Part 9 – A Transformative Mindset
By Kait Spielmaker
It has officially been one year since I began my waste reduction journey. Recognizing issues in the world around me such as overconsumption, convenience of single-use items, and litter overtaking our oceans and hiking trails is what ignited my drive to pursue this. This past year has been transformative, shifting my mindset to a more conscious lifestyle; being low-waste has become an innate part of my routine.
When I began my transition away from plastics and other wasteful parts of society, I wanted something individuals could relate to. Everyone trying to be more waste-conscious follows that zero waste influencer on social media. Sure, they are inspiring, but not realistic for most. I lack the time, resources and income to embody that magnitude of zero waste and create a picture-perfect life for myself.
The phrase “twenty-something grad student, working full-time and managing a personal life” has been exhausted in this series, but is a major challenge in zero waste ambitions. However, if this series has taught me anything, it is that cutting your waste and transitioning from plastic is more than just some dreamy idea—but an attainable lifestyle.
Going into this, I had no idea what I would end up with. All I knew was that I wanted to gravitate away from the reliance on recycling and focus more of my efforts on reducing. I am leaving this series feeling inspired to continue contributing to a positive movement that will have long-term impact. I now harness the ability to identify areas where I can reduce rather than rely on single-use items. This year, I went without buying a single “new” clothing item, and for all of this, I am proud.
This journey has offered the knowledge and confidence to be creative in my low-waste solutions. As a result, Pinterest has become my best friend. This journey enables me to make recipes I never would have made before, many of them being simple and easy (reference my previous article on DIY here).
My favorite things I now make:
Bentonite Aztec face mask
Yoga mat spray
While there has been more good than bad, there were a few items I tried out and they didn’t work for me—things such as toothpaste, deodorant, conditioner, and laundry detergent.
After trying a few different recipes for deodorant (that didn’t work), I’ve resorted to purchasing a glass container of the BEST-smelling deodorant from Little Seed Farm. My toothpaste is purchased through zero– waste brand Bites. After trying several different conditioner bars, I ultimately switched back to Lush post consumer packaged conditioner (read more about that here.) Those items are my three splurges.
I also tried out making my own laundry detergent, after that didn’t work, I switched back to the biggest container of laundry pods from Costco; this is good for about a year of laundry. While not quite zero–waste, any zero–waste blog will tell you that buying the largest quantity available is the best option since it creates the least amount of waste.
“Take one step at a time” is a good motto to carry through your life. The same phrase applies here as well. Referencing back to the second article in this series, for someone who would like to make some zero–waste changes in their life, begin with a couple easy transitions and then continue to build on that. Some of the most important things you can do are buying secondhand and composting—sometimes difficult switches.
For an easy start, purchase biodegradable garbage bags (reference article two for the right kind), reusable paper towels, reusable produce bags, and a travel coffee mug for use at your favorite coffee shop. Keep in mind that you may have unused plastic Ziplock bags or paper towel in the house. Use those materials up first and then replace with zero waste alternatives. Being low waste doesn’t mean throwing out all the single-use plastic for a fresh start.
After a year, I’m not always perfect
Should striving to be zero– waste mean that every time a loaf of Ezekiel bread is purchased, you’re failing? No. The biggest takeaway from this experience is how to be okay with yourself when you slip into old habits.
Sometimes I forget my Tupperware when boxing up food to go. Every once in a while I still order things on Amazon, buy mascara, and pick up a pint of the best vegan ice cream when I have a sweet tooth. Sometimes even buy a prepackaged and pre-washed container of spinach when I’m in a rush.
Anne Marie Bonneau says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly; we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”
Don’t let plastic-free living or other zero-waste efforts be led by guilt. We live in a world consumed by plastic, reliant on fossil fuels, and still selling clothes in shopping malls that are polluting the environment and exploiting many labored workers.
A mindful shift
This transition is not about being perfectly zero– waste. It is about realizing changes can be made in the way we as individuals live, the way we consume, the way we shop, and our outlook on these issues.
Each person willing to shift the way they live, think, and consume helps create a ripple effect in our society that will not go unnoticed. We are the voice that is changing the landscape and showing businesses we will not support negligence or greed.
We live in a world of convenience. But taking it upon oneself to make something rather than buy it is empowering in a new way. Going to the store to buy a plastic bottle of dish soap is easy, but it is also easy to make it at home using simple ingredients.
In closing, I hope that my zero-waste journey has helped you as much as it has helped me. Feel free to email any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For previous articles in this series visit our website.
Kait Spielmaker is a Michigan native who relocated to Phoenix, and is the digital content coordinator at Green Living Magazine. She is an avid hiker and is working on her master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.