Hey loves! Last month, I was on YouTube and Instagram, looking at social media influencers and people who believe in living a zero waste lifestyle where they try to reuse and recycle items while also trying to create the least amount of waste to help preserve the earth! I thought it’d find someone to interview and talk with. So I reached out to Tara, a zero waster, and thought I’d interview her on her lifestyle and learn more while educating you guys too! Her instagram will be linked down below if you have any questions for her or click here! Let’s hop in!
I thought I’d start with an introduction 🙂 Hi, I’m Tara, I’ve been working towards a zero waste (or low impact) life for the past decade. I’m an Iranian- American woman who cares deeply about how people of color, and folks from less privileged backgrounds can speak up and inform our national, and international choices related to sustainability, consumerism, and food.
What is ZW?
The zero waste lifestyle is a commitment, and promise, to treat the world as kindly as we can. It is an invitation to notice when our choices might hurt the world, or humans around us, and adjust course so we do LESS of that over time. Most simply, it’s a willingness to create very little waste.
At first, zero waste was a quirky fun challenge for me. I wanted to see if I could personally have less of an impact on the planet. Now it is a way of life. It’s a part of my value structure, my daily actions, and my choices. I rarely buy new things (opting for used or previously loved items), I try to buy all of my food locally from organic sources (yes, that’s easier because I’m in California… compared to just about every other state in the US, this is the best place to try it).
Who inspired me to go zero waste?
This is a funny one. It was actually an ex-boyfriend. For the longest time, the man hated my desire to go to thrift stores (this should have been a good warning sign!). One day he walked into the house – beaming – TARA, there is a name for this thing you’re doing. It’s called zero waste AND this woman (@zerowastehome) SHE says your thrifting is a great idea! All of the sudden my quirky habits were trendy in his eyes. We started transitioning to a full zero waste life together over the course of the next year or so.
How did I make the huge lifestyle change?
Gradually! That was the key. The day after my partner had dubbed my tendencies “zero waste”- he approached me with a box of perfectly functioning plastic items. “Tara, we are going to get rid of ALL of this and go find the “eco” versions TODAY”. I was mortified. I didn’t want to throw away my plastic toothbrush… no one else could use it.. And it made far more sense to use it until it needed to be disposed. It was a flashbulb moment – I realized – for me – this journey was going to be a gradual set of swaps – moments I could enjoy and learn from. To this day I’m still learning about how to grow into the lifestyle, cut out plastics, say goodbye to single-use items whenever possible.
How does the lifestyle influence my life now v. previously?
Life is simple. I get to connect daily with humans, community, and things that I deeply love. The clutter is gone. I don’t worry about taking out the trash (I stopped paying the city for the service all together!). I feel a deep sense of gratitude when I find something I want or need on the side of the road, at a thrift store, in a friends discard pile.
I eat WAY better than I used to. I don’t really eat many processed foods anymore – my body thanks me daily. It has more energy and life because the breakfast I eat doesn’t have an expiration date 10 years into the future. I cook more than I used to. I still enjoy meals out with friends, but I am aware of where we go and what I eat.
(Three years worth of Tara’s waste! How incredible!)
How do you keep up with your routine without accidentally using products that waste?
Here is the thing. We are all human, and the current economy makes it virtually impossible to create no waste. There are moments when I accidentally, or intentionally create waste. It’s not often. But it happens. For example: a few weeks back I was starving, I’d forgotten my bamboo utensils, and the only food option near us required a plastic fork. I was light headed and really needed to eat. I took the fork. Did I want to: no. Was I a bit sad I’d not brought my kit – I suppose so. But being too hard on yourself only leads to burn out. 10 years ago I probably used hundreds of plastic folks in a year; this year I’ve only used one. Progress is something we should count and celebrate.
What do your friends and family think?
I think about this often. My friends and family now know all about my choices and actions. I think most of them admire my commitment. Some of them for sure think it’s odd or a waste of time.
I don’t push my choices on others. Period. No use in that. Folks do however see how I choose to operate and a surprising number slowly, slowly, join me. Whether it’s by swapping to a reusable cup or bottle, or beginning to shop in bulk. I can no longer count the number of times someone say “OOH you doing X… has made me do Y”… those moments fill my heart with joy.
How do you get items in a store that are wrapped in a container like TP, milk, cheese…?
I find the best variation of the item I need. For TP, I choose a company called @whogivesacrap – they only box TP in cardboard (which I reuse in my garden mulch). It’s not zero waste… but I do find wiping a mission critical part of the bathroom experience.
I’ve moved away from loads of dairy. But, when I do seek milk, I buy it from @Strauss which provides milk in glass containers you can return to the store. And cheese, I either bring my own container, or buy something whole and split it with friends (ie. a parmesan wheel we split amongst buddies years ago)
If you’re looking at swapping to a zero waste lifestyle, do you have any tips for me?
A few minor adjustments have a huge impact. Community is key here IMO – find your tribe – folks who are living in a way that you want to live. Who share aspirations or a vision with you. My instagram has connected me with a lot of really awesome folks who inspire me everyday like @wastelandrebel and @going.zero.waste – these women are powerhouses. I’ve had the chance to meet both IRL and seeing how they live has been a gift and brilliant way to stay connected to a vision and mission I believe in.
Absolutely everyone can access swaps like:
- Using a water bottle
- Using reusable containers
- Not producing as much food waste at the end of each meal
I hope you guys enjoyed my little interview with Tara. Make sure to follow her on Instagram and comment down below (or dm me) if you’d want to see more interviews and if so, on what topics! Thank you to Tara for your time and letting me interview you! Her instagram is linked here and if you want to follow me on mine, it’s @alanashou! See you next Saturday!