Meet Anamarie from the zero-waste blog, Fort Negrita. She is an Earth advocate with passion for zero-waste, traveling, self-reliance, and regenerative energy and waste. I had the chance to interview her about the realities of the zero waste lifestyle. Check out the interview to learn great tips for about living a more minimal lifestyle and creating less waste.
What does zero waste mean to you?
Zero waste is a silent protest and it’s a conscious decision to eliminate waste from your life. You’re voting for the kind of products you want to see on shelves. From the way that you purchase groceries to how you buy clothes, being a conscious consumer lets you put your money where your mouth is. Instead of supporting unsustainable companies you get to support the kind of businesses you’d like to see thrive.
How much power and influence do you think the consumer has?
The power of the consumer is huge. Every dollar spent is a vote. And the more aware customers are of how their money is being used by companies, the more empowered they are. Consumers are letting businesses know what they like and what they want.
Before you started zero waste, what was producing the most waste in your life?
Definitely food. We live in a to-go culture and that to-go lifestyle has a lot of packaging. So it’s very easy to create waste with food. Before I started zero waste, I wasn’t sure how I was going to do it. I needed to go buy things like almond milk and I didn’t know how I was going to give up those things. Eventually, I swapped out all of them for zero waste options.
How do you handle grocery shopping if you’re trying to avoid food packaging waste?
I’ve swapped out food packaging for food that comes from the bulk section of stores. Not like Sam’s Club bulk, but bulk that involves a scooper and dried goods. I can get itemslike nuts, grains, rice, and granola in bulk. I go to the grocery with my own canvas bags and mason jars and take home all my dried goods inside of those. So I either buy in bulk or in the produce section.
What about when you go out to eat?
I tend to stick with dine-in restaurants, rather than to-go places. You have to find unique ways to get around making trash. I haven’t been able to get waiters to package up my food in my reusable food container because of food regulations, which I respect. So I order my food “for here” and when I want to take leftovers home I can package them up by myself in my own food container.
Since starting zero waste substitutes that you’ve made and things you’ve given up?
I gave up on toothpaste tubes and started making my own 4-ingredient toothpaste. It has baking soda, coconut oil, tea tree oil and peppermint oil. And I now use a bamboo toothbrush. When I’m done with it, I can use the toothbrush handle as a marker in my garden or toss it into my compost.
I also switched to soap without packaging. I fill up my jars with castile soap and I use it for cleaning my dishes, the floor, and the bathroom.
I buy a big jug of distilled white vinegar and use it for cleaning. When I’m done, I recycle the jug.
I don’t use disposable cups anymore so if I want some coffee or chai tea, I just grab my mason jar or a reusable cup.
What was the biggest challenge for you in your transition to zero waste?
I have been zero waste for over a year so it doesn’t feel weird to me anymore. It was a habit that I had to create to replace old ones. One of the toughest habits to break was using paper towels. I was so used to going into public bathrooms and drying my hands on paper towels that when I started zero waste, I was still doing it. It took me a full month before I stopped pulling paper towels.
How much do you stay ahead of the game?
I always keep 3 things in my bag at all times— a reusable cup, a cloth napkin, and either a spoon, spork or a fork. Preparation is a big thing for me. There were those moments at the beginning where I was out somewhere and really wanted something to eat or drink but was unprepared. Now I can’t leave home without my stuff because if I’m out with it, I risk not being able to eat when I want to. I had to figure out my groove, where I could go and shop. I learned a few tricks. For example, if I wanted some Powerade, I could go to Circle K or 7Eleven and use their machines to refill my reusable cup. It all took some time, but now that I’m doing it every day, it doesn’t feel like work to me.
What kind of progress would you like see in regards to zero waste?
I’d like to see more businesses cater their structure to the zero waste lifestyle. A lot of times, it’s on the individual to do good but it really should be on businesses to create a culture around zero waste. Think about a coffee shop. If they decided to no longer carry paper cups and instead have ceramic cups or let people bring in their reusable cups, we’ll see the culture begin to change to one that is zero waste-friendly.
If people want to try out zero waste, where should they start?
They should start by watching the things they’re throwing away and being more thoughtful about their waste. Think about how your trash is going to be around in landfills for a thousands years even after you’re done with it.
It seems like minimalism and zero waste go hand-in-hand. Would you say going zero waste has made you more of a minimalist?
Definitely. You start thinking Do I need this or do I want this? Sometimes people just buy things because it creates a comfort for them, but it’s not really a need. When you’re zero waste, buying something you don’t need is really just wasteful. I started looking at everything I already owned and it started to bother me. I looked into my closet and thought why do I even have all this stuff? And thinking about getting rid of it, just frustrated me even more. With zero waste, you start wanting less and you replace that consumer “feel-good” you get from buying things. You end up finding happiness in other ways. Zero waste is like an awakening. It makes you a conscious consumer.