Take a moment to think about how much waste you produce in a week. Roughly, between my boyfriend and myself, we go through about one regular size garbage bag a week. Now multiply that by 52 weeks, times billions of other people. That is a lot of waste, and that doesn’t include the 2 bags of recycling that goes out each week, I’m sure other homes produce a lot more.
Does this waste just disappear never to be seen again? Where does it go?
These thoughts plague my mind.
My journey into zero waste began with instant obsession for the movement and I quickly attempted to replicate the lifestyle.
What a tremendous mistake…
Mistake #1: FOOD
At the time I wasn’t cooking much at home and had very little motivation to do so. I was militant and thought zero waste meant not buying anything with packaging, so I bought a lot of vegetables and items from the bulk section.
I made my own almond milk, ate salads, smoothies and oatmeal every day, and tried to use every bit of the produce, including eating strawberries whole, fuzzy green tops and all.
The issue here was that I had no plan of action and grew tired of eating the same thing every day, so most of the fresh produce became waste.
How hypocritical is that?
Mistake #2: HYGIENE
This issue seemed easier to transition into than food waste, but the minor adjustments to my daily routine eventually sprouted negative consequences to my well-being.
My shower routine consisted of cold water, a single bar of biodegradable soap, and would last less than 5 minutes. This was a great routine for sleepy mornings or hot days but bottom line, cold weather showers are torturous, the icy water shocked my nerves, soap didn’t completely wash out and I always felt dirty. Oh, and forget about taking a shower before bed, because that freezing rain would wake you up like it was a brand new morning.
Another attempt to reduce waste included my bathroom habits. According to the Boston Standard Company, the average American uses 50 pounds of toilet paper a year. Also stating that global toilet paper production consumes 10 million trees a year.
At first, I tried to use as little toilet paper as possible, even using 1 square for a short period of time—which was useless.
I had read about people using a system called family cloth. Family cloth is a neat concept: Up-cycling old cloth to use to wipe oneself. After continued research, sanitation and repeated use concerned me, so I never tried this system.
MISTAKE #3: JUDGEMENT
Whenever out in public no one could escape my judgment. I’d watch others drink out of Styrofoam cups with straws and then proceed to unconsciously toss everything into a garbage can.
The stress was killing me, and it was like no one cared.
Nowadays I think to myself, “no one is perfect, especially me”. Which serves as a reminder that I’ve lived a careless lifestyle in the past.
After avoiding any product that could produce waste, starving myself, feeling dirty and miserable all the time, I quickly plunged back into bad habits.
I broke down.
Depression took hold, anxiety clouded my mind, and felt pity for myself.
Over time I restored myself and I continue the transition into a zero waste lifestyle.
If I crave food or want to buy something new and shiny, I resist the urge and after a while, the desire is gone.
When I need something, I try to buy it used, if possible. Shopping at thrift stores has actually become a fun activity. Sometimes I may not find what I need but when I do, they are often more unique than something new, I save money, and the discovery is like finding buried treasure.
When shopping for groceries, I still focus on fresh produce and bulk items but now I am not afraid to buy other items with packaging. My rule for packaging is that it should be glass, aluminum or [at least] recyclable plastic.
I only buy recyclable toilet paper now and try to be conscious of how much is used. I still take cold showers but if I am not in the mood for one, then the water becomes warm.
I’ve learned that 30 odd years of habits cannot change overnight, that changes need to be made gradually over time. The fact that I am attempting to make change is a step in the right direction and there is no reason to get upset with myself or others.
We are a product of our environment and a culture of garbage, but with each additional step forward we can make a stampede of change.
Next time you buy or throw something away, try to think about the journey of how it came to be and what will happen to that “trash”.
“Move with Love”. If I had something of a mantra, this would be it.
I’d like to believe that a life driven by intentions of love generates fruition of all life on this planet.
If we genuinely care for others and, in return, have others genuinely care for us, then all will be awarded an endless cycle of good fortune.
Now, extend this compassion towards all life, for the plants and organisms that inhabit nearly every space of this Earth. Shouldn’t we take responsibility as advanced species to protect the land that provides us with food, shelter, and life?
In an age of social media and technology, we have been molded to forget the source of life—the natural world that has assisted human evolution throughout the millions of years of our existence.
I undertake difficult challenges, such as backcountry camping, to serve as a reminder of my ancestors’ struggles. It heightens my senses and ignites a primal instinct to survive.
Social media platforms like Facebook have conditioned us to think that others are doing better than ourselves or that we are not doing enough. This sprouts anxiety and depression that cripples not only our mental but physical selves.
Technology and the concept of “single-use” have brought a world of convenience to our lives. Businesses strive for your attention and customers like their shopping to be quick, convenient, and if it’s food, delicious.
Buy the latest model, the hottest fashion, the coolest feature, or simply the one with the cool packaging. Buy. Buy. Buy.
Photo Credit: intueri
There is a constant desire to have more and better, and we have advanced to a position of never feeling satisfied with what we have—generating tons of needless waste.
We collect, compile, absorb, repeat.
It’s like living a life in Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, repeating the same painful routine day in and day out.
Sound fun, am I right?
As Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Simplify your life. Don’t waste the years struggling for things that are unimportant. Don’t burden yourself with possessions. Keep your needs and wants simple and enjoy what you have. Don’t destroy your peace of mind by looking back, worrying about the past. Live in the present. Simplify!”
Now let me take you outside, into the woods. Here, there is silence, besides the leaves rustling above and the occasional pitter-patter of a ground squirrel hiding its treasured winter nuts.
The air is slightly chilled and fragrant of herbal bouquets as you slowly draw fresh air deep within your chest, following a relaxed exhale.
You turn your gaze up to the sky and see a chickadee hop from branch to branch going chickadee-dee-dee-dee and a white-tailed deer off in the distance chewing on some leaves.
Each passing step the dirt sinks under your feet and the warm sun gently energizes your skin.
You feel a sense of serenity, peace.
Passing through Montana during road trip to Washington State. Photo Credit: Kat Polomsky
Natural wonders lift away any anxiety plaguing your mind and you feel the tightness loosen its grasp.
Beauty is everything pure on this Earth.
It’s impressive how a simple walk in the forest can blossom love for yourself, which often spreads into every branch of your life.
As Kathy Heideman sings in the title song “Move with Love”, “Hear it simple and straight, if you want to be great, move with love.”
Meet the hummingbird moth. A delightful example of adaptation and evolution in a species.
This insect not only looks and emits the audible humming that denominates the bird it replicates but also mirrors the hummingbirds movements.
Remember that time you saw a hummingbird? Well, chances are it could have been a hummingbird moth.
On the balcony of my apartment are several potted flowers and every so often they attract some interesting wildlife. The other day while listening to some records with my boyfriend Mark, I saw something zipping around the flowers. I jumped up with excitement and rushed towards the sliding door to investigate.
I slowly opened the sliding door and without blinking, stared at my petunias. After looking around without anything in sight, I sighed with disappointment and rested my arm on the railing next to the petunias. Out of nowhere the mysterious creature zipped up and flew away as if it was never there.
Snowberry clearwing moth, photo courtesy of JillLang, istock.com
Calliope Hummingbird, photo courtesy of encrier, istock.com
Was this a dream? Was I losing my mind? Honestly, my mind has been lost for years but after returning indoors Mark mentioned that it was probably a hummingbird moth.
A hummingbird moth? My mind desperately tried processing these two words together but it just didn’t make sense.
Struck with amazement, bewilderment and fascination, I frantically looked online to see if this creature was real.
Unlike most moths, hummingbird moths are diurnal creatures, are rather plump and use a curled proboscis to suck up nectar as they hover over flowers. Another way to identify these moths is with two distinct antennae and 2 extra pairs of legs.
Whether you want to attract hummingbirds or their doppelgangers, you can add plants to your garden to help attract either species, including: Bee balm, Phlox, Honeysuckle, verbena, red clover, and wild roses.
I guarantee that this addition to your garden will attract a sense of wonderment that in years past would have been thought to be part of the fairy realm.
Featured image: Hummingbird Moth, courtesy of joel-t, istock.com.
Wake up, hurriedly prepare for work, 8 hours later come home, vegetate.
Welcome to my non-existence. For the past few years, I’ve been alive but I have not been living. The day passes by and the night lingers, and it feels like part of my life has been smudged away by the end of an eraser.
A mental fog clouded my mind and my body sunk into the couch like a sack of rotting potatoes.
Each evening I would scroll away the time as the animated lightbox flashed before my eyes, as ideas floated into the current of my subconsciousness.
I still battle these desires to this day, it is a constant struggle and I dare say that it forever will be.
Desire. What is desire? The OED defines desire as a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. Now I ask you, why does desire control our lives?
These kinds of thoughts have sparked a light within the fog of my mind. Ever since my recent life-changing camping trip, where I spent 3 days backcountry camping up a mountain with 40 pounds on my back and another 5 camping in the isolated Smokey Mountains. If you want to change your life, then do something that pushes or challenges you. The Smokey Mountains changed my life and forced my concentration on survival and appreciate what are often everyday things.
I disconnected myself from technology, immersed in mother Earth in all her beauty and everything was in full harmony. My usual stomach pains, body aches, and headaches ceased to exist. As if the bag of rotten potatoes magically sprouted and blossomed into new life and beauty.
Potato Flower. Photo Credit: Keith Weller, en.wikipedia.org
The flowers of potatoes are quite pretty, aren’t they?
As mentioned before, I still struggle with this battle, but one thing has changed. Each morning when I think of the day and what I will accomplish, instead of continuously saying “I’m going to rest a little longer”, I internally yell at myself “KAT STOP LOOKING AT YOUR PHONE AND GET UP!”.
This is my secret, my prized idea that no one else has ever dreamt before–yeah right.
If unproductive thoughts flow through your consciousness then those thoughts will continue propelling into reality.
This also can be said about positive thoughts. If positive thoughts flow through your consciousness then those thoughts eventually become reality.
When tasks linger within my mind for a long time it makes me anxious and I don’t find satisfaction until the task is complete, and oh is that feeling such a relief.
I cannot depend on my power of thought to overcome these poor habits. Removing technology is necessary for me since I often scroll through other people’s ideas for countless hours without grasping the memory to serve me later.
Another key component has been keeping up with chores, decluttering (donating mass amounts of crap I’ve collected through the years), reading more, spending time outdoors and enjoying cat naps during the day.
What’s the longest you’ve disconnected from technology? Can you go without social media or T.V. for an hour?
Title Photo Courtesy of ziggy1, istock.com
A few months back while doing research for gardening and composting on YouTube, a video showed up featuring Bea Johnson, discussing her lifestyle called “Zero Waste”.
Those two words say it all and my mind quickly began simmering the idea of zero waste and soon after I became obsessed!
Johnson’s blog and book, “Zero Waste Home” began a movement that has spread across the globe, inspiring other environmentally conscious individuals like myself. Johnson has brought back a lifestyle that our ancestors have lived for thousands of years that include canning, making vinegar, cooking without waste, reusing what is available.
Bea Johnson believes you can live simply by following these simple guidelines, the 5R’s:
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (Not only in that order)
Johnson believes all habits can be adapted to this lifestyle, but a lot of regular habits may have to be sacrificed.
I’ve continued my research into this lifestyle by joining the Zero Waste Reddit community, researching books at the library, and by watching YouTube videos discussing their attempts at this lifestyle along with the frustration that comes with it.
Some frustration that I’ve personally experienced includes:
- How do I even begin living this lifestyle?
- What do I do with the things I currently waste?
- Everyone I watch in public is so wasteful! ARRGGHHH!
- I have pets and taking care of them is wasteful.
- The numbers game – Learning how much is wasted makes the heart feel heavy.
These are all complications I’ve come across and still struggle with during my journey.
To cope with the overwhelming amount of wastefulness I try to be non-judgemental of others, continuously restructure my habits until I find a system that works, and communicate my feelings to others and try to teach others about easy habits to reduce waste.
One of the key factors for adjusting to this lifestyle is the realization that I cannot expect to be waste-free overnight, it will take time and effort to attain a completely zero waste lifestyle.
- What is considered to be waste?
- Is recycling worth it?
- What products are available for this lifestyle?
- Needs Vs. wants.
I’ve delved deep into learning as much as I can about zero waste within the past couple of months and there is still much more to learn.
One dilemma I’ve experienced is how to get rid of the wasteful things I currently own. I have nail polish, plastic wrap, plastic Tupperware, personal care products, toilet paper, random kitchen gadgets, and more.
I currently just have these items sitting around, waiting for its life purpose to be fulfilled. I still need to figure a solution for most of these items, but until then, I do the following:
- Use or recycle the Tupperware.
- Do not buy anything that has wasteful packaging or that is not recyclable.
- Create family cloth. (A reusable cloth for wiping your bum)
- Donate these items to a thrift store.
Bea Johnson points out an important detail:
Don’t buy anything new, you can find almost anything used at a local thrift store or on eBay. Buy your food in bulk form and locally and in season. Be conscious of what you are buying and think to yourself “Do I really NEED this?”
Get out of your comfort zone and try new things like crafts, growing herbs/other produce, cook more or try making your own almond milk or cheeses–You’ll be impressed with what you are capable of and honestly, you’ll probably enjoy being self-sufficient in these areas.
Being Lazy or Reverting to Old Habits
- Making excuses.
- Putting leisure before productivity.
- Eating out because “I’m hungry now”.
- Feelings of frustration resulting in inactivity
Altering decades of old habits is challenging and require constant motivation, determination, and effort. I’ve realized that planning ahead and organization is crucial to success and includes daily journaling, meal planning, and attainable weekly goals.
- Ordering takeout.
- Avoiding straws.
- Refusing plastic bags
Eating out is difficult when you are trying to be zero waste. You have to deal with disposable cups and utensils, becoming full before finishing so you are stuck with either food waste or a wasted container, straws being forced to you, and ordering takeout is completely out of the picture unless you bring your own reusable container.
I have a past addiction to Mitsuwa’s pastries, ice cream, shaved ice, and other desserts featured at Ry-Leaf. In my continuous effort to be less wasteful, I now bring reusable cups, containers, choose a cone Vs. a cup, and request no disposable straw/utensils.
My first attempt at bringing a reusable container to Ry-Leaf started off without a struggle until the cup I had brought was too large for their machine. The employee decided to use a styrofoam cup to transfer the ice, so without thinking, I reacted with anguish expressing that the cup was not necessary and the whole experience became awkward.
Now when I ask for a business to use my own container I instantly say “I know, I’m crazy–Don’t worry about it!” and usually go on to explain WHY I am asking them to accommodate my strange requests.
I’d like to end this post with my Earth Day messaged which was shared on Facebook:
Today is Earth Day, and while every day should focus on our precious Earth we need to all take a moment to reflect on our actions.
We all group up wasteful, we are wasteful as a species and the neglect needs to stop.
Take a moment today think of ONE thing that you can do to help Earth and all the life that struggling with it.
500 MILLION plastic straws are wasted EACH DAY. This is an easy habit to break and it all begins with REFUSING. Do you really NEED a straw? Think about it.
Plastic is killing the remaining wildlife and the oceans. If you love animals and/or love seafood, help protect them! It is our responsibility to reverse our destruction to this planet!
Thank you for reading.
Included in the post was a button for friends to donate to the Earth Day Network. I raised $95 including my donation of $20!
I currently have a Samsung Galaxy S7 and still paying the sucker off — 17/23 payments. Whenever I select a new smartphone I tend to select one that has a decent camera. When I say decent camera, whatever the top reviews are from both verified sources and customer based.
My favorite phone was the Nokia Lumia 720. It was a devastating day when the screen broke, followed with a visit to a shady fix-it-up stand at the mall. After months of waiting, the “businessmen” returned my broken phone which I exchanged for a $200 return.
The Samsung Galaxy S7 is decent and captures some amazing detail with proper lighting.
I enjoy taking photos throughout the day but prefer twilight hours or just before dusk and most often at Busse Woods. Most photos include fungi, moss, flowers, dying trees, skyscapes, any opportunity for wildlife, and anything that is out of ordinary or interests me.
I’ve been exploring the market, researching DSLRs so we’ll see how the future unfolds.
I love hiking. I love the variety of scents blowing in the breeze and the many colors of Earth’s palette — it excites my senses! The scurrying of hidden lifeforms that are invisible to the naked eye, but you know they are there.
The changes of the seasons and how every day you go for a hike, it will not be like the last. New life, old life, no life.
Winter, a time of peace and solace. Hiking in winter is like going back in time, before civilization. A feeling of unity between woman and nature, and what a beautiful feeling to experience. It’s moments like these that are pure bliss and just make me melt inside.
We are near the end of April and we are expecting snow tomorrow. I worry about all the young sprouts struggling for the sun, warm weather and survival. One day the temperature will be 30°F then a day or two later it will be 60°F. One nice thing about this static weather is that it can give interesting photo opportunities.
Here are some photos from recent hiking trips.
The first three photos show clusters of Turkey Tail Fungi commonly found as pale white or brown. These fungi look so whimsical and elegant and can make a hike feel a little bit more like a fairy tale.
Beauty is in all things. You just have to
Below: Seaweed and remnants of fall rest below the water surface.
You have to appreciate what you never look at.
What you find may surprise you.