I can't believe it's been a whole year since I took the plunge into the zero waste lifestyle. There's been a lot successes and a few failures but overall, it's been a wonderful journey that I'm still very passionate about and excited to polish a little more.
But where did it all start? What pushed me to make this change? Earth Day 2015, my husband and I decided that our contribution to a day that I now consider "my Christmas", was going to be to pick up our local neighborhood. We adorned our gloves for sanitation reasons, grabbed a couple of trash bags - which now I avoid when doing cleanups, wrangled the dogs, and headed out. We were excited for a nice evening walk with an occasional pit stop to pick up a can or two.
We picked up trash for over an hour on our usual 30 minute route. There was trash EVERYWHERE. We not only filled up those two trash bags, we filled 5! 5 trash bags for one block. I was angry. I cursed our neighborhood the whole time we were picking up trash. Seriously, how can people be so careless?
When we got back to the house, we sorted out what we could recycle and had to toss the rest. When I opened the trash can I noticed that there wasn't any room for all of the trash we collected. Our GIANT can was nearly full, for just a week's worth of garbage, for 2 people! Just because my trash was in a garbage can, I was still part of the problem. I was a hypocrite. How could I curse our neighbors for being so disposable when I too, was just as wasteful?
I knew that I needed to change my ways - I, we, needed to throw less away. That's when I started doing hours of research of ways that I could eliminate my garbage and was so happy to come across a few blogs where families were already living lives where they produced nearly no trash! I was intrigued and hooked! "Wow", I thought, "If they can do it, so can I, right?!" I immediately threw the idea at my husband who was definitely a little hesitant about all of the changes we needed to make. I know I always preach that it's important to take baby steps but I'm an all in or nothing kind of girl. Despite him being a little surprised at my newest obsession/endeavor he still supported it and was willing to participate.
So what have I learned? A lot, actually! I've learned that though this lifestyle is rewarding, it's challenging sometimes, and can be a little time consuming in the beginning. Keep in mind, that my perspective is from someone who lives in the Midwest with very few bulk options (2 stores) close to home and a mentality that doesn't prioritize environmentalism, so everyone's experience can and will be different.
Despite a few hurdles, even if you really want to call them that, my life has ever changed for the better. As a reflection, I wanted to discuss my 5 major Zero Waste life changes with you.
1. People view me differently.
Yep, my family thought I was nuts when I told them that I wanted to make my house waste free and plastic free. Some still think I'm nuts. But you know what? I don't care. I went in to this thing with full confidence in myself and my ability to this and it's paid off. So many of my friends and family now have adopted parts of this lifestyle and have become more aware of what they throw away. If you are confident in your mission, no one will question you!
2. There was some investment.
In order to refuse a lot of disposables, I had to get a supply of items to make it easier for me to do so. Yes, there are ways to utilize what you already have, but I didn't have spare bed sheets, curtains, raggedy clothes to turn in to cloth bags. I had to buy some. There were other additional items I had to purchase as well. Yes, I utilized what I had and second hand shops when I could but, I couldn't always find the things I needed or thought would be perfect for me. The good thing is, your investment is a one time deal. Once you get your supply, you're good to go, always. Unless you're having a baby like me and have another human to "zero wastify".
3. I had to change the way I ate.
It's easy to get used to the convenience of packaged food. We're busy. unpackaged food means more work, right? Well, that's what I thought and I'm sure a lot of you did too. I don't have time to devote 1+ hours a day making each meal and things from scratch when I have a job that requires 45-50 hours of my week - on top of everything else I needed to do. Well, I quickly had to change the way I thought about meals and eating in general. I had to cut out the processed, packaged junk and find recipes that called for whole ingredients - fresh fruits and veggies, proteins, and whole grains. I'm telling you, Pinterest was a life saver for this part. I eventually found several recipes that called for items that I could get package free and tasted wonderful. The recipes were also very, and I mean VERY simple. None of the meals I make take more than 30 minutes to prepare and I still have time to make homemade tortillas on fajita night!
4. Zero Waste living requires quite a bit of preparation.
When I went to the grocery store, I'd just hop into the car and go. I didn't go through my stash of cloth bags, produce bags, and jars to make sure I was prepared for all of the items I needed - most of the time I didn't even know what I needed. When I went out to eat, I didn't make sure I had a reusable napkin, reusable cutlery, and a to go container on me. Typing this out makes it sound absurd. At first, I thought I was over complicating things and got frustrated quickly when I got all the way to where I was going without my Zero Waste supplies. It took time, practice, countless failures before I got into a rhythm that I now don't really think much of. It takes 21 days to form a habit so don't kick yourself if you still find that you forget things. Once I started keeping all of my grocery shopping items in one giant back and a Zero Waste Kit in my car, things were pretty easy.
5. I'll never turn back.
When I say this is one of the best decisions of my life - aside from marrying my best friend, of course, I'm not lying. My life has more of a purpose now then it ever has. I'm happier, I'm healthier, and I have a new found passion within me that I was always searching for but could never seem to find. Well, I'm happy to say that I have found it in Zero Waste living and am going to make it my life's goal to push this as far as it can go. What are my next steps? Stay tuned!