Living zero waste been one of the largest challenges I’ve given myself because let’s face it, it’s hard to stick with something especially when it’s going against the grain.
If you’ve been following my journey since the beginning, I thank you. You’ve caught me at emotional times, times of frustration and times when I’ve been completely overwhelmed. When I write I feel like I share parts of myself that I can’t articulate well in person. I can write about myself here without judgement. I can be open in ways that don’t always make sense to do so in real life and for the most part, it’s like a little sacred space where those that care to listen, gather. I’ve tried a lot of different things in my life and travelled down many different roads, and I just want to say that this road has been one of the greatest.
Which leads me to my first thing I learned about living zero waste:
1) The road is not lonely
There are so many of you beautiful souls out there that care about the same things: being better as humans, being more mindful of your consumption and being kinder to the Earth. I think this community of individuals has been the most supportive and has shown me that there is an incredible amount of kindness in this world.
While living zero waste might not always gain you the most support from society, simply because they don’t know any better (it’s not really a person’s fault if they look at you weird when you ask for things in your jar) the zero waste community, the readers of this blog who write me and inspire me, my friends and loved ones that care to support me – you make it easy. You make it normal. You make me feel like this world is beautiful and full of love and you make me want to continue on.
2) Your values and the kinds of people you want in your life become more clear
When the road is not lonely and you have support from people, it can help you feel like what you’re doing is important. Your values become more clear and you become stronger as a person. Because of this, you attract the right kinds of people into your life. The ones that lift you up. Some people really don’t care at all about what you’re doing and they have this negative energy around them, those are the people you probably don’t want in your life.
While it’s important to be kind to everyone, you can’t make everyone happy. You can’t make everyone care. But you’ll realize what is important to you and the further you travel (and the older you get), the more everything becomes clear. The better you get at listening to yourself, your gut instinct, your intuition and you’ll hear it so loud and clear you have no choice but to listen.
3) It’s easier than it looks depending on where you live
If you’re living in a first world country and in a major city, you basically have no excuses not to be trying to reduce your garbage consumption. There are systems in place that make it easier for first world city folk. Ottawa has recycling and green bin solutions Some cities in the world don’t even know what recycling is. Some cities have gone completely zero waste! For smaller towns it’s more difficult of course. Bulk options are more sparse, if at all. But there are always ways to reduce.
Even my readers in the Philippines (kumusta!), where EVERYTHING is plastic and has horrific waste issues, have written me to tell me of some of the ways they manage to reduce their waste.
You may not be able to go completely zero waste, but like I told one person, do the best with where you are with what you can.
And if you can, talk about it with people and maybe eventually, you can make changes within your own community, whether that’s having plastic bans banned or starting a composting solution. Be proud of your small steps, no matter what they are. When I first started, it was hard because I had no idea where to start. But I promise you, you’ll find your groove and as you continue to learn what works, it will get easier.
I can honestly say, it’s so easy for me now, it’s like breathing.
4) You put your money where your mouth is
I used to think that eating healthy meant it would be more expensive. While there are some items that do cost more, everything balances itself out. What’s expensive is eating out every day. What’s expensive is eating food that has crap ingredients in it and feeling sick after. Over the years I’ve become an ingredient checker. Not because I was really concerned about unnatural ingredients themselves, but simply because I recognized I was having stomach issues after eating certain foods.
Certain ingredients made my skin itchy or I’d sneeze. Certain foods made me bloated or sick for a few days. Others made me completely exhausted. So I eliminated them as best as I could because I realized eating “cleaner” or healthier made me feel better and gave me more energy. I don’t try to explain to people why I choose to eat a certain way and why certain ingredients in food or in products are bad for you. The internet can do that just fine. What’s important to me is that I feel good. And by default, this lifestyle has me feeling the healthiest that I’ve felt in my entire life. I love my weight. I love my skin, stretch marks and all. And most importantly I love my mind.
As a single Mom, you’d think I’d be frugal with my money. And I am, but not when it comes to my food. I spend the most money on my food. And the most time. What my son and I put in our bodies matter to me. By feeding myself good food, it’s me telling myself: I respect you. I care about you and I will do my best to take care of this body because it is what keeps me here on Earth.
5) You’re your own person
Whether you live with someone, have a child or significant other. Your life is your own life. The sooner you can accept yourself as you are, and accept others how they are (regardless if they accept or support your zero waste) the happier you will be.
People always tell me they feel guilty whenever they throw things out. The purpose of me living my own life is not to make anyone feel guilty. That onus is on that individual. Someone once told me,
Hey, basically I’m undoing everything that you’re doing because I’m the complete opposite of you. I am the consumer that buys everything in garbage. So I just cancel you out. Isn’t that funny?
No. Not really. If I was still making garbage, I’d be cancelling myself out. You’re still the person making garbage, adding to the problem of waste and being completely aware of it while trying to make me feel bad. What’s funny about that?
You’re your own person. Don’t use someone else to make excuses. Take responsibility for your own actions and hope that one day your actions will inspire change. And even if it doesn’t, keep doing it anyway. Because being true to yourself is what truly matters.
Ahhhhh. There. That felt good to write.
Moving on to not so sappy lessons I’ve learned and focusing on more of the other stuff.
1) On MinimalismMy down-sizing is going so slowly. I want to get rid of everything and then re-buy the things I need. Seems so counter-productive but I still have things that remind me of my marriage and I want to get rid of them. I just want to start fresh. I am still donating and giving things away, but it’s hard because I’m constantly telling myself, “well I could use that one day” or maybe it’s something someone gifted me or some sort of art related thing that I could use or make something with. Maybe I should focus on writing about becoming a minimalist for the next year because clutter just comes out of nowhere and all of a sudden it looks like a hurricane came into your home. Or it could just be my son. Either way, I have work.
2) On Vegetarianism
I ate a small piece of chicken yesterday because I was cooking for my brother at his place. It was this mindless act that I did because I taste as I cook. I also ate bacon the other morning in a sandwich that was made for me and I enjoyed it. Because bacon. It’s hard to be completely vegetarian. Just like it’s hard to be completely zero waste. But I’m still proud of myself for trying. In the same way I tell people to be kind to themselves going zero waste, I too will be kind to myself on my veggienism path. It’s not about being perfect. It’s about making an effort and being aware. I kudos myself for both.
3) On being an Artist
Is it wrong to say I’m over painting? Well, not completely, but I do get really excited about painting with natural dyes though. So perhaps it will be the only thing I use. I want to explore more timelapse photography, video and digital art. I want to explore other things like music. Gardening. Writing. Woodworking and wood burning. I have a room full of art supplies that I am desperately looking for a studio space to put them in so that youth can walk in and use whatever it is that is there. I still have all my creative tools but I don’t want to use any more paint in tubes or plastic bottles. I don’t want to use regular canvas. I want my messy art room and art supplies to be used by someone that could use it more than me.
Of course I love art. It has served me for so long and has gotten me to where I am now, but I want to give my art supplies away through A.R.T. in Action (just like I want to give away all of my make-up to someone who wants to be a make-up artist) and grow myself artistically in different ways.
4) On my Love Life
I’ll just wink at you here and tell you my life is very much full of Love.
5) On everything else:
1.Laundry is still soap nuts. Still no fabric softener.
2.Dishwashing detergent is just grated unscented homemade soap sprinkled in a sink full of hot water.
3.Shaving is still my Classic Samurai (still on blade 2 of 5)
4.Cleaning is now homemade apple cider vinegar for wiping down counters, sinks, bathtub edges, metal and mirrors etc. Baking soda is still for bathtub and toilets.
5.Glass jars is still for shopping, storing and freezing food
6.Cloth bags are still for shopping
7.Beeswax paper is still for wrapping whatever food I need to wrap when I do need to wrap it. I only have one flat of it and honestly, I don’t need it very often because I don’t have leftovers for long.
8.Charcoal is still for filtering water
9.Still the same floss for flossing
10.A stick for cleaning my teeth (yeah something like this happened in the last week) where my friend and I just went out to find cedar, pine and other sticks to make our own. Recently I was told by someone that their grandparents never brushed their teeth and instead rubbed ash on their teeth to keep them clean. They kept all of their teeth too until they passed away.
11.I make my own lip balm and healing salves
12.I still make my own deodorant although most days I never even have to use it. Corn starch with dabbed tea tree oil just for sweatier days.
13.I do still have some plastic body care (like from a lotion), make-up etc. and plastic spray bottles, toilet scrub etc. I basically will just use everything up and get rid of them as time goes on.
14.I still eat shitty food like I mentioned in my last post but I just ask for everything in my container
15.Cloth napkins still replace paper towels
16.I now get organic produce delivered to me unfortunately with stickers still, but I will be switching to a CSA and going with the farmers markets once they re-open.
17.I still try to recycle my receipts or say no. But I have to keep others for business.
18.I still use Fongo
19.I still buy thrift clothing, shop local and ethically made or have my good friend Sabrina Jade Designs make me something
20.I still shampoo with a homemade soap from Soap For Sale and I don’t use conditioner.
6) On Business
My social enterprise is growing. I can relax into my clients and work knowing I can breathe easy this year and next. I still practice zero waste in my business – printing nothing and sending everything digitally. My non-profit is really developing and we’re doing a lot of fundraising if you want to support us, please contribute through our Generosity campaign. We also have an amazing event at Cafe Nostalgica planned called A.R.T. Night where we’re funding 2 youth paid mentorships to develop their business idea and creative ventures.
And finally, we’ve opened a web shop!
webshop a dream lived greener shop zero waste ottawa canadaIt’s live at the moment, but we’re not “officially” launching until March 1. You just get a special sneak peek at it because you’re here. We’re still working through it, cleaning it up and ordering more stock, but we’re here and we won’t be going away.
I’m not 100% if I’ll continue blogging here or if I’ll start writing everything on our website, but either way, just because my one year has come and gone, it’s not the last that you’ll hear from me. Hopefully I’ll be able to make you some videos like everyone else seems to have time to do…
I welcome all of your comments. And your e-mails. I love them. Everyone that writes me I do my best to write back, so if you have any questions about anything, feel free to reach out.
Thank you for an amazing year dreaming green with me.
Peace, Love and zero garbage,