Or, “On Poorcraft”.
I wondered whether or not I could be ZW back when I first lost my job, going from an income of $40k+, to unemployment. Well, now my “income” has dropped even further: to $1k, thanks solely to Patreon. So how’s it working out for me?
Well, I obviously can no longer afford to buy anything in bulk from salad bars, going for $6-8 a pound as they do. On very few items would that be considered fair, let alone a deal. And for things like spinach or hard-boiled eggs, it’s just downright theft. The other fact of the matter is that I no longer live anywhere near a Whole Foods or similar place that has a decent assortment of bulk items beyond beans and lentils. The nearest Whole Foods is actually about a 40-minute bus ride away, and all the others are located in upscale neighborhoods full of people that can afford to be “conscious consumers”.
That said, I’m doing better than I thought. Why? Well, because food consists of about 90% of what I buy now, and that counts for leisure spending too since I love to cook. Alright, so what sorts of food? Well, mostly veggies and dry goods: almonds, lentils, beans, flour, etc. These are all packaged, but not heavily, and they’re more or less affordable to buy in larger quantities. A couple pounds of beans lasts a while. I am buying ramen too, though; the quintessential poor college kid food. Spruce it up with an egg, chopped green onion, and some frozen peas and carrots, and there’s lunch. Who cares if you have to throw away a small plastic baggie and seasoning packet? You just fed yourself a halfway decent meal for under $2! Pat yourself on the back.
There’s a learning curve to buying food in Canada, though, for those of us coming from the states. Meat and dairy are more expensive here, especially dairy, because these industries aren’t subsidized to the same extent (if at all, I don’t know). Cheese and milk are so expensive that nut-based alternatives are actually cheaper under many circumstances. A half gallon of almond milk for $3, or dairy milk for $5? Kind of a no-brainer to me. This is especially fitting, though, considering that historically, almond milk was frequently consumed by the poor.
The second reason why I’m doing well, more or less, is because I previously did have the means to buy my collection of reusables. Glass jars, being a hot commodity nowadays, are hard to come by second-hand. My beer growlers? Sets of cloth napkins? Hoard of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps? Nice clothes that I hope will last me a while? Refillable art supplies? Neti pot? Rubber-bristled lint brush? Safety razor? (Speaking of which, mine broke and I gotta save up to buy another one. Until then, I’m using leftover disposables.)
All of these things cost me money that I no longer have, and I’m lucky that I was able to prepare back when the going was good. But now it’s crunchtime for real, and I’m going to do what I need to do to stay healthy, eat right, and stay happy. I will make trash in the meantime, and I could really care less.
The third thing is probably the most important, though. I just don’t spend as much money on anything compared to a few years ago. I’m not interested in buying clothes and accessories anymore; techno-gadgets are no longer interesting to me; I buy used books whenever possible; my hobbies are either cheaper to fund, or a source of income; I do many things by hand that don’t require the use of electricity or specialized tools; I go with FOSS (Free and Open-Source Software) now over proprietary/costly alternatives whenever possible.
Mostly, though, I think I’m beginning to learn to be happy without feeling the need to acquire another possession.
I take more walks during the day, I cook, I draw and paint (doodles like the one at the top). I stay close by so I don’t have to take the bus. I bought a small trash bin from the dollar store that turned out to be cracked; I didn’t return it because it didn’t matter, and I knew that they’d wind up throwing it out.
Zero Waste is an ethic, not a set of morals, and I think this is where most ZW-ers get mixed up. It’s not about following a set of rules to the letter and being wracked with guilt when you mess up. A moral standard is static and rigid. An ethic, on the other hand, is a living, breathing, thing that responds to its environment and its circumstances. A moral is uncompromising where an ethic adapts and reinvents itself as necessary. A moral demands that you abstain from certain actions; an ethic asks you to analyze them.
I know what kind of zero-waster I am, and buying produce with stickers on them or boxes of cereal isn’t incompatible with that in the least.
PS- I’ve also discovered European crispbread. This stuff is amazingly tasty, cheap, and a great substitute for regular bread if you’re trying to avoid wheat and weird ingredients. (A loaf of good-quality, organic, natural bread is like, $5-6 here.) So I say, bring on the Wasa!