I just started my journey to zero waste a little over a year ago when I started thinking about how wasteful I had become. When I was in high school I was super interested in recycling and would get on people constantly for littering.Then I got to college where I lived in a dorm and felt like sustainability just flat out wasn’t realistic. I didn’t have my car there, so I didn’t have options of going to a particular grocery store + I was broke as a joke and dealing with my first ever wave of depression.
I got to the point where I would throw things away that could probably be recycled because I was so angry with the system.
Why is it on us?! Shouldn’t the producers of plastic take on some responsibility?
Can’t they make this recycling thing a little easier?
It shouldn’t be so confusing! What can be recycled & what can’t?!
Why did we used to separate everything, but now it can all go together?!
How can I be expected to be responsible for the waste I produce when I financially can’t afford to nor did I have the time, energy, or car to go out of my way to explore it >.<
Now that I’m not a student anymore I have been able to spend much more time on sustainability, but I know that not everyone has this luxury or interest to dedicate towards environmentalism. Which is exactly why I have created this blog - I’m just hoping to track the work I am doing in hopes that it makes someone else’s journey a little easier.
Sustainability can be a touchy subject. I would hope that everyone at least wants to be working towards living a more environmentally aware and sustainable lifestyle, but I completely understand that there are a lot of things keeping us from that. Economics, lack of education, convenience, racism, capitalism, and politics all play large roles in that.
I think a lot of people expect me to be cursing people who don’t live a zero waste lifestyle, and I have to say it is definitely comical taking notice of the friends and family that are ashamed to use a straw in front of me. That being said, I get it. We’re not zero waste. And who could expect us to be?! Our society thrives off of convenience, off of people buying things. Capitalism wouldn’t be doing well if people weren’t constantly buying new things, so us capitalists make it so that people keep buying more, more, more!
And that’s exactly where I say to start your journey: Stop buying crap that doesn’t matter to you. If you’re not going to have it a year from now, what’s the point? If you’re not going to use it more than once, why buy it at all?! I know this can be difficult at first, but having less stuff makes my life more meaningful... and honestly, way less stressful. That being said, there are just a few things that I do recommend purchasing (if you don't have these things already) that will help you prevent less waste in the future.
Where do you even start when it comes to this kind of stuff? Everyone’s lifestyle is a bit different than the next person’s, but for me, the basics look like this:
Reusable To Go Silverware
Consists of: Bamboo fork, spoon, knife, & chopsticks. I use this allllll the time! And I really like it because people actually typically take notice of this swap, so I know that I'm making at least a hint of an impact when I whip out my reusable chopsticks at lunch. Life Without Plastic sells this kit by the Plastic Pollution Coalition, which I especially love because I know that not one, but two amazing companies are benefiting from my purchase. Team work makes the dream work!
Reusable Straw: Metal, Bamboo, or Glass
Originally I thought I would never buy one because in all reality, a straw isn't a necessity to me. I worked in the restaurant industry for almost 10 years, I know how commercial kitchens work. Are some of them gross? I mean, yeah, but if you're going to put their silverware in your mouth, eat the food that came off of their bowls and plates, and drink the liquid out of the "gross" cup you're so afraid to touch your mouth to......why do you need a straw? Don't get me wrong, there are exceptions* (Bloody Mary's!!!) and times of need, which is why I have been considering buying a reusable one. I just think that the 9x out of 10 you'd really be okay without one.
There are tons of options: The Final Straw's Original Collapsible Straw, Life Without Plastic's Glass Straw, Koffie Straw's Silicone Straw made specifically for hot beverages, The Zero Market's Bamboo Straw, & Earth Hero's Stainless Steel Straw.
Reusable Coffee Cup
I'm not expecting you to give up your daily Starbucks (though it would be pretty cool if you chose a local coffee shop instead, just sayin!), most people require a little caffeine to get going in the morning and with how society is set up, I don't blame us. We are go, go, go! If you don't already have a reusable to go coffee cup Keep Cup & Stojo are both great companies that I love. Keep Cups are glass and Stojo offers a collapsible mug. Pretty cool!
My favorite local coffee shops in Indy: Garden Table, Strange Brew, Coat Check, Foundry Provisions, Kaffeine Coffee, & Provider
Reusable Water Bottle
This is so, so, soooo important. STOP USING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES. Seriously. If it isn't alarming enough to you that it's damaging to the planet (we use 30 million per day), they are extremely dangerous for you and your body! Plastics have been linked to fertility issues, which is why you now see "BPA Free" plastered just about everywhere. And it's estimated that 93% of American's have some level of it in their body. According to Ed Cara of Gizmodo, BPA's have been linked to causing "genital deformities in men, early puberty in women, and developmental problems in the very young; it might also contribute to metabolic disorders like obesity as well as certain cancers".
Most if not all people have ingested plastic. I mean, think about it, all of this plastic is ending up in our oceans. You've all seen these reports on multiple whales now dying on a beach due to ridiculous amounts of plastic consumption. So fish eat plastic. Birds eat plastic. Animals eat plastic. Then (most) humans eat those animals.
"Different types of plastics attract toxins at different rates, making some more potent than others. Once ingested by fish, these toxins are released from the plastic fragments and are carried in the bloodstream and stored in the fatty tissues of the fish. These toxins have been linked with cancer, autoimmune disease, cognitive problems, infertility, and endocrine disruption. We then eat these fish, causing the toxins to enter our bodies. 60% of the world's population rely on fish as it's main source of protein." - Plastic Ocean's International
Suggestions: 4Ocean is a global movement actively removing trash from the ocean and coastlines while inspiring individuals to work together for a cleaner ocean, one pound at a time. They offer this double-walled stainless steel reusable bottle and remove one pound of plastic from the ocean with each purchase.
Reusable Grocery Bags & Produce Bags
You can buy reusable grocery bags at almost any grocery store checkout area now, but a lot of them are made of plastic. I use an old beach bag, a few totes I've picked up from design shows I have attended, and some others I have gotten from working marketing events. So, yes, you can go out and buy these - but, like I said, the entire concept of "zero waste" is use and waste less, so use what you've got before you go out and spend your hard earned $$$ on something you already have! Serious!
Since many of the small companies I have suggested above are just that (small companies), they can run out of stock somewhat frequently, but tend to offer the same or similar products. So I have compiled a list of my favorite Zero Waste Shops here:
Wild Minimalist, Life Without Plastic, Tiny Yellow Bungalow, Refill Revolution, Zero Market, & Package Free Shop
I want to reiterate that you should only go out and buy these things if you don't already have something already. All of the companies and organizations I have listed above are ethically reputable and respectable, but the best option is to use what you have, then to shop secondhand, and lastly to decide on purchasing a completely new item. Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.
*I do not support straw bans, nor do I want to make anyone who actually does need a straw feel like they are doing anything wrong. I'm speaking to the privileged, able majority when I suggest that straws are a luxury.