Why women are so great for zero waste

Type in “zero waste” in a search engine and various news articles will come up. Bea Johnson, author of Zero Waste Home, will certainly be there, as will a few popular bloggers and the attention grabbing “this woman fits all her trash into a jar” headline. You will most certainly see images of and read about women, changing their consumption, leading by example, and calling for change at a personal and institutional level.

The online zero waste community, as far as I look, is dominated by women. That’s great.

Think about the home you grew up in, or the home you live in now. Who did the majority of the household labor? Who runs the household? It may be 2018, but statistically we know women still perform a disproportionate amount of labor in most American homes.

Women spend 25% more time purchasing goods than men.

Women spend 2x as much time caring for household members like spouses and children.

While men spend about 1 hour and 25 minutes a day on household activities such as laundry, cleaning, cooking, dishes, yardwork and household management, women spend about 2 hours and 15 minutes.

On any given day, American women are 27% more likely to perform tasks of food preparation and cleanup than American men.

It has been found that in households with children under the age of 6, women perform more than twice the amount of physical care for the children (like feeding or bathing) as men.

A 2004 study found that women determined how 88% of disposable income is spent, “including 53 percent of all stock purchases, 63 percent of personal computer buys, and 75 percent of all over-the-counter drug outlays”.

It’s cited in Marketing to Women by Marti Barletta that women make 75% of decisions about buying new homes, 81% of the decisions about groceries and influence at least 80% of all household spending.

Are you convinced yet? I’m not here to say this is fair or good, but I am here to say that women hold a big stake in what enters their homes, the products and goods that are consumed, and where they spend their money.


If you’re a woman running a household, you can have a massive impact on reducing waste. More so, even, than a single person reducing their waste. You are 27% more likely to be performing food preparation and grocery purchases. You are 2x as likely to be performing childcare in the home. Do you see where I am going?

Use your influence over spending to support what you believe in. Buy apples in a washable produce bag instead of bagged in plastic. If you’re spending 2x as much time caring for household members, start a household switch to cloth diapers. Since women are spending 25% more time purchasing goods, use that time purchasing secondhand instead of new and encourage those around you to do the same. Stop wasting money on 8 different cleaning products covered in plastic when vinegar, baking soda, and soap can do the same job.

In an ideal world, division of household labor would be equal, and I hope in your life it is more equally split than the statistical average, but you can affect change from wherever you are.

Apart from purchasing products that are sustainable and responsibly packaged, you can opt out of many products and goods that don’t align with what you care about. For example, I don’t shop at stores that sell fast fashion because it’s unethical. Don’t give companies your money if you don’t like what they’re doing, barring exceptions like medication you need.

Johnson & Johnson reformulated all of its baby products to remove a formaldehyde-releasing preservative. This move occurred in response to a report and boycott call from the US Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) over the company’s use of harmful chemicals in its baby shampoo (2012). 
— www.ethicalconsumer.org

Even more important than not purchasing is letting companies know why you don’t want to support them or their product. Greenindyblog has a great post about contacting companies, with a sample letter here.

Vote with your dollar. Successful boycotts, if that’s how you choose to look at it, have specific goals. More sustainable packaging, for example, is a good place to start. Let companies know what you think and what they can change to get your business. Another hallmark of successful boycotts is that it’s as much about company reputation as it is about profit, so be public. The examples here were backed by larger groups as well as individuals.

If you feel overwhelmed or unincluded in zero waste for whatever reason, remember the power and influence you have. Whether you live in a home with children or alone, we woman have tremendous power in this economy.

If we’re doing more than our fair share of the housework, let’s ditch plastic bottles and chemicals.

If we’re influencing discretionary spending, let’s pick ethically produced and sustainably made products.

If we’re making so many of the grocery shopping decisions, let’s pick package free whenever we can.

If we’re cooking, let’s compost the scraps.

If we wait for the time to be perfect, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. Reduce your waste as much as possible, spread the word, and make sustainable, responsible, and plastic free normal.

What’s your take on all the wonderful, driven women in zero waste?