Is zero waste and green living a middle and upper class luxury?

Bulk Bags Photo by paul morris on Unsplash
Photo by paul morris on Unsplash

This morning on the radio I listened to the end of a segment where they mentioned that some people think consider “green living” (which includes things like zero waste, but also all levels of sustainability), to be a luxury only afforded by the well educated, and middle and upper classes in our society. They went on to say that these sort of movements actually contribute to more of a class divide in our society.

At first listening to this really shocked me, as I haven’t really heard much negative press for green living before. Luke and I had literally spent hours last night talking about the ideas and principles of zero waste, and how we could reduce our waste further. But I tried to consider what I had heard (especially having only heard the end of it), and think if this was really true.

The more I thought about it, and talked it through the more I decided that it wasn’t an accurate representation of green living and zero waste. I do agree that middle and upper class citizens do have more opportunity to change their lives to green living quicker, and with less hardship, but that is actually a luxury they have for pretty much every issue they want to pursue. And to be honest, I don’t think that we should be trying to criticise anyone who sees an issue, learns about it, and then takes action to improve their life and the world around them.

As I pondered all this I ended up brainstorming a whole bunch of different ways that low income families could reduce their waste with little cost. I’ve listed them below.

  1. Sell off unused and unwanted goods.
  2. Refuse plastic bags. If you buy a couple of reusable shopping bags from the supermarket (not the best, but certainly better than the standard plastic bags) each week it wouldn’t take long to have enough to do your whole shopping. If you’re handy with the sewing machine, you could even use old clothes or spare fabric to make your own bags
  3. Refuse straws. 
  4. Compost. It doesn’t take much to start a compost heap in your back yard, but even if you don’t have a back yard to compost in, there are many community garden projects around (particularly in our area – Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast) that would happily have a compost heap.
  5. Bake snacks and treats instead of buying them. Making a round of ANZAC slice, or cupcakes will be a lot less wasteful then buying them pre-made (and individually wrapped!!) in the supermarket.
  6. Make sure you recycle everything possible. The local tips do EXCELLENT talks and interactive sessions on recycling and zero waste, so it’s well worth calling them to book in a time so you can find out all about what can and can’t be recycled. Better yet, organise a group so more people can learn!
  7. Turn your jars into storage! I have a lovely shelf of glass jars that I keep all my pantry items in, and MOST of these jars are just leftover pasta sauce bottles or the like. Reusing stuff you have in a different way is a great way to get greener with no cost.

Lastly I just wanted to say that even though I do happen to be a well educated middle class person, most of the knowledge that I have on zero waste and green living is from free sources. It’s from following blogs and instagram accounts, and searching for things on Pinterest. I know how to compost stuff because I binge watched a ton of youtube videos one time. So the point of that is to say that information is all around you, and you just have to get out there and be hungry for it!

Rubbish Photo by Bas Emmen on Unsplash
Photo by Bas Emmen on Unsplash


1 thought on “Is zero waste and green living a middle and upper class luxury?

  1. Dawnita Fogleman

    I love these thoughts! We don’t compost because all our leftover foodstuff goes to the critters so there is no wasted food. We reuse everything we possibly can. I use old canning jars for so many things all over our home. Next on my list is to make fabric grocery bags. I’m so tired of those flimsy plastic ones that barely make it home and can’t be reused for anything.


Leave a Reply