Going Zero Waste: The Beginning
I always had it in my head that I wanted what was best for the planet. Three years ago today I decided to go vegan and one of the most influential factors behind that decision was the state of the environment. Since factory farming is one of the biggest contributors to rising temperatures, water pollution, and deforestation, I was more than willing to change my lifestyle in order to help our Mama Earth.
Fast forward to this past year. Although I wasn't always perfect on my vegan journey, I was, and still am, very proud of how far I've come. However, I used Veganism as a crutch, thinking that my choices of lifestyle were enough to keep me exempt from being an avid recycler, composting my food, and avoiding things like single use plastic. I thought Well, I'm vegan and that is already helping the environment SO much so that's fine! But just as the slaughterhouse videos ripped my heart open, so did the videos of trash consuming our land. The images of plastic taking over nature were soon all around me and it became clear that I had two choices: ignore it or make a change.
If you know me, you might have guessed that I couldn't ignore it for long, nor did I want to.
About one month ago, I moved back to Milan to work as a model. It isn't my first time here, in fact it's my third. And one of the aspects I was most excited about was how eco-friendly the country is. The first thing you do when you move in to any house here is get a lesson on proper trash sorting: Compost, Glass, Plastic/Aluminum, Paper, and Miscellaneous (things that don't fit into any of these categories). I mean, how amazing is that?! California, one of the most eco-conscious states in the U.S., only provides a household with two trash cans: trash and recycling. And even then it's up to you to sort it yourself within the home.
I quickly found myself caring so much more. I didn't just recycle plastic, I made sure it was clean before discarding it (because you can't recycle dirty items!). I took home any plastic spoons that came with my gelato instead of throwing them away in public trash cans. I stopped buying plastic water bottles, even though it's a bit less convenient to find a refill station. These decisions made me feel like I was finally aligning my actions with my purpose. But I was still constantly buying packaged items, especially ones made from plastic and aluminum. I knew I was still taking the easy way out. So that's when I decided to push my limits and go out of my comfort zone to do a month of complete Zero Waste!
What exactly does this mean? Well first of all, no single use items, which means that I won't be buying or using anything that goes in the trash after it's been used one time. This includes things like napkins, face wipes, water bottles, food packages, etc. Along with avoiding single use items, I will be buying eco-friendly alternatives to things like laundry detergent, skin care, cleaning products, and more. These products usually come in plastic packaging of some sort and is often improperly recycled, if it's recycled at all! I also will be avoiding things that can be recycled! The immediate response to buying plastic items shouldn't be Oh, I can just recycle this later, no problem! Instead, it should be What can I buy instead that is more environmentally friendly? or How can I shop for something that I can reuse? or even Do I really need this? The average American creates about 6 pounds of trash per day, with about 1.5 pounds of that ending up recycled. Now multiply that times 327 million Americans and think about how much trash that makes, just on a daily basis and just in the United States alone. It's overwhelming, I know.
We can't make everyone change their habits, but we can change our own. So that's what I am doing. Now I know things will come up and that there will be things that I need that don't fall under the Zero Waste umbrella and that's ok. But for the most part, I will do everything in my power to be as prepared as possible and to make the best choices that will allow me to create (almost) Zero Waste for the entire month of June. After June, I plan on taking what I learn and the habits that I create and implementing them into my daily life.
I recognize that I am in a great place in my life to start this challenge and in doing so I also recognize that some people aren't in that place. And that's ok! I hope that you will still follow along and take some of the small nuggets of knowledge that I share and use them however they fit your current lifestyle. I promise that they will be completely accessible to anyone reading this! So stay tuned for future posts that will include things like creating a Zero Waste on-the-go kit, using or making eco-friendly household cleaners, buying wast-free skincare and haircare products, and how to re-use your own household items in creative ways!
I am no expert by any means. This won't be a crazy complicated challenge that requires a lot of time and money. In fact, I am planning on making this as simple and budget-friendly as I can. Zero Waste isn't meant to be complex. It's meant to be as simple and minimal as possible. It's meant to take us back to a point of minimalism and to get us to think in terms of what we need, not in terms of what we want. I am beyond excited to conquer this challenge. I hope that it will inspire even just one person out there and that it will keep me inspired. The only way we grow is by stepping out of our comfort zones and embracing the unknown. And usually, that's when the best and most rewarding things come to fruition.
Peace, love, and joy always,