We are very grateful to welcome Alison Znamierowski of No Waste Space into our Loam community as a weekly columnist. Alison has been a part of Loam since our inception--her gorgeous photos pepper our magazines--and so we are especially excited to share with you all her stunning writing and hard-earned wisdom.
Alison's Zero Waste Project builds on our collaboration with Trash is for Tossers and Fort Negrita to provide a positive template for mindful living. As Alison reminds us, "it's exciting to remember that you have the agency to change your own habituated ways of living, to create a lifestyle that you fundamentally agree with and are proud of."
Read more from Alison below and let us know what changes you are making to your own life to do some good in this gorgeous world.
"Be in love with your life, every detail of it."
During my senior year of college, I took a student forum about Mindfulness. For one of the assignments, we had to carry around all of the trash that we produced for 48 hours. I had never truly realized how much trash I produce — when there are trash bins everywhere, I can simply throw away whatever unwanted byproducts I have and never think about them again. But carrying them around forced me to confront the trash that I produce on a daily basis.
I've always been adamantly against littering (as most people are), but I've never really considered my trash-waste harmful. Really, though, the trash we produce is the same as litter, it just goes to a different place (where we don't have to look at it, see it, or ever think about it.) On average, each American produces 4.4 pounds of trash every day.
This entire experience was incredibly eye-opening, and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since we did it. So I started using an eco-to-go container at lunch instead of a one-use plastic container; I brought my own coffee mug to the cafe; I started saying "no" to plastic-bottle drinks & using my Nalgene instead; I made my own toothpaste; and, most of all, I realized how many ways I had been producing waste, and started learning about alternatives.
What I've learned so far is that living a no-waste lifestyle in the United States is extremely difficult. We are a heavily consumerist society, and are very keen on plastic items. Consumerism, waste, and plastic are all so heavily interwoven into our lives that it has been a challenge to detect every way that I produce waste. From the toothbrush I use in the morning-time to the facial wash I use at night; I have to rethink and rework so many of my deeply ingrained habits.
But the thing is — it is so exciting.
It's exciting to remember that you have the agency to change your own habituated ways of living, to create a lifestyle that you fundamentally agree with and are proud of. It is a new way of exploring how to move through the world mindfully. It's also really fun (believe it or not) trying to figure out all of the different ways to produce less waste. It's like piecing together a puzzle.
As I begin replacing disposable items with sustainable ones, I am growing more and more fond of the items I do have —my coffee mug has seen me through many tired days of writing papers; my Nalgene has been my most loyal adventure buddy; my repurposed scrap papers have become letters to penpals — these things hold so much more love than my cardboard cups, plastic water bottles, and Hallmark cards ever have. I feel a sort of personal affinity for these items.
My hope is to document this transformation from relatively mindless consumerism to mindful, zero-waste practices — to create a guide of sorts for anyone who is hoping to cut down on their waste production. Zero-waste is a practice. I’m sure that it won’t be easy, and I’m sure that I’ll make mistakes. I can’t wait to share my tips, struggles, inspirations, challenges, mistakes, and excitement with you. ☾