Her Story: A year to becoming waste free
Amanda Javier has committed 2018 to going waste free, with a month-by-month plan. She shares her journey here.
first step: admitting I have a problem
“holy sh*t my trash habits are bad”
I’m an average (ish) person. I work a 9-5 job. I run a side-hustle. I have family and social commitments and also own a small mob of cats (*not average). Overall, I’m doing everything you’d expect a busy 20-something year old to be doing.
I can’t remember exactly when I had that “holy sh*t my trash habits are bad” moment. Yet, I distinctly remember doing what the average person does and ignored the nagging feeling that I needed to do something about it.
To start, I didn't know how to go “waste-free”. I didn’t have the time, or money, or will power to worry about it, not to mention I had zero point of reference. What was too much trash anyway?
Does being Waste-Free Make a Difference?
I decided to check some stats to see if going waste-free would even make a difference (spoiler: it does). This is what I discovered:
I continued to actively ignore these facts, I admittedly struggled with the heavy weight of guilt pushing down on me every time I accepted a disposable coffee cup, a plastic straw or single-use grocery bag. Christ, even my vegan organic jelly beans came in plastic packaging.
What more could the world possibility want from a woman who eats organic vegan candy? Wasn’t I already doing enough!? Just when my internal battle was at an all time high, I realized that although the thought of changing my habits was overwhelming, the thought of continuing to knowingly harm the Earth was unbearable. So I did what I always do when I have something to figure out: I made a big fucking list.
Trying to go waste-free
a very big f$*king list
I jotted down every single item in my house that I used daily, that was plastic, single-use, or just plain unnecessary.
It was gigantic. You’d think this would have freaked me out even more, but now that I had my “Trash List”, it was easier to make a corresponding list of things that wouldn’t murder the planet.
I researched anything that I didn't know, like options for package-free laundry soap (they’re called soap nuts and they’re bomb). I then started categorizing these items by areas of use in my everyday life (such as bathroom, cleaning, ‘on the go’, etc.). This was followed by another list of where I could buy these items. The last step was admittedly the hardest because I also wasn’t interested in everything in my house being made of biodegradable cardboard or sad looking bamboo.
After all that work, I was set to save the world and accept my Nobel Peace Prize.
But, now what? Needing a tangible plan:
Only I couldn’t follow through. Even though I now had the extensive knowledge of how I could do this, I still found it insanely difficult to replace my existing habits. It is a slow process of unlearning and relearning habits in nearly every aspect of your life, and that kind of change takes time, patience and support.
I don’t know about you, but for me the ambiguity of “it just takes time” means I’m most likely not going to do it. I like structure and to know how long and what exactly needs to be done. It’s no surprise that even though I would “try” to be waste-free as much as I could, it just didn't stick without that clear path to success. I bought some nice market bags and bought in bulk (usually conveniently forgetting my mason jars to refill because they were too damn heavy), but the truth is I had no direction and I was quickly losing my path on my journey to becoming a waste-free queen.
Enter solution: The Monthly Waste-Free Process.
I decided that that I’d tackle this one month at a time. Every month this year has a specific area of focus that will build on habits over time (i.e slow enough to make them last, but over a long enough period that it’s possible for the average human).
So far, I’m feeling pretty good about it, but I have to be honest - it’s not easy. I forgot my travel mug the other day and really wanted a Balzac’s americano to go. I beat myself up about it for a few minutes until I realized that, 2 years ago, I wouldn't have even given that disposable cup a second thought. In fact, I would have used that disposable cup of americano to wash down those overly packaged organic vegan jelly beans, and then sped away in my gas guzzling hummer (just kidding, I don’t have a hummer. I do have a Jeep though… Did I mention this is still a work in progress?). The point is, I’ve grown, I’m growing, and I’m going to keep at it, because the alternative is quite frankly… trash.
*If you’re looking for support in your waste-free transition, here are a few great articles/blogs to check out:
Amanda Javier is a Muskoka raised,Toronto based owner of the botanical skin and beauty line, Witch in the Wild. Amanda believes in living a minimal, waste free and vegan lifestyle (even though it's damn difficult sometimes!). When she's not mixing botanical potions for her business you can find her studying herbalism or hosting sessions for Wild Collective (a female entrepreneur group).
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Share with us your experiences. Have you had similar guilt to Amanda? Have you made any commitments to contribute less waste? Or, do you have any tips of your own?