16 Unsustainable Things I Did This Week

A Drop in the Ocean Zero Waste Blog: 16 Unsustainable Things I Did This Week
Listen to the audio of this post here:

 This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on April 3, 2023.

Happy Earth Month, my friend!!

This is always my favorite time of year. Although I like to celebrate Mama Earth every day, I love all of the energy around this month where everyone’s got a little bit extra excitement to make a difference.

For last week's blog, I shared 60+ sustainable things I do in a day, and I got so many great responses from EcoWarriors sharing with me the small actions they were going to take - and how the list helped them realize they’re actually doing more for the planet than they thought 🥳

So I decided this week to keep going in that same vein, but instead share all of the ~unsustainable~ things I actually did in the last 7 days.

I’ve been living a zero waste life for over 6 years now. I’ve made a ton of sustainable changes in that time. But as I’ve said many a time before - true zero waste is not actually possible.

We live in a linear economy and there are massive forces pushing against our efforts to be zero waste (in the form of poor regulations and unchecked wasteful corporate practices).

Of course, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything, but it does mean that there’s a whole heck of a lot that’s out of our control and waste is inevitable in many ways.

So even though I’ve been doing this for six years, I still create waste and make some not-so-eco-friendly choices sometimes.

And I gotta say, this exercise in documenting all of the unsustainable choices I made in a week was actually super interesting for me. I didn’t change my behavior at all, because I wanted this list to be truly representative of my life, but there were times that I did something and then thought, “Dang, this has to go on the list now for all my EcoWarriors to see…”

But, just like with a waste audit, this is a zero-guilt, zero-shame space. We’re all about learning around here, and making better choices when we can, where we can.

So let’s dive in to all of the less-than-zero-waste, unsustainable things I did in the last week 👇

  1. On delivery day, I ordered a Frappuccino from a Starbucks drive-thru. If I had opted to actually go into a Starbucks store, I could have used my own cup. But alas, I chose the easier drive-thru option and got a plastic cup. I did use a glass straw tho ✌️

  2. This week’s mental theme was “make it through Wednesday.” I’ve been flirting with burnout for a while now, and didn’t have the energy to decide on a meal for dinner, find a recipe, make a shopping list, and go to the grocery store. So after deliveries on Tuesday, I swung by my local grocery store for a frozen pizza. Which, of course, means plastic wrap.

  3. And on that pizza (and several other meals this week), I ate meat. (I’ve never shied away from not being vegan or vegetarian in this space, although I do consciously try to reduce my meat consumption, and I just got literally a dozen vegan and vegetarian cookbooks from my Buy Nothing Group last week that I’m absolutely PUMPED to dive into.)

  4. I drove my car. It’s a 12-year-old compact SUV. I’ll be driving that thing into the ground before making the switch to an eco-vehicle. I do offset all the miles I drive for A Drop in the Ocean, though.

  5. I love my daily, long, hot showers. I’ve tried 5-minute showers. They don’t work for me. I don’t understand people who can take 5-minute showers.

  6. I use a planner with lots of unrecyclable parts. It’s got a hard cover, plastic-coated tabs, and a metal spiral. But it’s been a game-changer for my productivity and mental well-being. No regrets.

  7. I use plastic pens. I do own a fountain pen, but it’s never worked quite right for me. On a daily basis, I typically use at least two different plastic pens, but it’s usually more like 4 or 5 different pens. Some are refillable, some are not.

  8. I went to a coffee shop that used to have mugs “for here,” but I totally forgot that since the Panini started they only have disposable cups. I still got a coffee. Then I went again later in the week with my own mug and they forgot to use it and still put my coffee in a disposable cup 🤷‍♀️ There’s only so much we can do, friend.

  9. I had food delivered. It was delivered in a paper bag with no utensils or napkins, but the meals were in plastic clamshells.

  10. I went grocery shopping, and I bought some things in plastic. I even intentionally bought juice in a plastic bottle instead of glass due to some pretty significant price differences between the two. (When I take our EcoWarrior Archetype quiz, I’m a decorator crab 🦀

  11. I drove to the gym even though it's less than a mile from my home. (But I did combine the trip with grocery shopping at two locally-owned shops including returning 3 glass yogurt jars to be refilled.)

  12. I didn’t plan ahead for grocery shopping for the week so I had to go several times. I drove every time.

  13. I let food go bad in my fridge 🤦‍♀️ This one always bugs me the most. Food waste is a massive problem and I hate when I let food go bad. I typically like my fridge to be mostly empty at all times so I know exactly what I have and have a plan for all of it. But in the last few weeks that really got away from me and now I’m in desperate need of a fridge cleanout.

  14. I bought [sustainable pine] cat litter in a plastic bag.

  15. I bought a brand new record, the day it came out. Could I have waited a while and found it used eventually? Yeah, sure. But I’d been counting down the days for this one to be released and don’t regret my purchase at all.

  16. I bought new craft supplies, wrapped in plastic.

So, friend, my hope is that this list reminds you that you don’t have to be perfect. 

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” - Anne-Marie Bonneau, Zero Waste Chef

Especially if you’re not feeling yourself 100% (like me flirting with burnout), give yourself some grace. We’re all out here just trying to figure out this thing called life.

So here’s what I want you to do, friend:

Comment below with one thing you’re going to let go of this week. One thing that maybe you’ve been stressing about or feeling like you’re not doing it well enough. What’s that one thing you’re going to give yourself grace with and permission to let go of this week?

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