That feeling when you’re so tired you’re not sure you can do what you need to do, much less deal with living zero waste.
I’m sure we’ve all felt it anecdotally, but science actually backs those feelings up with cold, hard facts. Studies show that sleep deprivation “lowers inhibition and enhances impulsivity to negative stimuli”. Basically, when you’re tired it’s much easier to make poor choices you wouldn’t otherwise.
In zero waste terms, I’m sure we can all think of an example. Buying a plastic-wrapped ready meal on a 15 minute lunch break. Forgetting your reusable mug and getting a single-use cup because you need caffeine. Making an impulse purchase we later regret because we were too tired to do proper research.
Here are a few ways to practice zero waste, even when you’re exhausted:
1. Have a minimal zero waste kit on you at all times
Packing a good zero waste bag can really mitigate a lot of potential pitfalls. Honestly, the most underrated piece of advice about going zero waste is this: be prepared. If you’re not prepared, you’re going to fail and waste (especially disposables) are going to start haunting you!
By planning ahead you also take the pressure off of your tired brain when the time comes to choose between convenience or conviction.
You can see my full zero waste kit here, but adjust it to your needs as you see fit. Don’t bother with a large food container if you never eat out. Add extra napkins if you’re exceptionally mess. Make your kit work for you and your needs, and ingrain it into your habits so it’s natural to grab it even when you’re too tired to think straight.
Adjacent to having a zero waste kit on you is…
2. Anticipate your weaknesses and plan
Personally, I know when I’ve been out of the house for a long time and I’m tired and hungry, my go-to is a sugary treat. Instead of leaving myself open to buying a plastic-packaged candy bar, I make sure to have a small container of my favorite sugary bulk treat at the bottom of my bag.
That’s a very obvious one that I know I need to deal with, but others may not be that obvious.
Three simple ways to assess your exhaustion pain-points:
- Do a mini-trash audit. Look into your work waste basket or the trash you toss in your bag/back seat every day. What keeps popping up that can be substituted with a little planning? (Curious to know more about trash audits AKA the quickest way to reduce your waste? Here you go!)
- What are your negative emotion bad habits? We all have something we seek when we’re in a bad mood or tired. For some it’s food, for some it’s impulse shopping, for others it’s something else. The next time you’re in a bad mood, see what your impulse is. Then, try to choose an alternative, more productive action you can try next time.
3. Consider a moment of ‘earthing’
If you haven’t heard of it, earthing is essentially putting bare skin in contact with the soil, sand, water, or a conductive material in contact with the earth. You can read more about it here.
I have no sense of whether the claimed benefits of ‘earthing’ or ‘grounding’ are true or not (not many scientific studies have been done and the cynic in me says obviously not), but I do think there is plenty of value in taking a few moments to make yourself feel connected to something other than your stress, exhaustion, or anxiety.
This can be done in many ways – ranging from the secretive to the obvious:
- Sit and press your hands into the grass or dip them in a stream/fountain for a few moments.
- Take off your shoes and stand in the grass for a few minutes is great if you can manage it.
- Not technically grounding, but step outside and bare as much skin to the sun as possible.
Whether you believe in the health effects of grounding or not, the chance to take a break and remain mindful for a few minutes can be incredibly re-centering when you’re exhausted.
4. Give yourself grace when you’re not successful
Perhaps the most important facet of practicing zero waste when emotionally, mentally, or physically exhausted is giving yourself a pass for failure. Sometimes we give ourselves passes we don’t deserve (“just this once!“), but in cases where we’re just trying to get by we absolutely deserve them.
Remember: zero waste isn’t zero, so failures are inevitable. Don’t let a lapse in your zero waste practices cause guilt or regret – use the tips above to create a plan to be more prepared the next time around.
A good way to practice giving yourself a break is to ask “would I judge someone else for this?” – you’re often a lot more kind to others than yourself, so be mindful of that.
What ways do you combat zero waste failure when you’re totally exhausted? Any tips or tricks to make zero waste as simple as possible, even in hard situations? Leave your tips in the comments below!