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.
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. ZeroWasteStore.com 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:
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!
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!
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!