How I feel about the Low Impact Movement vs Zero Waste Movement



A couple of days ago, prominent Zero Waste YouTuber, Immy of Sustainably Vegan, who I have followed for quite some time now and absolutely adore, shared a post on Instagram revealing she was letting go of the term “Zero Waste” in favour of a new term, the “Low Impact Movement”.

She wrote:

“I’m kind of tired of the label ‘zero waste’ because it doesn’t quite describe what it is that I’m trying to achieve through my social media activism… So I’ve decided to engage in what I call THE LOW IMPACT MOVEMENT – this is not just about reducing our waste and toll on the environment but also reducing the cruelty we inflict on others and animals through both conscious and unconscious choices, to represent those whose voices are dampened by others in power and of a different background, to equally strive for equality for animals, people and the planet without shoehorning ourselves into a niche that can oftentimes feel unattainable and a choice only those who are privileged can make.”

Some may have been disappointed to find she was ditching the “Zero Waste” label, but I hear her, loud and clear.

Zero Waste isn’t broad enough. Just focusing on our trash waste isn’t the ideal solution.

We obviously need to be looking further afield, and I feel like the Low Impact Movement that she’s describing will take into account so much more than rubbish, plastic and sustainable living, but to other associated environmental issues, human issues and animal issues.

The Low Impact Movement is also a term I believe will widen the scope of those who feel they can commit to the environmental mission which lies behind both movements.

As she mentioned, some may feel that being part of the Zero Waste Movement can be a privilege of sorts, for white, fairly well-off people in Western countries.

But the term “Low Impact” can spark the idea in anyone, from any country, in any situation, that they can do more to lesson their environmental and social impact on the world.

She went on to say:

“The title (Zero Waste) assumes so many things that just leaves us open to failure, inconsistencies and often unconscious hypocrisies – I want to be part of a movement that is representative of everyone, and everyone’s situation not just those who are able bodied, socio-economically well off, and mainstream.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this – The term “Zero Waste” can definitely leave one feeling that’s it’s an all-or-nothing type of deal when you ‘sign up’ for the movement.

But that’s not what it should be about. The Zero Waste Movement should be about striving to be the most waste-free you can: Not about being perfect, but simply trying your best.

And most Zero Waste bloggers have always understood that. I have always understood that.

But I totally understand that not everyone feels that way, and that’s why I think the Low Impact Movement is a fantastic idea.

This actually isn’t the first time I’ve heard the term “Low Impact Movement” either, and I cannot neglect to mention the fabulous woman who first made me aware of it: Jo Low Impact.

I first heard of Jo, who resides in my home region back in Australia, when she was at the beginning of her Low Impact journey, through a mutual friend.

Jo has been living a money-less life since March 2015. She lives in her beloved little blue wagon parked on a friends property, doesn’t buy any new clothes, and acquires food through a variety of different avenues – whether that’s growing it herself, or working for it at a farmers market stall.

She literally lives and breathes the mission of a life with as little impact on the environment as possible, and I am in awe of her.

When I heard of her mission, I was absolutely blown away. I was just discovering the Zero Waste Movement, and Jo’s blog definitely inspired me.

Since those days, Jo has gone on to be featured in many media publications across Australia, has even had her first little shack (which she built herself!) destroyed by the devastating floods that hit our region last year – and she’s still living her life Low Impact and so inspiringly humble.

Whilst I haven’t met her in real life, she is certainly a person I look up to and truly admire, and maybe one day when I’m back in Australia I’ll get the chance to meet her and discuss all things Low Impact!

I certainly feel that both the terms “Zero Waste” and “Low Impact” bring a lot to the table – they connect like minded people with each other and important knowledge to help them on their personal missions to create less waste, providing a sense of community and scope for education.

They both have pros and cons, yes. But I truly believe they BOTH have more pros than cons.

The term “Zero Waste” has gotten me so far. I’ve learnt so much from this movement and come so far since I realised the problem of plastic and trash in our world and decided I wanted to do something about it and live a more sustainable life.

It’s helped me grow as a person, connect with a bigger community, and learn about so many things I never even knew existed.

And I still feel like there is so much more for me to learn.

The term “Zero Waste”, for me at least, has never come with a sense of pressure (Surprisingly, as I’m so hard on myself generally).

It’s always been a flagpole, one that I know I will never reach (because it’s not realistic to create absolutely ZERO waste) but will always reach for.

To me it’s a guide, a light, or that spiritual transcendence thing Buddhists strive for through meditation.

And for me, at least, that works.

So, suffice to say I will continue using the term “Zero Waste”, but I will also be embracing the “Low Impact Movement”, and using it to open up my branches of waste and impact in many other aspects of daily life.

A huge thank you also goes out to Sustainably Vegan for keeping it real, and choosing transparency and relate-ability – it is these qualities which make a great role model, and what our world needs is role models like this to steer us in the direction our earth is desperately crying out for.

Books about Zero Waste that I love:

Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

Plastic-Free by  Beth Terry

2 Replies to “How I feel about the Low Impact Movement vs Zero Waste Movement”

  1. I have struggled with the term Zero Waste too and often use the term low waste in my posts instead. I also interpret waste to mean all kinds of waste; energy, trash, biodiversity, beauty, resources, which is probably more in keeping with the ‘low impact’ principles. I think using the tag ‘Zero Waste’ on social media can be really useful as it’s so widely recognised. Also I think people are attracted to perfectionism and absolutes, which the term zero waste gives.

    1. I definitely agree with your thoughts here! Zero Waste for sure is so widely recognised it makes it easier to share information on the topic through that term. But low waste, like you say, is so much more broad of a term and this broadness is what we need to be looking at in regards to waste, 100%

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