How many of you are trying to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle?
We thought we’d make your life easier and share some stories and tips from inspiring people! In this first article, we are introducing Anaïs and Heidi, two proactive women that thrive each day to make the world a better place by living zero waste.
What was the turning point for you to start a zero waste journey?
Having lived in the countryside my entire childhood up until my 19th birthday, I have always been very attached to the environment. I still picture myself when I was young picking up trash around my grandma’s house. But it is only about a year ago that everything changed for me. When I travelled to Copenhagen I became aware of all the trash that we surround ourselves with in Paris (compared to Denmark which is really clean), that was a realisation moment. I began to radically change my way of consuming, always bearing in mind today’s and tomorrow’s worlds. To start with, I checked my cosmetics’ components and what I read scared me. I stopped buying from big cosmetic brands as a result and turned myself towards natural solid products, without plastic and made in France. The more I was getting into it, the more I asked myself how could I have lived all these years differently. Once I had progressively reviewed my entire bathroom’ paraphernalia, I thought I would not stop on such a good track. At that moment, I read “Zero Waste” from Béa Johnsson, what I know consider the Zero Waste Bible! It opened my eyes to all these alternatives that enable me to radically change my way of consuming on a daily basis.
How did you start your transition and would you have some helpful tips for our audience to follow?
This is very linked to my previous answer but once I had transformed my bathroom with waste-free cosmetics, I took some time to research everything that I could do on a daily basis to avoid waste or at least drastically reduce it (unfortunately even today some things are still impossible to find without packaging). I progressively immersed myself in this new lifestyle. I switched shower gel for solid soap, replaced disposable cotton pads by washable ones, stopped disposable tampons and bought a CUP and washable pads… Then everything went really fast and I started finding alternatives for objects of the entire house. If you want to know a bit more about it, I have devoted a few posts about it on my blog: www.ana-green.com
All this to say that living in a city is absolutely not stopping you from adopting a waste-free lifestyle. I actually think that it is easier to find places to buy bulk and packaging free in a big capital like Paris than anywhere else in France.
What would you answer to skeptical people that say that one person is not going to have an impact?
Each and every one of your actions which is part of a waste-free lifestyle has an impact on the planet and a big one on your surroundings. I noticed that by undertaking a planet-conscious lifestyle, a huge amount of people around me started questioning their own behavior and asking me questions to start their conscious journey too. This realization must be collective if we want things to move forward. Every little thing that you do to minimize your waste can only have a positive impact on your surroundings and on yourself!
Name: Heidi Unger (@zerowasteclassroom)
Profession: First Grade Teacher (6-7 year olds)
Passion: I love spending time with kids, and I’m truly passionate about my job! When I’m off, I love to go on long distance backpacking trips.
Fun Fact: I live in a tiny home – a 1974 Silver Streak trailer my wife and I renovated!
As a first-grade teacher in the United States, you take your role very seriously to try and install sustainable habits with your pupils at their younger age. What is the most important thing that you tell your pupils so that they adhere to an eco-friendly lifestyle in the long run?
The most important thing I do in my job is to not tell students why we’re trying to make less trash in our classroom, but to show them. This means I’m not so much lecturing them about what to change, but taking charge and making those changes myself. So, I make sure that wherever I can make a more eco-friendly decision, I do. I bring my own water bottle to school to refill and reuse, and my own coffee mug. I don’t ask for disposable anti-bacterial wipes, I use rags and soapy water to clean the tables. We also spend time reading age-appropriate articles and books about the impact of plastic pollution and landfills, and then the kids really start driving a lot of the change. They ask their parents to pack snacks without packaging, they make sure that we never throw anything away unless we really can’t find a use for it, and they are always trying to save materials to build and craft with. Kids are naturally very empathetic, and when we talk about how plastic hurts our environment, they become very self-motivated to make changes. Parents have shared with me that they now get lectures at home about recycling and not using plastic!
Would you have any tips on how to engage in fun sustainable activities with kids?
Let kids create! Keep a big box to collect bits and pieces of materials that otherwise might be recycled or thrown away. When headphones break, I cut off the cord and put it in the bin. Cardboard pieces, plastic bottle caps, toilet paper tubes, plastic bubble wrap, empty containers, all of these are perfect for a maker space bin! I’ve had students save plastic bags and turn them into beautiful pieces, and egg cartons become a bouquet of flowers. I like to let my kids come up with their own ideas, but there are endless ideas on the internet for more guided crafts as well. The important thing is to cultivate the mentality that we can use things more than once, and move away from our disposable culture that continues to choke our planet.