It's never easy to say no; humans like to connect with others, and a simple way to achieve it is by saying yes and complying to create a bond; the issue appears when consumerism becomes a link to make such interactions.
Consumerism is around us, and even though we have to consume to live, it feels that society nowadays buys more than what they realistically can consume, leading to vast amounts of waste each year.
You don't even have to pay for something to be consumed; just by accepting a flyer on the streets, you already finished the resources spent to create that flyer which you will most likely toss in the trash after a while.
What can you do to stop this vicious cycle? Start saying No.
I want to focus on rejecting the things we don't need and four main categories where we can start saying Thanks, but no.
What is the basis of the zero-waste movement?
To begin understanding how to start a less wasteful life, we have to look at the five main Rs from this movement. Reject, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.
Bea Johnson is the zero waste movement pioneer who created this simple yet effective list to incorporate a zero-waste philosophy into our daily routine easily.
There's a reason why Reject is the first R because the less we bring home, the less waste we have to deal with, plus it will make your home remain decluttered if you enjoy a minimalist style.
You can start rejecting items you don't even before buying them; whenever you visit a store, ask yourself if you need what you are thinking of purchasing or if it's purely a want.
Overconsumption can't only happen at a store with your cash; you can be an accomplice to consumerism without spending a dime.
From the moment you leave your home, you are consuming; by accepting many different flyers to stuff, you don't care about, asking for a single-use plastic bag to carry your groceries or the physical receipt from that same purchase.
You can easily reject all those small acquisitions way before they reach your front door.
Rejecting unnecessary things improves the environment
For every item we say yes to, we ultimately increase the demand for it. Each time you accept anything, you are asking for more to be manufactured.
In Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home book, she teaches us that this is the main reason why we need to learn to say no more often.
For example, each time you say no to single-use cutlery or straws, you ask for those items to not be manufactured anymore.
I know the impact a single person can make is minimal, but I always think that as long as each person contributes, the scale will tip in our favor.
The four items you can start saying no to starting today
As I mentioned earlier, you don't necessarily have to waste a lot of cash to become a consumerist; in fact, most people who waste a lot are the ones who spend very little here and there, but repeatedly, learn to identify those scenarios to avoid them.
To avoid accumulating clutter and waste in your home, learn to reject it. These are the four main categories everyone should leave most of the time.
1) Unwanted mail and ads
Even though most companies do now e-marketing which creates digital clutter, physical flyers and ads are still a thing.
Depending on where you live, you can potentially receive plenty of flyers each week or even day, which comes at a high price, the planet's constant deforestation.
Some simple ways to stop the unwanted mail is to ask your service companies for digital versions of monthly receipts; you can also place a sign on your mailbox asking for no flyers or ads.
2) Single-use plastic
These are the worst kind of plastic out there; we talk about all those items you use for less than 60 minutes and then end up in the trash; this includes plastic bags, straws, cutlery, cups, or bottles.
Sadly, recycling is not a viable solution for this kind of waste because less than 10% gets recycled each year, besides the fact that it is a hard material to recycle and reuse.
Most single-use plastic ends up in either the oceans or in landfills, where it will take decades to decompose.
It's hard to say no to things that are given to you as gifts when nothing is asked in return, and I'm not talking about birthday presents, but those items that are provided to you as extra gifts.
Think of beauty or perfume samples, pens or notebooks, calendars, among others. You will need a lot of self-control to say no, but each of those unnecessary items is costing the environment more resources.
The only excuse to accept those items is if you genuinely need them, so you save money by not purchasing them, or you honestly plan to use them.
When it comes to birthday presents, you can ask for gift cards instead of things, this way you can buy the stuff you need.
4) Paper clutter
Don't accept flyers, visit cards, info papers, or anything that you will read once and discard right away. These small actions could have a significant impact if many were to do them, to the point where stores would stop offering those items since nobody would ask for them.
Say no doesn't mean you are impolite
As a societal rule, accepting gifts is seen as the right thing to do, so saying no to something like that can feel awkward.
The key is learning how to decline something we don't need or want appropriately. Instead of saying a cold sound no, you can rephrase it and say, I'm sorry, but I'm not interested, or I'm sorry, but I already have some at home.
Expressing our thoughts with politeness but firmness will generally be understood by the other person.
You can always avoid uncomfortable moments by unsubscribing from mailing lists and always carry your reusable items.
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