5 Zero Waste Fails I'm Embarrassed to Tell You

5 Zero Waste Fails I'm Embarrassed to Tell You - Stella & Sol Sustainables

5 zero waste fails I'm embarrassed to share

     Zero Waste is more than pretty mason jars lining shelves. As a movement itself, it runs counter to pretty much everything that America teaches us: to consume at all costs. This rhetoric, which starts when we’re super young, means that most don’t even question going out and buying a new outfit for this event, because I can’t wear anything that I already own. People have seen that already. Or using “retail therapy” as a way of cheering ourselves up when we’re in a funk.

      Zero waste always has been and always will be a journey. During this journey, I have frequent bouts of eco-guilt. 

What is eco-guilt?

     Eco-guilt is the feeling of guilt when you do something that isn’t necessarily eco-friendly. This is common, and it’s a good indicator of where there are spots in your life you can focus on becoming more sustainable.

     I deal with this on a fairly regular basis, but I’ve learned to give myself some grace. We are still moving through our stockpile of things I had purchased before I started striving for Zero Waste, which means plastic in our bathroom. I use a plastic toothbrush, with toothpaste from a plastic tube.

     Eco-guilt is a real thing. Once we become aware of just exactly how much we need to do for our planet as a collective, it’s hard to disregard it in your daily life. Read on to find out five areas of my life where I am hit by eco-guilt hardest and ways that I work to combat it. 

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These are five ways that I feel like a Zero Waste Failure. 

1. I drive 72 minutes each way to work each day.

     The part of my life that I feel the most eco-guilt about is my commute. I live in a rural town in New Hampshire, and my day job is working as a middle school English teacher. The current school that I work at is over an hour away from me.

     There is not a commute that goes by that I’m not thinking at least once about the impact that my daily trek costs the planet. I am the only income in our household, so I’m not just able to drop everything and find something closer, though it is something that I'm working towards. This is something that I know I can’t change in the short-term because I’ve got to support myself and Mr. Grizzly. 

 perspective shot of road

Way(s) I'm combatting this eco-guilt:

  • Take the most direct route.

  • If there are errands that I need to run that are on my way home, I batch them so I’m not making a special trip, thereby adding more mileage and carbon. 

2. I buy toilet paper that is plastic wrapped.

     THIS ONE. Family cloth is something that I have a passing interest in, but with the current washing set-up we have, it is currently not an option. I have tried a variety of tree-free and plastic free sustainable options, but none of them hold up to testing for us. As such, I resign myself (for now) to buying the largest amount of toilet paper to reduce how much plastic I am responsible for.

 toilet paper stacked in a basket

Way(s) I'm combatting this eco-guilt: 

  • I buy in bulk.

  • Testing out new options to find one that we like.


3. The amount of food waste that I produce.

rotting strawberries    Food waste is an issue all over the world. France has outlawed grocery stores from tossing their slightly past prime produce in the bin, and estimates place food waste at 40% of everything produced. That number is staggering. Our family has severely cut down on this, but it is something that still happens. 

    As I am writing this right now, I have a crock of chorizo and beans down in the fridge that I made last week that I’ve been meaning to freeze and simply haven’t gotten to. Food often languishes in the fridge with the best of intentions. And while we have a healthy compost pile that can still make something out of our rotten food, it's still wasteful. 

Way(s) I'm combatting this eco-guilt: 

  • Make a system for it. Devote one part of the fridge to leftovers, one to dairy, one to meat, etc. This way, you’re able to make sure that you know where things go, and you’re less likely to have that box of feta you threw out last week that expired in 2018 (whoops). 

  • Have a devoted leftover night. Mr. Grizzly isn’t super into leftovers, so he won’t eat them on his own, but he’s willing to eat them when it’s what’s on the menu. 

4. I buy from Amazon.

phone showing the amazon logo

     Ahhh, Amazon. I have a love/hate relationship with them.

     On one hand, I love the convenience and variety that I can get from one single source. I am often able to get products for DIY zero waste replacements that I wouldn't be able to source anywhere in my local area (most recently shea butter to make my own lotion bars). I am able to access materials for my business at a lower cost and have them shipped to me, which saves me both time and money.

     On the other, their shipping footprint is terrible. The two day shipping and simply huge output of their company makes them hugely impactful on the environment, and not in a good way. I am forever frustrated with my small order arriving in a big box filled with three items and another set of plastic air pockets. That is to say nothing of the moral issues with how Bezos runs his company.

Way(s) I'm combatting this eco-guilt:

  • Minimizing the amount of money I spend on Amazon. 

  • Identifying small and local businesses that I can support.


  1.  I source almost all of my fabric online.


stacks of fabric

Fabric is one of the best reusable things out there, and I make 99% of my products in my business with fabric.

I order almost everything from online fabric stores and have them ship it to me at my house (sensing a theme here?). I try to reduce the plastic included, but it still ends up with me having an overload of plastic packaging after a big shipment comes in. 

Way(s) I'm combatting this eco-guilt:

  • Emailing suppliers to reduce amount of packaging in their overall business model. 

  • Requesting my orders not be wrapped in plastic. 

 notes from a zero waste failure

These are the biggest areas in my life where eco-guilt threatens to consume me. I'm not going to let it, though. Know why? Because progress is better than perfection. I may still have far more waste in my life than I would ideally like, but I'm also way farther ahead than I was just a couple of years ago.

Eco guilt is really easy to feel, especially with the environmental crisis running rampant all around us. But I truly believe that if we all make small changes, we will make a difference. 

Did any of these resonate with you? What are your biggest eco-guilt points? Let me know in the comments below!

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