Talk us through your day – what get’s you out of bed?
I love writing my blog and I like to think that it’s helping people to live more sustainably. That gets me out of bed. Breakfast also gets me out of bed…
What was the last meal you ate and how did you prepare it?
My daughter made me oatmeal this morning for breakfast. I added a small apple, chopped up, a handful of raisins, a heaping tablespoon of peanut butter and a tablespoon of brown sugar. And tea. Lots of tea. I drink mostly puerh looseleaf black tea.
When did you decide to go zero-waste – and what inspired you?
In 2010 or ‘11, I had read about The Plastiki, a catamaran built by environmentalist David de Rothchild and his team, comprised of over 12,000 plastic bottles and other waste materials. The crew sailed from San Francisco—just North of where I live in Silicon Valley—to Sidney, Australia, in order to raise awareness of plastic pollution wreaking havoc on our oceans and wildlife. I told my daughter we had to get off of plastic. So we did that sometime in 2011.
A few years later, I decided to go zero waste, which wasn’t much of a change. Cutting the plastic had made me aware of all of our waste and so food waste had already become a huge issue for me. Basically, when I went from plastic-free to zero-waste, I started buying my flour from the bulk bins rather than in paper bags.
What was the most difficult part on the journey to being zero-waste?
Personal care initially was difficult. I experimented with deodorant and alternative methods of washing my hair all at once. It wasn’t pretty. But now I use homemade deodorant—I’ll never go back to the commercial stuff!—and I wash my hair either with baking soda or bar shampoo, followed by a vinegar rinse (and I make the vinegar!).
What does your friends and loved ones think? Do you live with others who agree or disagree to your lifestyle?
Most of them think it’s very positive and some have adopted a few of my habits after watching what I do. (I don’t preach, I just do and it sometimes rubs off.) My partner is very supportive. And my boss. They both know to never give me anything wrapped in plastic—or to really give my much of anything period.
My older daughter started us on all of this—she did the research and figured out how to get off of plastic. For years, my younger daughter wasn’t a big fan—but she never complained much either. Now that she has her first job in a small grocery store and sees all the plastic, she thinks that single-use plastic should be banned.
If you can change one thing in the world, what would you change and why?
Keep fossil fuels in the ground. We must get off of fossil fuels if we hope to stay below the 1.5˚C threshold recommended by the IPCC in order to prevent runaway global warming.
What’s your favorite part of being zero-waste? Is it the mason jars, or the composting – what makes you happy that you are living a sustainable lifestyle?
Living this way has so many benefits. I am the healthiest I’ve ever been, I eat more delicious food, I save money, I’m happier, I have a sense of purpose. Constantly bombarded by bad news (environmental and otherwise), doing something helps me retain my sanity, if nothing else.
Also, I have met the nicest people on this zero-waste journey! I love my zero-waste group. We meet every month or two, lately to sew cloth produce bags from donated, unwanted fabric. We give these away at the farmers’ market. People love getting these bags and they use them immediately—instead of plastic ones—to shop at the market.
I’m always asked, “What’s in your bag” - so what essentials do you take with you in your bag?
I always take my thermos with me when I go out. It’s like my keys—I don’t leave home without it. I keep a small cloth hand towel and a cloth napkin or two in my bag. A notebook and pencils. Always. If I go to a restaurant, I take a jar and a couple of LunchBots for leftovers, utensils and chopsticks.
If someone wanted to start today in this very moment, what tips or advice would you give that person to sustain this lifestyle choice?
Learn to cook. You don’t have to cook anything elaborate but learn some basic techniques. You’ll buy less processed food—it’s all packaged in shiny plastic—and you’ll waste less food because you’ll know what to do with ingredients you have on hand before they can go bad. You’ll eat healthier, tastier food and you’ll save money. And without even realizing it—or sacrificing anything—you will have reduced your footprint.
Also, don’t try to change everything overnight. When we first started out, it took us many months to get our plastic-free routine down and new challenges constantly present themselves.
And don’t worry about being perfect. It’s not possible. Just do your best. Don’t beat yourself up when you fall short because you will fall short. Some of us seem to forget when we decide to go zero-waste that we are human. Perfect is not an option. Zero waste is a journey, not a destination.
So, I love food and grew up around my father who was always cooking – describe your dream dinner in detail and guests that would join you?
Well, I would love for my entire family to come together for a big meal. My sister and mother live near Toronto and I have nieces and nephews all over the place—Canada, the US, Germany and China. My dream dinner would be cooked from food gleaned, salvaged and rescued from farms and grocery stores. So the menu would vary depending on what we find. I will definitely bake the sourdough bread though.
Any big plans coming up that you want to share? Goals for this year?
I’d like to see my free cloth produce bag project expand. A few schools here have expressed interested in helping to sew the bags. A couple of farmers would like to have them in their stall. I'm tired of running out of baking soda so I’m also starting a bulk buying club where I live. I’ll buy 50-lb bags of staples—the same bags that fill up the bulk bins—and members of the club will divvy them up and split the cost. I’d like to write a lot more.
What does the future look like?
The future looks busy! We have a lot of work to do but I feel that 2018 was a wakeup call for a many people who perhaps didn’t understand the urgency to act on climate change.
Who would you like next to share their story?
How about @zerowastefarmer