Sustainability on a relative scale

I was thinking yesterday about the different choices I make in my life in different situations, and I realised, at least for me, that sustainability is a scale. While we can all recommend different hacks, choices and alternatives, it often comes down to the best choice you can make in the moment – and this is a really good thing.

When I began my low impact journey, I would often make sure that I had the plastic free alternative in all circumstances. I mean it, no matter what, I would never use plastic. My bin was always so empty, I basically never had rubbish. I looked like the ideal Zero Waster.

But then, I would be faced with dilemmas. As I started to learn more about waste, I realised that sometimes my adamant refusal of plastic was actually creating more waste, I just wasn’t seeing it.

Take bread as an example – I would often make my own bread, getting my ingredients from a Zero Waste bulk shop – in fact, I still do. While I know that bulk stores still create some waste, this is still my go to option. As a backup option, I would take my own container to a bakery, where at the very least, I wasn’t using extra packaging to take the bread home.

But then, dilemma, a friend who owns a bakery started offering me the leftover bread that they usually throw out. They of course donate all they can, but there are some restrictions on what they are allowed to donate. Unfortunately, most of these things are already wrapped in plastic.

But I took them anyway.

If they cannot be donated, and they are destined for the landfill, then the plastic around them is going to be wasted anyway. While I would not purchase the bread in the packaging, once it is going to waste, the choice changes.

I realise that there is some argument that my friend could give them to someone else, or that I could pass them on, but I think in reality we all know that sometimes, this just isn’t possible or practicable.

So I have had to accept that sometimes saying yes to waste is the most sustainable option, but I always remind myself to question choices in my head, and figure out what the options are on this part of the sustainability scale.

Have you had to make choices on the sustainability scale? I would love to hear about how you solved these dilemmas in the comments below.

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