March 26, 2014

What time savings?


                                                                Own less + Waste less = Live more

Exposing our lifestyle to mainstream was bound to attract criticism but we've kept an open mind, realizing that, had we heard about a Zero Waste family a decade ago, we too would have been judgmental and thought, 1)"These people are total hippies", 2)"They must spend a lot of money", 3)"They must spend a lot of time doing this."

Shattering these preconceptions about our lifestyle has become my vocation.

Proving that 1) and 2) are false is easy. Photographs of our minimalist modern interior quickly establish that we're not granola. And when I speak of curbing consumption, buying secondhand, buying in bulk, and adopting reusable alternatives, all of which are known to be economical, my audience immediately grasps the truth behind our money savings.

But I find the third misbelief trickier to break.

Unlike aesthetics and monetary savings, which can simply be demonstrated with pictures and bank statements, time savings are much harder to tangibly prove. While it seems obvious to me that a life of voluntary simplicity would afford more time,  I sense my interlocutor's doubtful silence (I even hear an unspoken "Yeah, right"), whenever I speak of time savings within the context of the Zero Waste lifestyle. Maybe he/she thinks: "Too good to be true"? Understandably, I propose a fragile argument against the force of ingrained beliefs.  In our fast paced society where marketers lead us to associate fast food and disposables with time savings, I can see how it would be difficult for the skeptic to imagine that a lifestyle which rejects these products would save time. We are all so convinced that we use our time wisely that only change can prove us wrong. Maybe you have to live it to believe it... so I feel it's my duty to support my claims with hard evidence.

Below is our household's evaluation: On the left is a list of chores that were required to run our previous household; To the right, the time savings that Refusing, Reducing and Reusing have offered in our new household. While I understand that not everyone either 1) Has a pond or and fruit trees to care for; or, 2) Would see these things as chores, I included them for transparency.

The 5R's take time to implement into one's life, but it's time well-invested considering how much you'll save in the long run. Much of my household's time savings are based on downsizing (house, yard, car, amount of stuff). But they're also the sheer result of going waste free (no trash or recycling to take out, no liners to purchase). We eliminate the need for disposable products (no need to keep buying and disposing of them) and opt for multi-functional ones -for example, our solid soap, which we purchase loose from the grocery store, serves as 1)shampoo, 2)shaving cream, 3)facial cleanser and 4)body soap, so we no longer need to manage the supply and the recycling of these 4 products.

As you can see from the chart above, the Zero Waste lifestyle is actually more about not doing (i.e, not participating in unsustainable activities) than it is about doing (working on Zero Waste) as one would expect. For me, Not participating in unsustainable activities has made room for living more, along side working a fulfilling full-time job.

Increased time is the greatest life improvement that Zero Waste can afford. It shouldn't be considered as a perk, but rather a reason for going waste-free.

What would you do with more time on your hands?