Hi, I'm Hope. My New Year's resolution for 2018 was to reduce my plastic waste. As I learned more about plastics, my consciousness expanded to other aspects of consumer waste. Inspired by sustainability, minimalism, and the zero waste movement, I found new ways to live a more simple, healthful, non-toxic, sustainable life. Here's a bit about my journey and what I've learned.
The shorter answer
While feeling reflective in late 2018, I posted a few Instagram stories, sharing what I learned over the past year. I was blown away by the response; several people showed interest and were curious to learn more. A friend suggested she'd like to see all the tips in once place and BOOM—that lit a spark to make a website.
The longer answer
I probably wouldn’t have made any of these changes without being inspired by folks sharing their story online. I grew up in a small town in North Carolina and wasn’t exposed to much sustainable living until recently, after living in the SF Bay Area for 6 years. The Bay Area is considered somewhat of a hub for eco-friendly living, and there are a lot of amazing resources here, but living a low waste lifestyle isn’t as mainstream as it may seem from the outside. I've learned so much and want to spread the word! Limiting waste and living more sustainably is an important change that needs to become a movement in order to save our planet. It also happens to save money, simplify decisions, lessen exposure to toxic chemicals, and I could go on but that's enough for now :-)
Timing wise, it’s lovely how this comes at the time of my fifteen-year vegan anniversary. On January 15, 2004, I made the choice to become vegan for ethical reasons. I wanted to reduce the number of animals who suffered for my benefit. The next realization for me was the health benefits of a plant-based diet, which led me to tweak my vegan diet to focus primarily on whole, unprocessed foods with low oil and refined sugar. That being said, I definitely indulge in vegan junk food occasionally, and it’s important for me to have that balance so I don’t feel deprived and binge.
Then, thanks to organizations like the Food Empowerment Project, I learned how humans are impacted by my food choices—abuse, unfair working conditions, child labor, etc. Again, my perspective was opened, and my values emboldened. Next, I realized the environmental impact of my vegan choices. Eating vegan is quite low impact since it means eating nutrients directly instead of filtering them through an animal (which use additional resources such as land and water plus generate pollutants like methane). But there were some things I wanted to optimize since vegan food still comes in plastic, which has a negative environmental impact. The amount of wildlife impacted by plastic pollution and wasteful living is devastating.
This thought brought me to better understand waste, in general. The overconsumption lifestyle that we’ve become comfortable with is at the detriment of our long-term environmental security on Earth. The short-term gain of buying a plastic product for convenience is costing us clean water in our future, and it’s destroying precious resources that could be more efficiently used. At the end of the day, we all need a planet to live on. For me, sustainable living is an extension of my original intention—to reduce animal suffering, including humans.
Throughout the years, I have dabbled in a few small sustainable ways, but I hadn't considered making a serious effort to reduce waste and live more sustainably. I’m not sure exactly when it clicked for me, and more realistically it was probably a number of seeds that got planted before I made a more serious effort to live more consciously. The timeline looks something like this:
January 6, 2013
Bought unpaper towels + kitchen wet bag on Etsy
I don’t know what inspired this. Somehow, it got into my consciousness that paper towels are wasteful, and at the time I was going through a lot of paper towels. I had recently moved from a studio apartment into a house, and the increase in square footage meant a lot more cleaning. Tired of running to Target to buy jumbo sized packs of twelve paper towel rolls, I was ready for a change. I’m still using the same unpaper towels and wet bag! They’re in great shape and aren’t even fraying. This simple change has saved me a bunch of money, as paper towels are quite pricey.
Started making my own deodorant
Frustrated with the vegan deodorants on the market which couldn’t control my BO, I tried a recipe I found online. I’m still using the same recipe. Somehow, it works! I was amazed by the fact that it works, plus it was simple and cheap to make. Later, I’d appreciate how low-waste it is too.
January 1, 2014
Bought more unpaper towels on Etsy
I wanted a steady supply so I wouldn't run out in between laundry cycles.
~ Sometime in 2017
Bought more unpaper towels on Etsy
Yes, for the third time. I swear I'm not hoarding them, haha. I was using them so often that I needed a few more to last in between laundry cycles. They're all still in great shape, even the original ones. At some point around this time, I came across this TEDx Talk by Lauren Singer on YouTube: Why I live a zero waste life. Lauren Singer (blog: Trash is for Tossers) is an environmental advocate who famously became known for producing so little waste over three years that it fit into a 16 oz. Mason jar. I came to understand this lifestyle was called “zero waste.” It’s more of an aspirational goal than a realistic one since we don’t live in a circular economy.
Then, I started watching more videos from her channel Trash is for Tossers, which gives simple tips for going zero waste. Soon enough, I came across another big name in the zero waste corner of the internet: Bea Johnson. I watched her Tedx talk: Two adults, two kids, zero waste and got inspiration from her website Zero Waste Home.
I also watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix, which helped me understand the concept that goes against mainstream American consumer culture: more things don’t equal more happiness.
December 25, 2017
Got organic, hemp + cotton rounds as a gift
Used up remaining cotton balls then switched to reusable rounds when cleaning makeup off my face and applying facial toner.
January 1, 2018
Began resolution to reduce my plastic consumption.
Little did I know, it would inspire me to reduce other waste and rethink my purchasing behavior.
Illustrated by me, using Procreate, Illustrator, and copious hours of podcasts
Coded by me using HTML, Sass, and PHP
I share eco-friendly, low waste tips on my Instagram stories