. I’m not re-buying stuff all the time. I can make new clothes out of old ones (when I get around to it, admittedly, but I can), and the results are often more creative than what I can find in the stores. While the initial layout on cloth napkins is significantly more than picking up a package of paper ones from the supermarket, I only buy them once every few years. And using dishes with cloth napkins and nice glasses does make dinner nicer and more relaxing.
I’m not saying we’re perfect. We still occasionally use paper plates, mostly for our biggest parties simply because we don’t have enough china for everyone. I have a bit of a tech habit, although I do make whatever gadgets I buy last way longer than expected. We’ve got a couple laptops that have been relegated to specific uses, but they’re six years old and still running.
We’re edging into this. I suspect we’ll never get it one-hundred percent right (whatever that is). But it’s more about trying to do a little better each day. It’s being okay with not being perfect. Just because you forget to bring your reusable plates to the potluck doesn’t mean you won’t remember next time. I’m working on bringing reusable cups with me so that when I do get a soda or something, I can use my reusable cup and not a paper or plastic one.
Waste-free living is as much a process as it is an end. And it can be a nuisance. But it can also be fun.