Mocking the week of nothing

Working in the circles I do, I am well aware Zero Waste Week has now fallen upon us. Why this week, I question? Well the kids have gone back to school, so it's quite convenient I guess. Less playtime rubbish in the household wheelie bins, for a start.


Forgive my sarcasm. But I am mildly scornful of such initiatives. I know intentions are good and all. But who really outside of our green-tinged Google +1 circles (or whatever) really knows about this?

To put my half-baked theory to the test, I conducted a quick straw poll in our offices this morning. You may be interested to know our company houses several environmental journalists (and sales people). Some of the responses were as follows:

"I didn't. Please don't print off this email"

"Er, no. I think it might have been world water week last week though?"

"Not me! I’m no longer plugged into the world of waste – apart from moaning about the tiny capacity of my food waste bin"

But it was this response - from a canny editor (not working in the environmental field) - that really struck at the core:

"No. And with the best will in the world how would it possibly be achievable anyway?"

That is exactly my point. For a start, zero waste is impossible to achieve. And it also depends on where your starting point, or baseline, is. Because of that, it is a meaningless term. But let's ignore that. Let's take a pledge … for seven days … and then, what? Return back to our old habits?

Behavioural change needs a starting point, some will argue. I counter argue that behavioural change does not happen overnight, nor even over six nights; it requires a continuous drip feed of reminders, measures and conscientious pokers. We need to be a bit more brutal about it.

I don't think donating jam jars or dropping off unworn clothes at a charity shop really cuts it. We need to confront behaviour change at the point of purchase - buying clothes that we really want; that are made to last. You get the drift.

That aside, I have problems in aspiring to a nebulous target that really means very little. I'd prefer a more intelligent approach. But it means a drawing up a far more challenging remit - learning to consume only what we need. And being happy with that.

maxine perella

Topics: Waste & resource management
Tags: behaviour change | cuts | food | Food waste | Google | water | world water week | zero waste
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