In the last month, I've filled my Instagram feed with some really beautiful images: rustic kitchen cupboards lined with uniform glass jars filled with an array of grains and pulses, tidy kitchen gardens of 19th century English cottages, white tiled bathrooms with gorgeous green plants bursting out of ceramic pots and boutique natural products all packaged in frosted glass.
I love these images and the lifestyles they represent, and yes, I try to create beautiful vignettes on my own Instagram account. The trouble is, before I made the commitment to a zero waste lifestyle, I bought a lot of items that are not compostable, not fully recyclable, not made with natural ingredients, but that still have plenty of life left in them. They're not necessarily pretty or eco-friendly, but they're functional. I find that sometimes the beauty of perfectly curated Instagram accounts can make it tempting to throw out all our ugly stuff and replace it immediately, which can actually be contradictory to the goal of going zero waste.
In my bathroom, for instance, I still have half-full bottles of lotion, tubes of toothpaste, and rolls of floss, all packaged in plastic and mostly made from petroleum by-products. I would love to just chuck them all and only use almond oil for moisturizing and buy silk floss in a bio-degradable package. But I have these items and it doesn't feel right to get rid of them when they still have life left in them.
In my closet, most of my hangers are made of plastic. They are ugly and I don't like them. I would love to have exclusively wooden hangers, but it doesn't seem worth it to send all my plastic ones to be downcycled just so I can have a more appealing closet.
If we are truly aiming for zero waste, then I think the best thing to do is to use the items that we already own, and get as much life out of them as possible, before moving on to more eco-friendly options, or to give away those items that we no longer want. Take your plastic hangers to Goodwill, or give them to a friend or co-worker who might happily take them off your hands. You can even gift your cosmetics to someone who might appreciate and get good use out of them.
I hope someday to have a bathroom as gorgeous and minimal as the ones on my feed, but I'm willing to give it the time it takes to actually use all the products I own before moving on.