An Introduction To The "Zero Waste" Lifestyle
Get this: the average person produces 2.6 pounds of trash every. single. day., and if you’re in the U.S. the number goes up to 4.4! That said, we’re pretty sure we don’t have to convince you that a zero waste lifestyle sounds like a pretty good idea.
To learn more, we spoke to Summer Hanson, a wonderful environmentalist that embraces this mindful way of life and co-owns Eco-Collective, Seattle’s first zero waste store.
So let’s start at the beginning, what exactly does a zero waste lifestyle entail? For Summer, the goal is straightforward: “to reduce the amount of trash we create.” For example, by using less plastic bags, containers, utensils, etc. The term “zero waste” is equal to the idea of “low impact living.” “I use both because I think it's important to realize that in today’s world we can’t actually live zero waste. Human beings are consumers. We need food, and in a society with a linear economy, escaping waste completely is nearly impossible”, Summer told Mindful Feminism.
Learning about zero waste was game-changing for Summer because, despite being vegan and always caring genuinely for the environment, she hadn’t really thought deeply about her own impact on this earth. “Before zero waste, I didn’t know how to bring environmentalism into my everyday life, reducing the amount of garbage you produce forces you to consider the earth in all of these tiny choices, and I’ve felt so much more connected to the environmental movement.”
We know, a life of producing less garbage sounds challenging! So we had to ask Summer about finding the balance between sacrifice and enjoyment. “One thing I really stress is that you have to take care of yourself first, so if you need medicine or something like sunscreen (I haven’t been able to find a good one without packaging), you should get those things, guilt-free. However, I have to say, that abundance is possible without waste”.
Self-care and self-love, two of our favorite things here at Mindful Feminism, play a major role in Summer’s lifestyle. “I’ll be honest, sometimes I go to the store, buy some vegan ice cream in a container, and I don’t feel bad about it, because it’s ok to maintain balance. Praise yourself for all the good that you do, know that it’s a journey, and choose the options that make the most sense for you”.
Summer’s favorite parts of this journey up until now have been the strong community she’s become a part of and the feelings of empowerment she’s experienced. “I feel so inspired to make the world the way I want it to be because I’m making a difference with every action. And of course, I love being able to choose experiences over material things.”
It all sounds truly beautiful, so then the big question comes. Where to begin? With Summer’s help we created four tips to help you dive into this lifestyle:
One: Recognize that this is not going to happen overnight, it’s a process that takes time and transition.
Two: Start small. For example, when something you use at home runs out, like bathroom products, or detergent, research alternatives to replace that product with a less wasteful option. For food, Summer highlights the importance of being gentle with yourself. You might not find the right alternatives immediately, but be patient and open to learning new recipes and ideas.
Three: Embrace the “Marie Kondo" mindset, get into the habit of asking yourself if the things you own actually spark joy in your life. You’ll probably end up with much less than what you currently have.
Four: Carry waste substitutes with you. A few simple things Summer suggests you can start with are a small reusable grocery bag, a set of utensils and a straw, a small container (great to take home leftovers!), and a water bottle. Just with this, picture how much plastic you’ve stopped using in one day!
BONUS: Good news! Summer’s venture Eco-Collective has done a lot of the work for us. Their intention is literally to make this whole process easier, by carrying great products, hosting workshops, and building community around this lifestyle, so make sure you check them out!