Last week I shared on my blog an introduction to zero-waste - what it means, why it's important, and some practical tips to reduce your waste- as a kick off to a new series on my blog called Waste Less Wednesdays. Now, it's time to get into more of the nitty and gritty details of what it's actually like trying to live a life that's "zero-waste". This Wednesday, I am featuring the very first zero-waste blog that I came across when I started to become more interested in the topic. Lauren from Zero Waste Memoirs takes a practical, real life approach to living sustainably and reducing your waste. Her blog is an amazing resource so please be sure to check it out. Let's see what Lauren has to say!
Tell us a little bit about the mission and vision behind your blog!
Starting The Zero Waste Memoirs was actually a pretty spontaneous decision. I had come across an early TED Talk by Zero Waste Home founder, Bea Johnson, which inspired me to consider my personal environmental impact and consumption habits. The blog itself began as a journal more than anything else; I wanted to give my friends and family the opportunity to follow our journey toward waste-free in a simple, educational manner.
Today, The Memoirs have evolved into a platform for teaching people about sustainable living––particularly, young couples who are accustomed to living a pretty effortless lifestyle. The blog focuses primarily on reducing household waste, supporting local/sustainable/ethical businesses, and limiting negative environmental impact in general. What that looks like, day to day, changes. But no matter what, the goal is to help my readers "live lightly and brightly upon the earth." ––AKA, enjoying a beautiful life while preserving our collective 'backyard,' so to speak.
When did you first become familiar with the term zero-waste and what did you initially think about it?
I first heard about the term in an article that covered zero waste blogger, Lauren Singer, of Trash is for Tossers. It was the first time I had ever come across the idea of fitting all your trash in a single mason jar. And while I don't think the mason jar is a requirement for zero waste or sustainable living, it really helped open my eyes to the dangers of reckless consumption.
What inspired you to start a zero-waste, sustainable lifestyle?
Other bloggers and mentors who had gone before me! It's so important to see that zero waste can be done. It's not just for hippies and homesteaders; it's not just for hermits. Zero waste is a challenge, but it's possible to limit your waste to next to zero.
What was the hardest/most challenging thing you encountered when transitioning to a more sustainable lifestyle?
At a high level, I think the most challenging aspect of transitioning to zero waste was learning to give up common conveniences. We absolutely had to make some sacrifices––giving up the ability to buy whatever I want, whenever I want (i.e. coffee in disposable cups on the go)––and our weekly house patterns changed too. We don't grocery shop like we used to, we don't travel like we used to, we don't even eat like we used to!
But honestly, I don't miss it. Pursuing a zero waste lifestyle is a joyful process. You'll feel lighter. You'll feel more at peace. You'll feel more connected to the global community and discover a new sense of interdependence.
What is your #1 tip for those us interested in reducing our waste or even transitioning to a zero-waste way of living?
There is so much to be done if you want to go completely zero waste; but, I think the most impactful steps for us have been: first, shopping entirely in bulk and at farmer's markets, and second, carrying a zero waste to-go kit at all times.
Shopping in bulk does wonders to reduce the amount of food packaging and plastic bags disposed of as a household. It also helps you to reconsider whether you actually eat what you buy. And carrying a to-go kit means that I can still eat out or grab coffee while running errands, without having to settle for tossing garbage.
How does living sustainably fit into your ideas of health and wellness?
Oh my goodness, in so many ways! First of all, when my husband and I started refusing packaged and processed foods, we noticed ourselves naturally transitioning to a more plant-based diet. The two tend to go hand in hand. Sure, you can still be zero waste as an omnivore, but it's so much harder. So, we primarily eat vegetarian and vegan meals and we both feel stronger and healthier in every way!
Second, zero waste living naturally weeds out plastics. So, you won't live your life interacting with as many toxins and harmful chemicals, and you'll be more likely to gravitate toward products made from glass and other renewable materials, such as bamboo and hemp.
Lastly, we've learned to make the majority of our household cleaning products and beauty and hygiene products. I make all of our surface cleaners, lotions, toothpaste, and a nice percentage of my makeup products as well. It's fun, and it helps keep our bodies free from synthetics.
What is your favorite zero-waste healthy snack?
Popcorn. Hands down. I could eat popcorn, all day, every day. And because I can buy the kernels in bulk, I don't have to toss any plastic!
What advice do you have for those of us who are trying to balance work or school with personal well-being and living sustainably?
Give yourself every zero waste convenience you can muster. Simplify your life by packing a stellar zero waste to-go kit (complete with a reusable cup, cloth napkin, and cutlery), meal plan and stick to your grocery list, only shop for groceries once a week, and streamline wherever possible.
I would also highly recommend surrounding yourself with a team of accountability partners. Life is so much easier when you're confronting zero waste challenges and hurdles with friends who are on the same path.