I gave an introduction to zero waste in a post last year and would like to explore further how one can implement zero waste principles. To this end, I interviewed Erin, a former client, on the zero waste path. I say path, because zero waste is less of a destination and more a series of actions that you can slowly introduce into your life.
Dara: What were the first steps you took to go zero waste?
Erin: I first switched from tea bags to loose tea. I love tea and drink it everyday, so this left me with a positive feeling. Next, I began buying as much as possible from the bulk sections at a variety of grocery stores. I brought my own glass jars (some of which I bought for this purpose).
I learned that not every cashier is used to it dealing with brought-from-home jars and other customers stop to ask me questions about what I’m doing. Sometimes I feel like an ambassador for zero waste!
Dara: What were the most difficult changes to make?
Erin: For me, it was difficult to move away from bottled shampoo. I tried baking soda and vinegar as well as a shampoo bar but they didn’t work well enough for me so I found myself going back to bottled shampoo.
Dara: Where should someone new to zero waste start?
Erin: Just pick one thing (ex. rice). Get into the habit of buying it in bulk with a reusable container or bag. It takes time to figure out a system but once you have it set up, it’s just as easy as your former routine. It becomes just what you do.
Also, get tips from someone else who is working toward zero waste. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel. Set up your systems slowly.
Check your perfectionism. Don’t expect to only fill one mason jar with your landfill trash.
Dara: Was it difficult to get your husband and kids on board?
Erin: They like the idea of reducing their waste as long as they can have the delicious things they like. As a result, we still buy some packaged foods. But they enjoy some of our zero waste practices.
Dara: What keeps you motivated?
Erin: I’ve been doing this for about 9 months and I’m still working on it.
So many things in life are ambiguous but this is very satisfying, very tangible, and concrete. For example, I really enjoy composting and making veggie stock. Getting to be in touch with the cycle of life is very fulfilling.
Dara: Why did you decide to create an Instagram page about your zero waste journey?
Erin: I was struck by how perfectionist the zero waste ethos can be sometimes. It is better to approach it imperfectly than not at all. So I started my Instagram page because I wanted to do a fun and creative project, and share advice. It is sort of my secret project- until now!
Dara: Any specific advice you’d give to others?
Erin: The perfect is the enemy of good. Big sustainability issues are difficult to affect, so we think: what’s the point? Try to get away from that line of thinking and begin taking steps.