So this is a double subject post. One is a simple outing with me and my best friend Leslie! Where we pretty much saved a small trash can that could have been filled with packaging, wrappers, and plastic nothings, but being prepared to be zero waste, we eliminated the need for one. It's so easy for you to do it too! Check out simple ecology to buy their totes and produce bags! I take them everywhere with me and I use it for morning treats, bulk, and all my produce. They come in a ton of sizes for all your needs.
The other is exciting for me also!
I am so happy and honored to have gotten interviewed by a good friend of mine over at Etsy for their employee only E-zine!! The e-zine issue was their zero waste issue and my blog and I was their main feature! So here is the interview part of it in case anyone wanted to check it out!
Stevie Van Horn, Coming Down from Trash Mountain
Interview by Trey French
Stevie has been on a mission for some time now to throw trash to the curb. Well, to actually zap the trash on the curb, or turn it into something useful. There’s an impressive amount of waste-conscious folks out there, but Stevie is a full blown waste reduction/elimination zealot. She’s growing her young blog, Trading Waste for Abundance, where you can find things like 5 REASONS FARMERS MARKETS KICK ASS; trash-free banana bread, almond milk, smoothies and more; being trash free away from home; an intro course on how to get started producing less trash, and plenty more.
TREY ~ So Stevie, how long, approximately, has it been since you left trash mountain?
STEVIE ~ I hiked down from the treacherous mountain on my birthday this past April, on the 5th. So five months now! Woohoo! But planning to make the perfect abled and equipped descent took about 2 months prior.
TREY ~ How do you define trash, and can someone truly live up to “zero waste?”
STEVIE ~ Trash to me nowadays is anything that I cannot utilize or whatever cannot be composted, reused, or recycled (I try to make recycling my last option). It used to, however, be defined to me as anything I didn’t eat, use, or need.
It is 100% possible to be zero waste! I will say though, if said person is wanting to do it on the exact routine, diet plan or behavior of their old lifestyle, then they will fail miserably. To succeed in zero waste, one must be prepared for every situation they face in a single day. You get thrown a lot of trash per day out of convenience and it’s just replacing and being prepared to say no way. It also means truly changing the things you never even thought about, even wiping your booty. I am still having trouble with this one... and I’m not having actual trouble with wiping my booty, but you get it (toilet paper). Dedicated people out there use cloth paper for their feces though, and I just can’t quite bring myself to that point....yet.
The hard parts though are the things you least expect. The random straws you get when you are out to eat, that lime with your margarita (I bring them home to my compost), when you hike or get a workout in and forget your own jar for water, and plastic water bottles are calling your name. Technically, these things register to a person as small and insignificant, but did you know each day we use 500,000,000 straws? These straws are made from petroleum plastics, which are designed to last forever, and we see them in oceans, lakes, parks etc... Do we really all need to sip on these plastic mini tubes? We have lips for a reason; for making out and drinking stuff. Don’t get me started on plastic water bottles....
TREY ~ The Etsy Sustainability Commission (ESC) aspires to achieve zero waste operations in the future. What do you think? Can a B Corp company like Etsy do it?
STEVIE ~ Uhhh hell yeah. I think anything can be done with mindfulness and an amazing team willing to be conscious participants of the earth. I am totally not surprised that a badass company like Etsy that has their eyes on the sustainable prize can make it happen. KUDOS.
TREY ~ What daily waste habits of the New York crowd just really bums you out? Be honest—be brutal, even.
STEVIE ~ Oh man. The plethora of cups and bottles. That really grinds my gears (I promise I’m not old or senile.) I dove into a trash can once because I’m insane and curious and it’s all coffee cups that can’t be recycled or composted and plastic cups! I was thinking…this one trash can that is overflowing with these things can be so easily empty if a group of people had a conscious effort in the morning to bring their own cup or jar. Now picture all the trash cans in the city. My mind wraps around that pretty much every time I see an overflowing trash.
TREY ~ There’s an environmental activist and farmer fellow named Wendell Berry who’s spent most of his career arguing that to be sustainable, one must first align the workings of their homes with the patterns of the ecosystem—or get themselves in order on the small scale and work outward to preserve Mother Earth. How have you in a sense reimagined the operations of your household to be more sustainable? Do you even have a trash bin in your apartment?
STEVIE ~ I still have repercussions of my old behaviors in my cosmetic bags and closet that I am still phasing out. I used to have a hobby and addiction called online shopping. I would get packages 3 to 4 times a week ranging in sunscreens and lip balms to bulk chia seeds and cheap crop tops.
I have now reimagined my household by understanding what is a true necessity: food, few clothes, and being clean. All of these things I can accomplish in a sustainable and minimal way, whether it’s making my own almond milk, bringing my own cloth bags for groceries, or composting all my food scraps. I shop at the farmers market for fruits and veggies every week and I shop second hand for clothes and donate things I do not need. Minimal living is kind of my new obsession.
As for the trash bin, I have 3 roommates all of which are not trash free, so we do have one. They are definitely thoughtful humans who try their best though! The perks of being trash free are never ever taking out the trash again. When it is filled to the brim, it does bring me sadness, however knowing I have no contribution to the bin and where it will be going is so fulfilling.
TREY ~ Do you have any dietary restrictions that you balance along with being trashless? If so, do these restrictions make the trash free life more of a challenge to navigate?
STEVIE ~ I am gluten free and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Being trash free with these restrictions actually make it so much easier. I don’t need to read the back of any boxes or plastic packages anymore because I am not buying them! Bulk is easy depending on what you get and farmers market produce is not an issue either. I naturally stop craving chocolates and sugar I do not need, and if I do crave it, I can eat some beautiful fruit or I can get chocolate in bulk or at a specialty shop. Now, for the first time ever, I actually feel in control of what I eat. There is the constant thought of, “Okay, what do you really need, what are you actually craving?” and now those questions always fall true to what my body is actually wanting and not what it wants to binge on.
TREY ~ If you were walking down a trafficless highway in the middle of a desert out West with no water fountains, cacti, or storm clouds brewing above, you had consumed all of your water supply, and there was a bottled water vendor on the shoulder of the road, would you purchase the water or be #core and go into ultimate survivor mode and recycle your already-consumed water—if you know what I mean?
STEVIE ~ Hahahaha, this is my favorite question, and yes I know what you mean. I would like to say I would totally drink my “own water,” but if put in that desperate situation of life or death I honestly may get myself a damn bottle of water. Give me some credit though, I would keep that bottle forever and when the comfortable kind of living greets me again I will make that damn bottle either a mini terrarium or a cocktail shaker.
TREY ~ Do you have a “trash jar” (you know, like a “curse jar” that yo mamma might have kept on the kitchen table) that you put money in every time you waste something? Is this a lame question?
STEVIE ~ Haha, I do have a trash jar! I like the idea that I utilize everything I purchase and to make sure what I purchase is all around sustainable (packaging, its source, its impact, material, lifespan, and life cycle).So when I do have to throw something away, it goes in there. It sounds a bit silly but it holds me accountable and I have one of many sayings to myself that goes... “If you would be ashamed of putting it on display, then rethink it.” So there are things in there that I am ashamed of, but gotta rep it to keep myself true to my endeavors.
TREY ~ Are there any people, groups, organizations, or any zero waste resources in the local community doing sustainable or regenerative work that you’d like to mention?
STEVIE ~ There are so many people making a difference that I want to name. A really important group is North Brooklyn Farms. Last year they created an empty space into a beautiful park called the Havemeyer Park. It lasted the summer and then got torn down and made into an apartment building. This year they reshaped this unused space next to the old Domino building into a beautiful park and farm. I think it is so important for people to reconnect with nature, especially in the city. As much as anyone can scold others on overconsumption habits that deteriorate earth’s resources and trying to educate them on the importance of nature, it will not mean a thing unless they have a personal bond with what is being jeopardized. This small but amazing group of people, who have worked day in and day out to create this space for others to enjoy and connect to, have made it so easy to make this idea surface in our brains.
My friend Trey over at Etsy interviewed me about my blog/lifestyle for a project by the Etsy Sustainability Commission and the interview does not reflect the views of Etsy, Inc… itself.