3 reasons that a low waste lifestyle matters during the war in Ukraine

I’ve been working with a video editor who lives in Ukraine every week for over a year and I worry for him and his loved ones.  


He’s in western Ukraine and wants to continue to work, donating some of his salary to the war efforts.

So I’ve continued to send him my raw footage of various eco-friendly sewing & mending projects, as well as zero waste lifestyle tips.  He helps me turn the raw footage into short videos for YouTube.  

Sometimes it feels strange to keep sewing & filming & writing about sustainable living when there’s so much suffering happening right now in Ukraine (and elsewhere).

I had to ask myself if it was okay to continue talking about these non-war topics to my audience.  Does anyone want to learn how to mend a shoe right now? Is it wrong to share my toy strawberry tutorial while people are being bombed?

Does a low waste lifestyle still matter when there's war?

I took a moment recently to think about the work I’m doing and whether it matters right now.  I’ve been reading & talking with others about this question and came to a conclusion: it does.  

In case you’re wondering if it still matters to compost your food waste and bring your own coffee mug and refuse single-use plastic while lives are being destroyed in Ukraine, it does.

Your low waste efforts, even if they’re not perfect, are still worth pursuing even in the face of a war.  

Here’s 3 reasons why a low waste lifestyle matters in the face of a war.

1. Fossil fuels are playing an important role in this war.

Once again, fossil fuels are playing a role in a conflict between nations. 


Although not the root of the conflict, Russia is using its fossil fuel supply for political purposes.  In this case, Russia’s supply of oil is an important part of Europe’s economy. 


Russia depends on its sales for its own economy.  Russia can use its fossil fuels as a form of leverage – a hold over the European continent. 


Without the continuous flow of Russia’s fossil fuels, much of Europe would experience a major energy crisis.  [https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/24/qa-could-putin-use-russian-gas-supplies-to-hurt-europe]  

Not to mention that fossil fuels are funding the Russian military – all those guns & bombs.  When we purchase oil from Russia, we’re helping to fund their attack on Ukraine.   [https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/02/26/fossil-fuels-are-financing-russia-s-invasion-says-xr-ukraine]


Fighting climate change & reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is at the core of the zero waste movement. 


“Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots—fossil fuels—and our dependence on them,” said Svitlana Krakovska, the Ukrainian representative at a recent global climate conference. [https://energypost.eu/twenty-first-century-energy-wars-oil-gas-fuelling-global-conflicts/]


The zero waste movement aims to reduce our dependence on polluting, unsustainable sources of materials & energy.

The zero waste movement isn’t about plastic pollution & trash for our trashcan’s sake. 


It’s about preserving our planet by reducing our dependence on polluting, unsustainable sources of materials & energy. 


It’s about protecting our planet for future generations by moving towards clean, renewable resources.


Reducing the waste we make is one side of striving for zero waste.  But the other side is about using renewable energy and limiting carbon emissions. 


That includes limiting the use of fossil fuels and advocating for a reduced dependence on fossil fuels for your community – locally and globally.  


Which brings me to the 2nd point of why a zero/low waste lifestyle matters during a war: 

2. The low waste movement is a connection to our global community.

Those who are able to take actions to reduce their waste at a time like this are doing it not just for themselves, but for our global community. 


We’re protecting our planet for future generations, for the vulnerable & disenfranchised.  The focus of the movement is for the planet.  


The communities who are most impacted by climate change are the socially vulnerable communities in the US and overseas – those who have less income, and often communities of color  [https://www.epa.gov/newsreleases/epa-report-shows-disproportionate-impacts-climate-change-socially-vulnerable].

Fighting waste & climate change is a global value.

It doesn’t make sense to clean up a beach on the coast of California if we’re not also thinking of the great pacific garbage patch. 


We can’t march against climate change if we don’t also care about the communities who are hardest hit by heat waves, flooding, and other extreme weather events. 

The actions we take don’t exist in a vacuum. We’re connected to one another.

As advocates for the environment, we’re mindful of the fact that fighting plastic pollution and climate change has to happen at an international scale, not just in our own kitchen.


Our actions are linked in this global economy too. 


The consumer choices we make – choosing fair trade and avoiding companies that are mass polluters – can ripple well beyond our hometowns. 


Our civic action – voting & marching – led to a president who rejoined the Paris Climate agreement. 


And our online connections through social media let us show up for each other & share our ideas around the world.


We can’t keep our heads in the sand about the environment, and we can’t look away during a war, either. 


This movement reminds us that we don’t live in isolation and that the actions that occur near & far are connected & matter.  


We fight to protect the amazon rainforest, and advocate for clean water in Flint, Michigan, and care about the survival of polar bears in the arctic.


Being a low waste person means being an environmentalist means caring for the entire planet.


Which brings me to my last reason that striving for and talking about low waste living matters during a war.

3. “I must choose between despair and energy: I choose the latter.” - Keats

I saw a poem by Mari Andrew circulating on Instagram not long ago.  It’s about celebration & grief happening at the same time. Here’s an excerpt: 

“…..I choose to 

show up at a birthday party because

grief and celebration often happen

in the same night.”

This is why we keep walking our dogs & recycling our beer cans & saying hi to our neighbors when there’s a cruel war happening in Ukraine. 


We choose energy over despair & we remember that death & life happen in the same moment over & over again. 


Someone else captured it really well recently too:


“I will never apologize for embracing joy and beauty – even when the world is falling apart – because joy and beauty are my fuel for activism.”

– Karen Walrond, The Lightmaker’s Manifesto


Your low waste efforts still matter, even in the face of a war.  

Here’s what we should continue to do during a war to show up for the planet, for Ukraine, and for ourselves:

  • Choose more sustainable transportation options like biking and public transportation & limit your air travel. 
  • Reduce your own overall energy needs by conserving at home & in the office/school through more efficient lighting, appliances, and tightening up your home.
  • Conserve your water use (yes, fossil fuels help water get moved around).
  • Eat more plants and less animal-based products.  Meat & dairy industries use fossil fuels in their farming practices.
  • Eat local foods – less need for fossil fuels to get them to you.
  • Vote for elected officials who advocate for climate change action. 
  • Write your elected officials to advocate for climate change action.
  • Support your local climate change action network.
  • Avoid single use plastic (which is fossil fuel based).
  • And, of course, the grand pyramid of cutting your waste: 
    • Refuse 
    • Reduce
    • Reuse
    • Repair
    • Rot
    • Recycle
    • Landfill (as a last resort).


Our actions matter ESPECIALLY during a war like this one, so keep up your good work.


What are your thoughts on cutting waste during a humanitarian crisis? Leave a comment below!

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