Our Plastic Free July Challenge is almost over. If all went well, maybe by now you have adopted new habits to reduce disposable plastics in your life. Maybe you even started talking about that with your friends and awakened their curiosity. That’s step 2: you’re spreading the word!
Or maybe you’re like me when I started all this “deplastification process” a couple of years ago. At first I was shy to talk about it, I felt too “different”, I didn’t want to sound like a “hippie”. I felt embarrassed although I was doing something good. I know many people go through this phase, it will go away as you build your zero waste confidence don’t worry.
Embarrassing Habits Can Have A Great Impact!
The first time I asked the waitress in my favorite cafe to put my cafe au lait into the stainless steel water bottle I brought with me, she looked really confused. I explained that because I try to avoid creating any plastic waste, I carry my own bottle with me everywhere I go. These days she takes my bottle without blinking an eye. And who knows, maybe now she uses a reusable coffee cup too!
I moved to Albany from Paris 4 years ago and love everything about it - the sun, the people and especially the environmental awareness. Plastic bags have been banned in grocery stores, the draught taught us to cut water consumption, and composting here is years beyond anything we have in France!
After reading so much about plastic pollution and making the connection with climate change, I decided to ban as much plastic from my life as possible. Making changes at home - like buying milk in glass bottles, banning paper towels and purchasing food in bulk so I can avoid plastic packaging - was pretty easy. It was asking for changes when I was out in public that sometimes made me nervous!
But if I have to make a choice between blushing when I hand over my water bottle, and being served water in a plastic cup, then I choose to blush! Yes, water and energy is used to wash a glass - but that’s nothing compared to the energy and water that go into producing a plastic cup in a factory, transporting it to the cafe and recycling it - on the rare occasion that plastic cups are actually recycled!
Soon maybe supplying our own glass containers for take-out food will be as normal as bringing our cloth shopping bags to the grocery store. Until then I’ll continue risking embarrassment because at the end of the day, these new habits make me feel really good about protecting the planet.
Join a local meetup, an organization, meet like minded people and start spreading the word.
(Photo credit: Zero Waste Seattle meetup)
I had the opportunity to go to many meetups about zero waste living over the past 2 years. I always had a really good time chatting bulk and shampoo bars with complete strangers. There’s one thing that comes out all the time: people really enjoy coming to these groups, it makes them realize that they are part of a large community, it encourages them to continue their quest for a plastic free life and give them new ideas.
These encouragements are an essential key for the next step: spreading the word!
Social Media / Blogs
The worldwide zero waste community is huge: the forum Reddit/Zero Waste has more than 63K members, Journey to Zero Waste more than 82K, Bea Johnson Zero Waste Home is followed by more than 122k people, etc.
I really encourage you to join one or more zero waste groups, they will help you keep going. You can ask questions and help others by sharing your experience.
Local groups are even better for local tips. If you’re in the Bay Area, check out Zero Waste San Francisco, My Plastic-Free Life, The Zero Waste Chef, Going Zero Waste, Zero Waste Oakland, Zero Waste Silicon Valley, Plastic-Free SF Bay, …
If you’re more of an Instagram person, you’re not going to be disappointed, there are so many great accounts who share pictures and thoughts everyday, like @zerowastecalifornia of course.
And if you feel like it, why not starting your own blog or page? Inspire others!
Support zero waste businesses
If you’ve found great products, stores, services, that help you live zero waste everyday, please support them by leaving reviews, this is essential. On their website, their social media pages, on Yelp or Google.
Experiences shared in reviews are so valuable: people who are looking for plastic-free and zero waste products need to know how it works for others. Your experience can definitely make an impact, it will only take you 5 mn to write a review and I can tell you that it will be greatly appreciated, you might even get a thank you note if it’s a small business.
And share with your friends! Many businesses have referral program, you could even get nice rewards :-)
Local organizations and meetups
(Photo credit: SFGate)
How about joining a beach cleanup from time to time? Check out Surfrider SF local chapter: you’ll find them at Baker Beach in San Francisco almost every weekend.
The Ecology Center in Berkeley also hosts regular events like beach cleanups, movie screenings, DIY workshops…
There’s also one regular meetup in San Francisco.
The inspiring story of Madison at Zero Waste California
Deep down, since I was a little girl, I knew I was going to help the world. Even back then, I believed that I, like all of us, had a special power that would make a big difference. I learned that my voice was a force. I have always been a fighter and I have always had a weakness for helping things that cannot help themselves; it is my kryptonite. It was what inspired me to work with animals as both a veterinary technician and adoption counselor at an animal shelter. In first grade, I would've told you I wanted to be a veterinarian; I wanted to save animals. I still do, but sometimes life takes you down the road less traveled.
In 2016, while studying history, I took an Environmental Science course purely because it satisfied two college requirements. My professor was nothing short of inspiring. We had a homework assignment that required us to fill out an online questionnaire about our lifestyle, and based on that information, calculated our carbon footprint. Living in an apartment, driving less than 40 miles a week, and recycling as much as possible, I thought my footprint would be miniscule. Holy pie, was I surprised at how massive my carbon footprint actually was. Like Bigfoot style. It wasn't until that same professor showed us Bea Johnson's TED talk on zero waste. Suddenly, a lightbulb went on in my head (it was an LED).
Several years ago I had watched a program about a couple in Manhattan who didn't produce trash. I don't know if it was the angle the news channel presented it in, or what, but it just seemed unreasonable. Ridiculous. Crazy. But the story stuck in my head, so much so I still remember it now, vividly. It was the first time someone had presented the idea to me that, wait a second, all my trash goes somewhere, accumulates, and doesn't just... disappear? And worse, it's become such an issue that it's actually going to cause global health problems? And not only hurt the animals I love so much, but my friends, family, and humanity, as well?
That's when I realized I had to make some serious changes. My trash can became my recycling bin. I learned to compost. I stopped buying foods packaged in plastic. I started buying bulk. I learned that... recycling actually isn't a sustainable solution. I checked ingredients more closely.... and suddenly, I began to realize just how much plastic had infiltrated every aspect of our lives: I had to do something. It was in this moment that Zero Waste California was born. I shared the facts I had learned, shared my progress about going 'zero waste,' and just continued to read and research. My curriculum changed as well. Instead of European history, now I was studying European and Environmental History.
Though I am still very active in animal rights, saving the world we all call home has now become paramount. I believe education and inclusivity is the only way to make a long term impact in today's society. And with this belief, I hope to continue to educate people from all walks of life on how they can make small changes, everyday, that have a massive impact over time.