Green shaming: does it really work?

Posted by Laurie Barrette on

It has been four years since we founded Dans le sac, and about five years since  zero waste has been part of our lives. We've seen this movement evolve and transform, we ourselves have been through different phases  At first, it was mostly outrage and bewilderment towards people who did not see how serious it was to care and act about environmental issues. But as we were progressing in this lifestyle, we began to realize that anger was not a solution. This cause is a serious one, yes, but shouting angry facts from the rooftops would not make anybody want to join the march. 

We understood that offering solutions to the problem is a better way to ease people into changing, which is precisely how we see things at Dans le sac, and what we aim to do every day. Everybody applies it in different ways, in their own lives. Some like to weigh their mason jars each month and track their numbers. Others prefer to gradually ease into the zero waste lifestyle, and both options are great.

There has been a steady climb in popularity in the movement in the last years. We were only a handful of people at first, but it has now become a well-known lifestyle by most. Of course, once it gained in popularity, the bigger corporations wanted their piece of it to look good for the consumer. Nowadays, marketing is mostly through Instagram Influencers, and like it or not, it's one of the best ways to get visibility since the vast majority of people are either on Facebook or Instagram. This means we are seeing more and more people using social media to show-off these products on different platforms. #zerowaste

In all honesty, we used to be part of those who didn't agree with this. We would see some of them claim they were zero waste one day and the next day, they would post a picture of them eating over-packaged fast food. It was frustrating because for us zero waste was a lifestyle, and not something we were doing to get likes on social media. But then it got us thinking: why judge ? If this was a way to sensitize people who had never heard of this lifestyle, why not?  We give a few conferences a year, and sometimes the audience is quite knowledgeable on waste reduction, while others barely recycle. Like I've mentioned before, everybody reaches certain milestones at their own pace. We aren't perfect, far from it! There are still days when we make mistakes, some because we are always learning, and some because we're lazy and human!

The problem is, there have been more and more finger-pointing going around on social media, singling out every little imperfection. Green shaming has been spreading like wildfire lately, and we're here wondering when has the environment become a competition? As long as we are all working in the same direction, little else matters. There will always be someone being more eco-friendly than another, and the opposite will also be true. The tiny squares are carefully selected to fit in a social media feed that we all curate. The bigger picture is never fully disclosed in such a tiny, selected piece of information.

And why would anybody appreciate being shamed in this way? We all make mistakes, and we are all constantly learning along the way. This must be reminded to those who don't and respected by all. Not everybody starts from the same point, and we don't all have the same education, financial situation or geographical locations which all offer us different access and options. Not everybody is a skilled seamstress, nor do they have the aptitudes to complete a DIY, which means that eco-friendly options sold out there are the best option to help these people slow move towards greener options. How about we don't blame or shame these people because they aren't making their own bags and napkins out of scraps of fabric found at home. In an ideal situation, this would be the ideal option which would create the least waste. But in most homes, it's simply not an option.

Respect is key in these situations. Every one of us should be aware of our lifestyle choices and their impact. The media likes to point out the fact that reusable bags also have an impact on the environment while forgetting to mention that cotton is also present in our home decors, textiles, beddings and clothes, which are purchased more often during the year than reusable bags. Any form of judgement is unnecessary. Introspective and personal assessment of our personal habits, in general, are the only productive criticism.

This is the main reason why we've been slowly inching away from the zero waste label. It's another term that will come and go like they always do! We used to say a green movement, or sustainable development, now we all say zero waste. The same as how voluntary simplicity was replaced by minimalism. The same cause, two different terms throughout the years. It's become more than just the waste that is created with wrapped food and such, and it's about using the resources we have the most optimal way at all times (water, electricity, food etc.) and reconnecting with nature…Guilt-Free and Judgement-Free!

Evolution is constant, and we will always inspire others with positivity because it's truly the only way to inspire others to change their ways for good.

Listen to yourselves, take on changes that make sense for you; we all have the power to inspire others. 

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