Why Did I Decide to go Zero Waste?

There’s lots of articles on the Internet about how to go zero waste and a lot of them have many great tips in common. However, each person’s journey to go zero waste is different and can inspire others. Here’s mine 🙂

In early 2017 I started going through my belongings and purging as I was preparing to move to an apartment for a year and then to move to another state after that. I wanted to have everything ready to go at a moment’s notice. I looked at my clothes, books, mementos and everything I had collected in 23 years and realized I had already amassed a HUGE amount of stuff.

I also had recently lived at my grandparents’ house for a month to help them out a bit and saw just how many things two humans can collect in 80+ years. They weren’t hoarders, were organized, and had already done a large purge when downsizing their house a few years earlier. Just looking at all of the items they had gave me such anxiety that I came home and decided I wanted simplicity and the necessities.

While some people have used the KonMari method, I mostly used my own method of “Do I need this? Do I want this? And, do I even know what this is for?” If I said no to these questions, it most likely hit the donate pile. I also realized that to truly simplify my belongings and to have a more minimalist lifestyle, it wasn’t going to happen with one purge over one day.

Here I am over a year later and I’m still working on downsizing. What I’ve found to be the most interesting change is my mindset. I absolutely grew up with the mentality of, “I want it now so I must get it now”. My purchases were spontaneous and many didn’t give me any long-term benefits. Now, for the most part, I try not to buy things I want unless I truly can give myself a reason for bringing that item into my life.

I’m finding it especially difficult as I prepare to move into my first home. I feel like I have to get everything I could possibly need and I need to get it now. To ease my nesting urges, if I think of something I’ll need I put it in the back of my mind and look for the best possible option for me. For example, I wanted to get coasters (because no one likes rings on their tables, duh) and didn’t want to just buy them from a large corporate store. Instead I thought about how I would love to have them be small pieces of art that involved nature, and of course acted as decent coasters. It’s such a simple thing to look for but I looked for coasters for MONTHS before I finally find a set I liked. They are made from wood, handmade with flowers and watercolor, and are absolutely perfect.

Another mindset change I’ve found is reusing items I already have, such as reusing a beautiful tea container as gift wrap. I think back to my habits in college and I can tell even then I was stressed from the number of things I had. Now my purchases are more thoughtful and I’m more aware of my buying power. I also have come to learn quite a bit about the importance of zero waste for our environment, which has spurned my journey on further.

I went zero waste for selfish reasons and have now come to see it as an essential movement in helping the planet and lowing our impact as humans on our environment. If you have any interest in going zero waste please comment any questions below!

Thanks for reading! xoxo

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Becoming A Conscious Consumer

Whenever you buy something, you are voting with your money.

I first learned about conscious consuming from Alli Cherry on YouTube (check her out, she’s awesome!). In a couple of her videos Alli talks about being more aware of who you are buying from and even why you are buying something.

My zero-waste journey has not led to less stuff in my life, but less MEANINGLESS stuff in my life. Now when I buy something I’m thinking about multiple factors instead of just running out and buying what I think I need from the nearest store. Here are a couple tips to be a more conscious consumer:

Buy local

Buying local is a great way to be a more conscious consumer because you are cutting down on the environmental impact of shipping and you are supporting your local economy. Shopping local can be as easy as going to a farmer’s market, checking out a local shop, or even researching online options that are close to you. Depending on where you live, you are going to have a range of local options. For me, Arizona is not the easiest place to get local produce all the time. However, I have found some amazing artisan goods (my rug addiction has reached a new high) in my area and in my travels around the state.

Support artists

Etsy. Etsy. Etsy. I love Etsy so much, and not just because I have my own store (shameless plug). I started buying presents, things for myself, etc. on Etsy a few years ago and everything I’ve ever ordered has gone beyond my expectations. There is something so cool about connecting with an artist and knowing that you are supporting their work. Recently I ordered custom coasters from WoodBurnCorner and I don’t think many people will understand my excitement about getting coasters. I found WoodBurnCorner on Instagram and fell in love with her work. As I curate things for my home, I keep an eye out on social media of people I would like to support. Etsy is great because many times you can work with someone on custom pieces, like I did with WoodBurnCorner, and get one-of-a-kind pieces that are worth so much more than what you can just pick up at the store.

Do I need this?

I will be the first to acknowledge that I’m still working on this question – do I need this? Part of becoming a conscious consumer is acknowledging if you need something or want something or if you just want to spend money. If you need something, make sure you’re getting exactly what you need. Invest in a product that will last a long time and that comes from a sustainable source. If you want something, wait a few days if possible. Be sure you ACTUALLY want it. Don’t just impulse buy. It’s great to treat yourself, just do it intelligently. Finally, if you are buying something to just fill a void, walk away. You will regret it the next day because you didn’t buy it out of a place of joy.

Buy secondhand whenever possible

Again, I acknowledge that I’m by no means perfect with this tip either. When you can buy secondhand, do it. If you have never thought about the impact of the fast fashion industry, check out this article and start going down the rabbit hole. I’ll wait… Okay. Now that you know, buy secondhand and/or recycle. This is something that can take time to get used to. As a plus-size woman, buying secondhand is not as easy as going to Torrid because there’s not as many options. BUT, it’s worth the time. Buying secondhand is usually cheaper. Some places even have annual or semi-annual sales where prices are ridiculously slashed. Think about the clothes you last donated. Most were probably in decent shape, they just didn’t fit or weren’t your style anymore, right? Well your new favorite outfit could be sitting in a thrift shop right now.

Reuse what you already have

My last tip is probably the most important. If you have something already, reuse it in a new way. Stained shirt? New PJ shirt. Chipped bowl? New planter. Old jar? New storage container or candle. Many times, we buy things we think we need before we get creative and think about what we already have. For example, instead of buying a watering can, I use an old large cup that has warped from time and is cloudy from hard water (thanks Arizona). Another example is that I have a bunch of No. 2 pencils from a giant pack I bought in high school. Now I use them as stir sticks for candle-making or even as hair accessories. If you “need” something, look around and see what you have that you could reuse in a more efficient way.

 

All of these tips are easy to sit down and write about, but they take time to incorporate into your life. My blog is a lifestyle blog, and a lifestyle doesn’t change overnight. I’m still working on becoming a conscious consumer. I keep it in the back of my mind whenever I make a purchase. Sometimes I make great decisions and sometimes I don’t. Just know that it’s a process and becoming more aware is the most important step.

The Battle of the Slice

Eating pizza in public has become my new Everest. As someone on the road to recovery from an eating disorder, eating pizza has become an emotional rollercoaster of an experience. I write this as I sit in my favorite pizza place, listening to classic rock and trying to fight the voices in my head as the lunch rush hits full swing.

For those who have never dealt with an eating disorder, it’s a bitch. Every meal becomes a test. Am I getting better? Am I getting worse? I’ve suffered from binge eating disorder for over 3 years now but I don’t think I’ve ever had a healthy relationship with food.

Right now I’m forcing myself to sit in a booth and slowly eat my biggest trigger food. Pizza. That’s right, pizza. Chewy crust, melted cheese, the works. It breaks all my food rules and has become my go-to binge food.

This morning I met with one of the doctors I’m seeing while I work through recovery and she praised the baby steps I was making. But, I’m impatient. I want results now. I want to be better now. Recovery isn’t going to happen NOW though.

So I’m taking another baby step. Okay, this is actually a huge baby step. I’m sitting in public eating six wings and two huge slices of cheese pizza. I’m forcing myself to take my time and focus on my food. I’m trying not to binge. Keyword: TRYING. It’s so hard to not give in. I didn’t realize how hard it would be to not give in to the negative thoughts, force the food down my throat and then make my self leave shrouded in embarrassment and shame. FOR EATING PIZZA!

I’m proud of myself though. It wasn’t a perfect experiment, but I’ve been here for 45 minutes when before it would have been 15 minutes. I paused a few times throughout my meal and checked to see where my hunger was at that moment. I’m a little uncomfortably full, but that’s to be expected putting myself in my worse-case-scenario binge position.

I’m only three weeks into my structured recovery process. It’s been a hell of a three weeks. I’ve cried approximately three times this week alone with overwhelming emotions of relief of working on myself to sadness and frustration of officially acknowledging I have an eating disorder. Not eating issues. Not an unhealthy relationship with food. An actual eating disorder.

I can feel my emotions going multiple directions and I know that I have YEARS to go for a full recovery. Right now though, I have baby steps and pizza.

Practicing Radical Self-Care

How many times in the past week have you stopped and realized your muscles were tensed? Have you found yourself drowning in work? Do you avoid work just for a moment of relaxation, just to realize you can’t seem to find it? You need some radical self-care in your life.

These past two weeks have been rough for me. I’m in the beginning of structured eating disorder recovery. My dog passed away last week. My other dog almost drowned. I’ve been avoiding work and causing for my stress level to skyrocket, which makes me want to avoid work even more. And, ironically, I moderated a class today on body positivity and self-care.

It’s time to practice what I preach.

I write this post as I sit in a coffee shop sipping tea and letting my muscles slowly release and relax. I’m doing this because I gave myself back spasms last week and had to get a shot in the ass because of them. So I’m now chilling the hell out.

Screen Shot 2017-10-21 at 5.25.04 PM

For me this means taking time to focus. Focus on what my body needs. What my mind needs. What my emotions need. My body needs more movement and more relaxation. My mind needs one or two goals a day to complete. My emotions need to be validated, acknowledged, and released.

Self-care is easy to talk about but hard to do. With our current societal standards in the U.S. constantly pushing for results, finished to-do-lists, and innovative ideas, we feel guilty if we focus on ourselves. We are deemed selfish, self-absorbed, and lazy. All of these are bullshit.

To use the classic simile, the body is like a machine. If you never restart a machine, if you never fuel it, and if you never give it preventative maintenance, it’s going to shut down. Self-care is preventative maintenance. It’s saying, “I respect my body and my well-being and I’m taking time for me.”

Self-care for me always feels like a chore at first. You’re telling me I have to take an hour and purposefully not get work done? Yes. Yes I am.

Take a bath. Drink a cup of tea outside. Go for a leisurely walk. Stretch your body. Read a good book. Write a blog post. Do something that releases your tension. Feel your face muscles smooth and your eyelids get a little heavy. Breathe. Breathe deeply.

Radical self-care isn’t new. As we get older and take on more in life, it is essential we always go back to ourselves and make time for selfishness.

Zero Waste Tips You Can Use Today

Become aware

Once you open your eyes to the amount of unnecessary packaging you buy, you’ll never go back. Many products are priced three or four times more purely for the brand and the packaging, which is almost always plastic. Even when you’re out and about, you receive food in non-recyclable and non-compostable containers and you collect plastic bags. Most of this packaging can be easily avoid by being prepared. Try to buy foods in glass. Bring your own coffee cup or takeout container. Stay no to straws or bring your own glass or metal straw. Invest in bamboo utensils to bring with you. Just look around and notice all of the items you can easily switch out or stop using. This first step is instrumental in starting your zero waste journey.

utensils

 

Compost

Composting is a huge way to immediately start cutting your waste. If you have the space, make your own compost bin. If you live in an apartment (like me) or you prefer to outsource your compost, sign up for a pickup compost service! I use Recycled City in Phoenix and love that I’m able to compost while being in an apartment. Recycled City has different pickup schedules (I chose monthly) and their fees are low (I pay $15/month). I also have the opportunity to get back nutrient rich soil once a year. Composting has been one of the largest waste-cutters for our kitchen and I now have my roommate hooked!

 

Make your own cleaning products

This may be one of the biggest eye-openers for me since going zero waste. We have been marketed that we need a different cleaning product for every item in our bathrooms, kitchens, etc. In reality, you only need a handful at most. Currently I use one all-purpose cleaning spray (recipe coming soon!) and then use baking soda, vinegar and essential oils for anything else. Cutting out harmful chemicals and only using ingredients that you know makes for a healthier home.

 

Invest in reusable produce bags

When I decide I wanted to go zero waste, I looked up blog articles (just like this!) and saw a few that mentioned reusable produce bags – AND IT WAS LIFE-CHANGING. I know, pretty dramatic over bags, but it’s true! I realized how many produce bags I used every time I went to the grocery store. We tried to reuse them as dog poop bags, but honestly they had started to pile up. Even if you don’t eat a vegetable-heavy diet like me, you may use around five bags every time you go to the grocery store. Then you go to the grocery store once a week. That’s over 250 produce bags a year that are being thrown into landfills by one person. That number can go down to zero. I purchased my produce bags and never looked back. I also use mine as snack bags as well.

avocado

 

Make your own toothpaste

While this may not necessarily be something you can start today (see note at the end), this is definitely something to keep in mind. Once my toothpaste ran out, I made a simple mixture of coconut oil, baking soda and essential oil. I put the mixture in a old glass baby food jar and have been loving it! My teeth honestly feel cleaner, plus it’s zero waste and costs cents to make.

 

Start buying in bulk

With those produce bags I mentioned above, and with handy dandy glass jars, start buying items in the bulk section. Find stores in your area that sell food in bulk. In Phoenix, I’ve found Sprouts and Whole Foods to be helpful, but if you live in an area with an entire bulk store then go and use that zero waste paradise! Buying in bulk means spending less money on packaging and branding. Plus, it usually means eating healthier foods. You may also be able to find bulk stores that have items such as oils, shampoos, conditioners, and cleaning supplies available.

 

Visit thrift stores

Whether you’re donating unneeded clothes or looking for an item you need, stop by a thrift store first. As a plus-size woman, I don’t have the best of luck in thrift stores as far as clothes go, but it’s great for looking for things you may need around the house at the fraction of the price. I also accidentally stumbled onto the discovery that some thrift stores have half-off on certain days! Anyway, try out thrift stores instead of buying everything brand new.

 

Switch to reusable period products

Over 50% of the world’s population menstruates. In the United States we’ve been programmed to only buy disposable pads or tampons. Using reusable pads and menstruation cups are a huge way to cut down on period waste. First off, you save so much money by switching to a reusable method. Second, disposable pads and tampons are bleached to be white and some have dyes. Using natural fibers for your private parts is better for your reproductive health. At first you might be a bit squeamish, but quite honestly it’s just blood and mucus.

 

Always have reusable bags

Have a reusable bag in your car. In your purse. At your workplace. Just always have a reusable bag. This helps you to avoid using plastic bags and can just in general be helpful to have on hand!

 

Put your money where your mouth is

Become a conscious consumer by buying sustainable, eco-friendly brands that share the values you cherish. This takes research, but is well worth the effort when you know your money is going to companies you truly want to support. Also, when possible, buy local to support your community.

 

 

DON’T THROW EVERYTHING AWAY IMMEDIATELY TO BECOME ZERO WASTE! Use what you have first; otherwise you’re defeating the purpose of your overall goal. Finish the products you have and then once they are gone switch them out for a zero waste alternative. I know how tempting it is to want to start with a clean slate, but be patience. Also, zero waste is a journey. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it IS a great lifestyle to learn.