Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 00:00:00,000 --> 00:00:00,000 Hey, guys. It's Chelsea from The Financial Diet, and this week's video is brought to you by Curiosity Stream. And this week, I wanted to talk to you guys about a phenomenon that we've all probably come into contact with on our social media feeds and in real life, which feels like one of those things we should all be doing, but often is much more complicated than the simple narratives would have us believe. And that is zero-waste and/or eco-friendly Products We've all grown up having what we can refer to as the three R's drilled into our heads-- reduce, reuse, and recycle. But we know now that recycling itself is an insufficient solution to the environmental problems that we face. And more importantly, the action that must be taken cannot be left up to individual consumers. Many of the changes that we have to make have to be systemic changes-- changes that are imposed on the corporations which are the leading drivers of carbon emissions, for example, or on governments which can compel all of its citizens to comply, rather than requiring each individual to make the choice for themselves, not only because on the individual level, it can often be hard to know exactly what the best choices we can make are, but especially because, depending on your socioeconomic bracket, making the eco-friendly choices can often be very difficult or prohibitively expensive. For example, if you are one of the millions of Americans who lives in a food desert, where you have insufficient access to things like fresh produce and comprehensive supermarkets, buying higher-quality local foods is going to be difficult, if not impossible, for you. Or, making sustainably produced clothing item choices, which are often many, many times the price of fast fashion, is just financially not possible. In fact, when it comes to individual choices versus corporate responsibility, here's a pretty jarring statistic. Just 100 companies are responsible for 71F00:01:53,490 --> 00:01:54,809 of global emissions. And when we think in terms of scale about choices that are easier to make, rather than convincing the billions of people on the planet to make different choices, we could focus our attention on those companies and their practices. But because a lot of the systemic changes that need to be made for us all to move toward a more environmentally sustainable future can feel overwhelming, many times, the individual consumer choices can become incredibly popular. In fact, in many ways, this zero-waste eco-friendly trend has become kind of a brand unto itself, exploding in popularity on social media and creating entire mini-subgenres of consumerism. And while everyone being more conscious of their carbon footprint and reducing the consumption of things they don't need is undeniably a good thing, it's a practice that, in addition to being somewhat privileged-- as I've outlined-- and an insufficient solution on a global scale, it's also inevitably going to be a somewhat hypocritical lifestyle, as it's impossible for most modern people to completely escape from making choices that aren't exactly carbon-friendly. In fact, some of these zero-waste slash eco-friendly products and trends can be kind of problematic. And more importantly, putting such a hyper-focus on individualist consumer choices-- and in some cases, even making it into a personal aesthetic-- lets off the hook the major corporations and governments, which are hugely responsible in driving these climate issues. And while we would never advocate to be apathetic about these choices, or say that because some of these eco-friendly items and choices are a little bit insufficient or problematic, that the entire movement is without merit, it's important to remember that things which can look on the surface like a meaningful change are often more about aesthetics or, quite frankly, feeling good, rather than actually doing something meaningful. Although they may have started with the best of intentions, these seven eco-friendly habits are often much more a waste of money. Number one is all-out plastic phobia. Now, in many zero-waste circles, the concept of zero waste and zero plastic are conflated. The truth is that, while plastic containers are not always the desirable options when compared to things like glass or aluminum containers, many of us already have quite a lot of plastic Tupperware, or tend to get them when we order things like takeout food. And encouraging someone to get rid of all their plastic only to replace those items with more eco-friendly options is not only financially not a great move for many people. It requires getting rid of what you already have. Many of us have kept the same Tupperware items for years and, occasionally, even generations on end. And as I mentioned, often these reusable plastic containers come with food that we happen to have already ordered. They may even come from items that you buy in the store. Focusing on being diligent about reusing your plastic items, and not seeking out more of them when possible, is a much better solution than avoiding plastic at all costs and getting rid of all the plastic that you have. Yes, bringing a Mason jar salad to work every day is a lot more aesthetically appealing than a Tupperware salad, but ultimately, they serve the same function. And while some of your plastic items you may want to avoid putting in the microwave, for example, they're perfectly acceptable storage units for food on a day-to-day basis. Ultimately, if you are looking to be smart about the kind of storage you're using, making the most of what you have as a first step is a much better move than going out and replacing it with what may be ultimately better items for the environment. You're much better just washing out that old jar of peanut butter and using it for storage than going out to buy a brand new, beautiful set of Mason jars. Number two is needing a one-to-one replacement for everything. Often, the bloggers and websites and influencers who are teaching you how to create a more sustainable, eco-friendly slash zero-waste lifestyle will offer lengthy lists of all the items in your life which should be replaced with much more sustainably produced and reusable items. But in many cases, you're much better off using one item for several purposes than specifically going out and buying a more eco-approved replacement for the item you're getting rid of. For example, you don't need to be replacing plastic forks and knives with a set of bamboo cutlery you bring to the office every day. You can just bring silverware from home. You don't need to have a different thermos or jar for your water, coffee, tea, smoothie, et cetera every day. You can use one transportable cup for everything. You don't have to go out and buy a set of cloth reusable napkins. You can bring cloth napkins or small kitchen towels from home. The desire to go out and buy these beautifully designed, aesthetically pleasing, and eco-friendly items to replace all of the different items in your life that may not have been ideally produced is understandable. Much ink has been spilled on the popularity of things like those beautiful faux-bamboo swell bottles, for example. But if you still have that Nalgene from college that you used to drink liquor out of, that thing is completely fine. And that brings me to point number three, which is buying all of your eco-friendly products online. Now, it's very easy if you're following some of these offer mentioned zero-waste bloggers or influencers or Instagrammers to want to order the things that they're recommending. But researchers at MIT found that online shopping in general generates about five times as much CO2 emissions on packaging as brick-and-mortar shopping. And delivery even on standard online shopping produces about 0.5 kilograms of CO2 emissions-- twice as much for rush delivery. Now, obviously, depending on where you live, sometimes buying online is going to be your only option for certain products. But the popularity of the digital zero-waste community can sometimes be kind of paradoxical, because the items that they're promoting for you to buy through their blog or website or YouTube channel are often going to have a much larger carbon footprint, simply because you're buying those items online. Taking the time to actually go to a brick-and-mortar store to pick up items that you may have been looking at online may a less convenient choice for you personally, but ultimately, if the goal is to reduce your carbon footprint, is going to be the better one. m it gives you the opportunity to connect with local artisans and shop owners rather than buying all of your stuff from some nameless brand online. Number four is buying the same stuff you used to, just with better packaging. It can't be ignored that many companies understand that presenting themselves as more friendly to the environment is a good marketing tactic. And for these producers of consumer products, getting you to still buy the product, but feel better about it because the packaging is less damaging for the environment, is a much, much better goal than you realizing that that may be an item that you don't need. Rather than focusing on just continuing to buy the exact same items, but reducing their packaging impact, a better question to ask yourself would be how to reduce the overall number of items. For example, switching to corn starch-- which you already have in your kitchen-- over dry shampoo, using your bottle of conditioner to shave your legs, paring you a variety of cleaning products down to a few all-purpose cleaners, repurposing old T-shirts and socks for cleaning rags, or challenging yourself to see how many of your day-to-day makeup items you can combine or get rid of. If you can challenge yourself to more radically pare down the number of items you're purchasing, rather than focusing on each of these many, many items being packaged in the smartest way, you won't just be making a better overall choice for the environment. You'll be saving yourself a lot of unnecessary spending. And similarly, number five is being overly focused on packaging. Ingredients, sourcing, and manufacturing all play huge roles in the items that we're buying. And while the packaging is the easiest place for the brands selling these products to market the difference, the packaging alone does not tell the whole story. For example, is it better to buy a plant-based mayonnaise in a glass jar if that mayonnaise was made with palm oil? What about buying bulk agave or almonds? Now, you'll never be 100% perfect in trying to focus on the most environmentally friendly purchases. But it's important to remember that there's so much to consider beyond just the packaging alone. A product that has a much bigger negative impact on the environment as a product, or has way worse production, sourcing, or manufacturing standards, should be weighed justice heavily as having glass or paper versus plastic packaging, even if they make the packaging look so cute. Number six is being unwilling to compromise.