How Zero Waste Practices Builds Your Self Confidence

You might not think this is related but hear me out!

Most mornings, I walk and listen to Tim Ferriss podcasts. I've been a huge fan of his for awhile and sometimes take on an experiment or two that he suggests. In episode #250, Tim answers questions from his fans. One of the questions asked was "How to Become More Confident?" Tim cites a few experiments with one of them suggesting that you lay on the ground for 30 seconds without saying a thing on a crowded street. Another was asking for a 10% discount on your coffee 2-3 times without any background or explanation. The point was to get you to do something different and unconventional to get over fear. Fear of rejection, fear or standing out, fear of looking stupid or uncool, etc.

I thought about doing this as a self experiment, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to realize that I already do this and in retrospect it has improved my confidence level overall.


Alright, let me explain how this all ties in with zero waste practices.

For those not familiar, zero waste is a lifestyle movement that encourage people to refuse and reduce the amount of waste they generate. At its core is learning about our consumption habits and forming new habits to combat our single-use, wasteful society. It is also about going against default and conventional society. For example, as someone trying to live a zero waste life (I'm not perfect, but I'm trying), I always ask for my coffee to stay or in my own coffee cup. I try as best as I can to refuse disposable coffee cups. Now, I'm very specific about this request. I'm not trying to be rude or make things difficult, but if I see espresso cups on the espresso machine, I always point to have them use that for mine. I also am always prepared with my reusable coffee cup if I am ordering to go. Now, I wasn't always like this. I was that person that would have to read the menu a few items and rehearse the order in my head so that I would be prepared when I went up to the cashier. In thinking about this some more, I did this because growing up in the US, English was not my first language, so I wanted to make sure I was saying my order properly. In years prior, just going up to place an order would elevate my heart rate a bit, but I learned that the more you practice the less the fear there is.

The point is to follow through, be a little uncomfortable, and grow...if you’re doing what everyone else is doing you’re not going to get what you want. How are you going to win [that way]? If you have a little discomfort, that’s the moment you start growing and learning. You find it’s not as bad as it seems. You find out, ‘Hey I’m still alive’...A lot of people psych themselves out before they even start.”
— Noah Kagan, Business Insider Article

Let's move on to another zero waste practice that I've been gaining confidence in more and more. The water refill ask. For over a year now, I have refused water bottle purchases. I instead bring my own reusable water bottle. If I am out, I either fill at water fountains or ask waiters, bar tenders, baristas to refill for me. I've successfully done this in major cities all around the world and have yet to meet someone that flat out refused so the fear of rejection is unfounded here. Never in a million years would I have been comfortable asking people to do this. In the past, if someone responded to me to just buy a water bottle, I would have. The more I have forced myself to do the asking without the fear that I'll get a NO, the better prepared I am to ask again.

Similarly, I've been bringing around a take-out food container each time I go to a restaurant in case of leftovers. The first time I tried to use my own container, I did it slyly, more or less trying to cover up what I was doing. I wasn't stealing food or anything, just doing something out of the ordinary. The second time I tried to do it, I left my container in the car with the potential excuse that I didn't have my container with me. The third time I did it, I got made fun of by my family and friends, but I stayed strong and explained I was saving food and reducing waste at the same time. Boy, that felt good. Not because I was rude about it, but because I said it with conviction and with confidence. The last time I took out my containers, I had no fears about doing something different. That was a win in more ways than one. In this case, there was definitely a fear of standing out, of being made fun of, but in more cases than not, no one even notices or gives a damn what you are doing. Perhaps, the waiter will say, "it's cool that you do that", but 9 times out of 10, everyone else is too busy doing their own thing that they don't even notice. It goes to show you that most of our fears our definitely only in our heads.

I know this post may seem like such a stretch, but when you are trying to live a life out of the norm, you run into a lot of fear, fear of rejection, fear of being different, fear of being made fun of.

So my fellow zero wasters, don't be afraid to challenge yourselves outside of your comfort zones. You'll be the better for it. The next time you do any of the following, know that each time you state what you want, you are gaining confidence and reducing fear.

  • ask the butcher to use your containers
  • ask the barista to put your coffee in to-stay mugs
  • refuse a straw or a lid even when asked "are you sure?" twice
  • refuse a bag and have to carry out your purchases by hand
  • go against the default process
  • be the 1 out of 20 people that picks up garbage on the street

To tie this back to another book I read, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, "choose better things to give a fuck about. Because when you give better fucks, you get better problems. And when you get better problems, you get a better life." Eventually, these small challenges to your comfort zone become nonexistent and you stop caring what others think and in turn gain more confidence and happiness.

So continue with being unconventional my zero waste friends and let your confidence shine through because in the end, what you are doing matters, so do it with confidence.

There really is no such thing as failing if you learn something from the experience. Can you relate? What was the one thing you were afraid to do in your zero waste journey and how do you feel about it today?


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