Part 8: A Transformative Mindset

Living Low Waste
Low waste on the hiking trail

Each month, Kait Spielmaker takes us through her journey to live a more eco-conscious life. Here, part eight of her journey, which talks about making it to the one-year mark, and how to make that an attainable goal.

By Kait Spielmaker

It has officially been one year since I began my waste reduction journey. Recognizing issues in the world around me such as overconsumption, convenience of single-use items, and litter overtaking our oceans and hiking trails is what ignited my drive to do this. This past year has been transformative, shifting my mindset to a more conscious lifestyle; being low-waste has become an innate part of my routine.

When I began my transition away from plastics and other wasteful parts of society, I wanted something people could relate to. Everyone who is trying to be more waste-conscious follows a zero waste influencer on social media. Sure, they’re inspiring, but not realistic for most. I don’t have the time, resources or income to achieve zero waste and create a picture-perfect life for myself.

I’ve exhausted the phrase “twenty-something grad student, working full-time and managing a personal life,” but it’s a major challenge in zero waste ambitions. However, if this series has taught me anything, it’s that cutting your waste and transitioning from plastic isn’t just some dreamy idea—it’s an attainable lifestyle. 

Going into this, I had no idea what I would end up with. All I knew was that I wanted to get away from my reliance on recycling and focus more of my efforts on reducing. I am leaving this series feeling inspired to continue contributing to a positive movement that will have long-term impact. I now have the ability to identify areas where I can reduce rather than rely on single-use items. This year, I went without buying a single “new” clothing item, and for all of this, I am proud.

Takeaways

This journey has offered the knowledge and confidence to be creative in my low-waste solutions. As a result, Pinterest has become my best friend. This journey has me making recipes I never would have made before, many of them being simple and easy (if you don’t believe me, check out my last article).

My favorite things I now make:

Cold brew

Bentonite Aztec face mask

Surface cleaner

Dish soap

Yoga mat spray

While there has been more good than bad, there were a few items I tried out and they didn’t work for me—things such as toothpaste, deodorant, and laundry detergent. 

After trying a few different recipes for deodorant (they didn’t work), I’ve resorted to purchasing a glass container of the BEST-smelling deodorant from Little Seed Farm. My toothpaste is purchased through zero waste brand Bites. Those two things are my two splurges. 

I also tried out making my own laundry detergent, after that didn’t work, I switched back to the biggest container of laundry pods from Costco; it’s good for about a year of laundry. It is not quite zerowaste, but any zerowaste blog post will tell you that buying the largest quantity available is the best option since it creates the least amount of waste.

Simple transitions

“Take one step at a time” is a good motto to carry through your life. The same phrase applies here as well. Referencing back to the second article in this series, if you would like to make some zerowaste changes in your life, begin with a couple of easy switches and then continue to build on that. Some of the most important things you can do are buying secondhand and composting—sometimes difficult switches. 

For an easy start, purchase biodegradable garbage bags (reference article two for the right kind), reusable paper towels, reusable produce bags, and a travel coffee mug for use at your favorite coffee shop. Keep in mind that you may have plastic Ziplock bags or paper towel left over. Use those materials up first and then replace with zero waste alternatives. Being low waste doesn’t mean throwing out all your single-use plastic for a fresh start.

After a year, I’m not always perfect

Should striving to be zero waste mean that every time you buy a loaf of Ezekiel bread, you’re failing? No. My biggest takeaway from this experience is how to be okay with yourself when you slip into old habits. 

Sometimes I forget my Tupperware when boxing up food to go. I still order things on Amazon, buy mascara, pick up a pint of the best vegan ice cream when I have a sweet tooth, and sometimes even buy a prepackaged container of spinach when I’m in a rush. 

Anne Marie Bonneau says, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly; we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Don’t let plastic-free living or other zero-waste efforts be led by guilt. We live in a world consumed by plastic, reliant on fossil fuels, and still selling clothes in shopping malls that are polluting the environment.

A mindful shift

This transition is not about being perfectly zero waste. It’s about realizing changes can be made in the way we as individuals live, the way we consume, the way we shop, and our outlook on these issues. 

Each person willing to shift the way they live, think, and consume helps create a ripple effect in our society that will not go unnoticed. We are the voice that is changing the landscape and showing businesses we will not support negligence or greed.

We live in a world of convenience. But taking it upon oneself to make something rather than buy it is empowering in a new way. It’s so easy to go out and buy a plastic bottle of dish soap, but it is also easy to make it at home using simple ingredients. 

In closing, I hope that my zero-waste journey has helped you as much as it has helped me. Feel free to email any questions to kait@greenlivingaz.com.

For previous articles in this series visit our website.

 


Kait Spielmaker is a Michigan native who relocated to Phoenix, and is the digital content coordinator at Green Living Magazine. She is an avid hiker and is working on her master’s degree in Sustainable Tourism at Arizona State University.

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