Closed-Loop Cooking is a platform to help folx reduce food waste and single use kitchen items. It’s important to create clear associations on this blog to help people find relevant resources and it’s my goal to help y’all starve the landfill. But I want to address the distinction between two prominent labels that often follow environmentally minded media. “Zero-waste” vs “Low-Impact.” What exactly is the difference between these two labels, why are they important, and what’s a cooking blog to do? Let’s dive into some definitions together so we can understand how to create long lasting changes in our consumption habits.
What is Zero-Waste?
A basic definition of zero-waste is: producing no excess unused material that will end up in a landfill. This might stretch to include no consumption or purchasing of materials that negatively impact carbon emissions. It’s a broad definition and somewhat restricting. There’s very little margin for error. To be honest, it’s almost impossible to live a truly zero-waste life. Materials you come in contact with may unknowingly contribute to waste, and you have no control over that. Education is key but recognizing limitations are vital to making progress. Limitations to reducing one’s waste exist due to financial, geographical, or community restraints. I’m very lucky to live in an eco-conscious city where I don’t get cashier side eye for bringing my own containers to the bulk section.
“Zero-waste” has inevitably become a catch-all for most sustainable endeavors. The term is an SEO driver but ultimately not always the correct phrase to use when considering sustainability. It can feel overwhelming without encouraging of small actions. People tend to get caught up in this phrase. If someone is new to the term / lifestyle they may hesitate to make significant changes because they are unable to adhere to all the restrictions right away. It is an important label, an indicator of positive intentions but unfortunately not always attainable.
What is Low-Impact?
The general definition of low-impact (aka low-waste) is: significant lifestyle shifts that actively reduce waste at a sustainable, long-term rate while acknowledging the limitation of financial, geographical, and community restrictions. The term “low-impact” recognizes the imperfections of making change without preventing us from trying again. There is room to fail and there is room to make long lasting change. It’s an important distinction from zero-waste because it is more accessible. More people are likely to make a few meaningful shifts in their behavior than completely transform their entire lives, especially in a short time period.
I appreciate the lens of low-impact because there is always room to grow. This approach to environmentalism is moderate to ensure that habits stick. Maybe because it is less extreme than a completely zero-waste lifestyle it’s not as noteworthy but it is a tried-and-true approach to reducing your footprint. You’re more likely to continue with long term changes if you break it down into manageable steps. Just because I make an effort to keep all food waste out of the bin doesn’t mean I didn’t find a chunk of moldy (and I mean moldy) cheese in the fridge today. I don’t even eat cheese! (*Confused Young Nick meme here*)
Closed-Loop Cooking + Low-Impact
Here at CLC we believe in a low-impact approach. As we continue learning we want to make sure sustainable habits around food resonate. But because zero-waste is an entry point for many people into sustainability we make use of the term when applicable. We do our best to add context and emphasize patience and perseverance. It’s an evolving practice around slow living / slow eating and worth making the distinction – especially as we continue to think about mindful intentions going into the new year.
Closed-Loop Cooking is focused on creating resources and transparency around kitchen habits because discarded food and packaging make up so much of the global waste problem. Committing to a zero-waste lifestyle can be overwhelming, guilt-inducing even. What if you live in an area without access to any major grocery stores, let alone a farmer’s market? Food deserts, no bulk bins or not enough resources for making food last longer can all inhibit anyone considering a trash free home. That’s why a low-impact lens creates accessibility by breaking down a lifestyle into manageable steps. In the same way that every vote counts, every action that impacts the global agriculture industry, even on the smallest of scale, matters. I want this to be an open platform to share ideas, frustrations, realities. Everyone can actively participate in living a low-impact lifestyle and reducing waste in our homes, given the right tools.
Which of your habits would you consider low-impact? #closedloopcooking