Zero-waste living, the lifestyle choice to produce as little waste as possible, is not an easy feat. But it’s inspirational and we’re curious about learning more about what it takes to improve our world. Lauren Bowen of the blog, Zero Waste Memoirs, chatted with us about her experience living a zero-waste lifestyle and gave us some tips on how we can all be more eco-friendly in simple ways. We discuss her inspiration to start going waste free in the first place, how to live with a roommate while attempting this lifestyle, and a simple eco-friendly swap we can start doing today.

What inspired you to attempt to live with zero-waste? 

Zero waste was an entirely foreign concept to me until about a year ago. I had been browsing Facebook and came across an article featuring Lauren Singer (of the blog Trash is for Tossers). She talked about her journey toward zero waste and about the fact that she could fit all her trash from the past three years or so in a mason jar. A mason jar! 

I was absolutely convicted. I just couldn’t stomach the fact that my consumption and wastefulness were damaging this beautiful world we live in. So, I changed my ways. I bought Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Homeand went from there!

If someone is considering making the switch to zero waste living, what are the first three things you would suggest to get started?

Going zero waste happens over the course of hundreds of tiny baby steps. One day you’ll start bringing reusable travel mugs to coffee shops. The next, you’ll use your last roll of paper towels and start replacing them with washable rags instead.

For someone just starting on their zero waste journey I would recommend the following:

1) Bring a zero waste to-go kit wherever you go that includes a mason jar or other multi-purpose container, washable utensils, a handkerchief, and a stuff-sack tote bag. These items will help you prevent all sorts of trash from going to landfill and most of them should fit in your purse without too much trouble. Mine do!

2) Start a collection of reusable cloth bags and refillable jars. You can use these to shop the bulk section of your grocery store or local food co-operative, carry leftovers home from restaurants, and completely remove plastic bags from your life.

3) Put a small compost container in the bottom of your freezer. Food waste makes up close to 30% of everything we throw away, and it just turns into a rotting, greenhouse-gas-producing mess in the landfill. Collecting food scraps (and other organic matter) in your kitchen will help ensure that organic waste turns into something useful, not just messy. And if you don’t have a way to use it at home I can guarantee your gardening friends would love to take it off your hands!

Adopting these three steps alone will seriously help as you start cutting down on your personal garbage output.

Were you and your husband on the same page about going eco-friendly? How would you suggest someone go about being zero waste if they live with someone who isn’t on the same page?

In general, if I have “genius ideas” at home, the story goes something like this: I bring up my grand plans for our life to Josh, he tosses in a healthy dose of skepticism, I go down the research rabbit hole and start making changes on my own, then Josh tells me how great the changes have been. That’s what works for us; but it may not be ideal for every couple!

If you are genuinely interested in pursuing zero waste but you aren’t sure your partner or housemate is on the same page, definitely start with dialogue! They will likely be able to see and appreciate your passion. Once the subject has been breached, start learning together; Then start small as a couple with what seems like a reasonable baby step. Over time, those little changes will become the new normal, allowing you to pursue new positive, sustainable changes down the road.

The most challenging part of living zero waste is, hands down, the lack of convenience; our modern society just isn’t built to support a zero waste lifestyle. And I can’t say that trying to convince our local Safeway deli counter to let us take away cheese in a reusable container is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.

That said, I have been truly struck by how much going zero waste has improved our lives for the better. We’ve made incredible strides toward minimalism, wellness, mindfulness, and empathy. And it has been so rewarding living our values of sustainability and stewardship as a couple. I wouldn’t go back for anything in the world!

What is one simple swap anyone could make today that would make a huge difference in waste? 

Simple swap? At the risk of sounding like a broken record: reusable canvas bags over plastic or paper. That’s something easy that anyone can do!