Meet The Brand

Imperfect Environmentalism with the Founder of the ZeroWasteStore

GB: Sarah (SC), thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us today. Before we get into it, could you share your definition of “zero waste” with us?

SC: Absolutely! The term “zero waste” gets a bad reputation and living a “zero waste lifestyle” is not the end goal. Zero waste is simply a set of guiding principles that can help us create more responsible behaviors and lifestyle changes with the purpose of advancing everyone toward a more balanced existence with nature. It’s totally impossible to live 100% plastic-free. Plastic is everywhere and consumes all aspects of our lives. With that being said, if everyone made small, simple changes and became more mindful of their actions, we’d be on the right track! It’s all about being imperfectly zero waste.

Sarah Cieslinksi, Founder of ZeroWasteStore

GB: Such a helpful definition for us all, thank you for that! With this definition in mind, let’s start at the beginning. How did your own zero waste journey first begin, and what motivated you to start ZeroWasteStore (ZWS)?

SC: Raised all my life in Florida, I grew up learning about our native birds, wildlife, and all-things gardening from my dad. I remember going into our backyard and watching Monarch Butterflies lay eggs on Milkweed, the resident Screen Owl family sticking their heads out of their nesting box, and observing the local birds eat at the bird feeder in awe. As I got older and my passion for nature grew stronger, it became increasingly apparent that our environment and wildlife pay the price for the decisions we make every day. I wanted to do something that had a positive impact, so I began working at the wildlife center and became a board member of our local conservation alliance. My spouse, JJ, and I started living more low-waste at home and both decided it was time to take the leap and start our own small business selling plastic-free products. That’s how ZeroWasteStore bloomed into what it is today!

GB: Thanks so much for sharing your purpose-driven inspiration and story with us. Fast forward to today, what is the mission and ultimate goal for ZWS?

SC: The average American produces 5 pounds of trash per day. It’s time to rethink the way we consume. Our goal is to make it easy for the everyday consumer to reduce their everyday waste. is your trusted platform for sustainable brands, and a community of individuals making a positive impact on our planet.

GB: So good. Thank you. We know that for many (including ourselves!), the idea of eliminating all waste in our lives can feel like a daunting, even impossible, pursuit. How would you respond to those who feel this way?

SC: There’s truly no such thing as a perfect environmentalist. For us at ZWS, living a waste-free lifestyle means aiming for the moon with the goal of landing amongst the stars. You’re in the environmental movement because you care, not because you’re perfect. :)

GB: Such an important reminder. We’re curious, in your experience, what would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions about zero waste living?

SC: Probably the biggest misconception is that being zero waste means you have to completely cut plastic out of your life or that it’s all or nothing. This isn’t true– it’s about doing what you can within your means. Everyone is on a different journey, and that's okay! A few other misconceptions I commonly hear are: “living zero waste is expensive,” or “one person can’t make a difference.” There are really affordable zero waste alternatives (like this, this, and this that protect your wallet and the planet overtime!), and every single decision you make does have an impact.

GB: On that note, I think many of us often mistakenly conflate “plastic-free” with zero waste. Can you help us differentiate the two?

SC: Definitely. Zero waste goes beyond just plastic use, it’s about the impact on the planet in a more holistic sense– our carbon footprint, plastic, ingredients, sourcing, etc. and recognizing how it’s all interconnected.

GB: Got it. So now that you’ve helped us debunk some of the myths, what are some of the tangible benefits of zero waste practices (for people and our planet)?  

SC: There are truly so many! To name a few:

  • No more meaningless shopping. You shop with intention and only purchase what you need.
  • Many Zero Waste products last longer. Avoiding single-use items, and choosing to purchase reusables or higher quality products often means that these items are built for longevity (meaning you’ll save $ in the long-haul too!)
  • It’s healthier. A lot of items (especially food items) that come wrapped in excessive packaging are highly processed and unhealthy for you (and our planet). The choice to become zero waste supports more mindful consumption (and ingestion!)
  • You become more mindful of your daily actions. Adopting zero waste practices helps you to create new, healthier habits, and slowly begins to change your mindset about what you need, how much you need, and why you need it.
  • It's better for the planet. And who doesn’t want that?

GB: For anyone aspiring to create more sustainable habits in their life, what tangible actions and/or questions would you encourage folks to take or to ask themselves?

SC: Great question!

  1. Start by asking yourself: “Do I really need this?” “How long will this last?” “How many times will I use/wear this?” In the moments you really want to buy something, avoid making an impulse purchase. Sit on it for a few days and continue asking yourself these questions to assess whether it’s really something you want or need.
  2. Consider conducting a trash audit to learn where most of your trash or waste is created. Is it in the products you use in the bathroom? Your kitchen? Your wardrobe or closet? Start making more mindful decisions in that space, first.
  3. I’d also suggest starting SMALL. Commit yourself to making one small change, either one per week, or one change per month. One plastic swap. One secondhand purchase. Start composting. Start a garden. Shop local, etc. Once you’ve nailed down that singular habit, choose another. Your practice will start to grow in time. Choose the actions and practices that are most doable to your personal lifestyle and that are within your means. And remember: don’t stress yourself out! Everyone is on their own journey, and doing something– no matter how small– can and does make a difference.
  4. Last but not least: know your “why.” Having a deeper motivation for why adopting zero waste practices matters personally to you and/or to your communities will help you to sustain your zero waste journey with deeper intentionality, motivation, purpose, and joy.

GB: For those of us who are ready to start their own imperfect zero waste practice today, what are some of your personal favorite zero waste practices, swaps, or alternatives that others can adopt?

SC: Yes, let’s do it!

  1. For starters, I’d recommend our shampoo & conditioner bars. I am obsessed with them and haven’t used anything else on my hair in almost 5 years now! They last months and leave my hair so healthy and soft.
  2. Another idea is to start a pollinator garden. Planting native flowers and plants and watching all of the different species of bees, butterflies, birds, and other insects enjoy them is not only good for these species and for protecting their habitats, but also always reminds me I’m making a tangible difference (not to mention it’s a great way to disconnect after a long work day!) PS. You can take this bee revival kit with you wherever you go!
  3. Another great practice is composting. For me, composting is so rewarding. Knowing that I can take my food scraps, watch my ‘wormies’ turn them into nutrient-rich soil, and then use this as nutrients for my garden, is such an amazing feeling. Plus, it’s an easy way to reduce my carbon footprint!

GB: If folks remember just one thing from our conversation today, what do you hope it is?

SC: If only one thing, I hope folks can remember my favorite quote from Anne Marie Bonneau: “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

GB: That’s such a powerful reminder, thank you. It’s been such a privilege chatting with and learning from you today, Sarah. Thanks for all you’re doing to make zero waste practices, and caring for our planet more accessible and attainable for us all. Is there anything else you’d like to share?

SC: Thank you to anyone who takes the time to read this, I truly hope you take something from this conversation! Together, we can change the world and help others rethink their waste :)

Sarah Cieslinksi is the Founder of ZeroWasteStore, a trusted platform for sustainable brands, and a community of individuals making a positive impact on our planet. You can shop all of ZeroWasteStore’s products on goodbuy, and for even more zero waste goodness, download the ZeroWasteStore app and follow @zerowastestore for all things sustainable living!  


the goodbuy team