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Tag: plastic-free

Zero Waste, Plastic-Free Tips for Living with Cats

Check out this video, as well as my podcast episodes for answers. 

I get so many questions about what I feed my kitties from a vegan point of view as well as how to care for them from an ecological point of view, whether we’re talking about toys, litter, or food. 

As for the resources I mention, here they are below:

▸CAT ENRICHMENT & TOYS
*Make your own toys if you can
– Cat Scratcher Lounge Collapsible: https://amzn.to/2yK3MZ6
– Cat Scratcher Lounge: https://amzn.to/2KkyTiw (best thing I ever bought!)
– Plastic-free lint brush https://amzn.to/2MqsOyu

▸ CAT LITTER
-okocat https://amzn.to/2KlmKJT

▸ PLASTIC-FREE LITTER BOX
https://amzn.to/2yEl0ad

▸PLASTIC-FREE LITTER SCOOP
https://amzn.to/2KaSG4q

▸HOW TO COMPOST YOUR CAT’S LITTER
http://bit.ly/2IsnQOZ

▸ CAT FOOD
-Natural Balance Cat Food https://amzn.to/2IyzZSS
-Tiki Cat (for when the kitties just want a little extra) https://amzn.to/2KrXNJT

▸ Cornell University on flushing cat poop
http://bit.ly/2N1evRI

Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything. 

Staying Healthy — Physically, Emotionally, Mentally — During (and After) a Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lock-down have added stress and strain to our bodies, hearts, and minds. Listen to this episode for ideas for staying healthy physically, emotionally, and mentally during this time and always. 

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

Compostable, Biodegradable, Zero Waste Phone Cases

I first heard about Pela’s compostable, biodegradable, non-plastic, non-toxic phone cases from my friend Kathryn Kellogg over at Going Zero Waste, and I didn’t waste anytime ordering one. (I have an iPhone, but Pela makes phones for Google and Samsung phones, as well.)

For me, choosing ecologically friendly, animal-friendly products is always top of mind when I’m making purchases, but I also want them to do the job they’re designed for. 

I’ve had the Pela case for more than two years now and can attest to its efficacy — it has absolutely protected my phone, which I’ve dropped MANY times and use constantly each and every day. But a little more than two years in, it’s time for another, as the wear and tear is beyond cosmetic. 

Zero waste is about making choices based on responsibility and value, and while two years doesn’t seem like a terribly long time to own a phone case, there are a few other things to consider:

  • I’ve had other phone cases made of plastic that lasted about as long (or less).
  • Other (plastic) phone cases I’ve had didn’t actually protect my phone, so worse than having to replace the case, I’ve had to replace my phone (several times). Maybe I’m just a klutz, but still.
  • When I was done with previous phone cases, I couldn’t compost them!
  • The manufacturing needs to be considered in addition to the discard options, and Pela cases have 25% less carbon emissions, 35% less water usage, and 70% less waste production than conventional plastic smartphone cases.
  • Pela cases are free of lead, cadmium, BPA and phthalates. They are made of a proprietary blend of Terratek Flex and Canadian Prairie flax shive.

So, in all ways, they come out on top, and two years later, I’m ready to compost my case.

While we are lucky to have a municipal / industrial compost system in our city of Oakland, CA, I’m going to add my old case to one of my backyard compost bins to see how long it will take for it to break down. According to Pela, it could take between 6 months and 2 years, so I’ll report back! 

Two years after my initial purchase, Pela has increased their line in terms of colors, and some also have designs created by artists Pela commissions to beautify their products. They also have other biodegradable accessories, including  phone grips, which perhaps I should buy considering how often I drop my phone. Again…klutz. 

Pela is offering a special right now that gives you two cases for the price of one — the intention being that people need to wash their cases more than ever to avoid spreading Covid-19. I took advantage of this offer and picked two pretty cases, which arrived in compostable non-plastic packaging!

 

As with being vegan, aspiring to zero waste isn’t about being perfect; it’s about doing the best we can. It’s also not about buying more stuff — including everything marketed as “zero waste,” but when it comes to prolonging the life of necessities — and yes, my phone is a work and life necessity right now — then I’m grateful for companies like Pela who is providing an option that is ethical for human and non-humans alike. 

Homemade Plant-Based Milks

Plant-based milks were the original disruptor to the dairy industry until coronavirus came along, knocking cow’s milk off its already shaky legs. As dairy operations are dumping milk and consumers are finding empty supermarket shelves, people are cooking from scratch more than ever. While commercial plant milks are faring well during this pandemic, making plant milks at home is even more economical and sustainable, and the basic ingredients may already be in your cupboards.

They cost less, have less (or no) packaging, and can be flavored or sweetened to suit your taste. Zero-waste and plastic-free. It’s a win-win!

Different types of milk vary in terms of taste and texture, so if you don’t like one, try another. All plant-based milks are interchangeable for drinking, baking, or adding to coffee/tea, though some are creamier than others. Oat, almond, cashew, and soy are the creamiest, with rice milk being the thinnest.

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ALMOND OR CASHEW MILK
Used widely in the Middle Ages in regions stretching from the Iberian Peninsula to East Asia, almond milk has long been valued for its ability to keep better than animal’s milk, which has a short shelf life. The same process for almond milk can be used for other nuts, such as cashews and hazelnuts.

Ingredients

1½ cups raw (not roasted) almonds or cashews
4 cups cold water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)
Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak the almonds in water for a minimum of an hour or up to 24 hours. Soaking is optional for cashews, though they will yield more milk if you soak them for at least 30 minutes in hot water.

After soaking the nuts, discard the water. Add the almonds or cashews and the 4 cups of water to a blender. Add other ingredients such as vanilla extract or cocoa powder, if desired, and blend well on high speed. Optionally, you can sweeten the milk with your favorite sweetener (dates, sugar, maple syrup, agave, etc.).

If making almond milk, you’ll want to strain the mixture with a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or fine sieve/strainer over a large bowl. This isn’t really necessary with cashews. 

Refrigerate for up to 5 days in an airtight container. Give a little shake before serving. 

Yield: 4 cups

[envira-gallery id="9227"]

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OAT MILK
Rolled, quick-cooking, even steel-cut will work. Oat milk can become gummy (which is why it’s so effective at combating high cholesterol), so be sure to use cold water and avoid over-blending.

Ingredients
1 cup oats
4 cups cold water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)
Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak the oats in water for at least 30 minutes or overnight. After soaking, drain the water from the oats, and rinse well with cold water. 

Add fresh cold water and oats to a blender, and blend just until smooth. As with the nut milks, you can add liquid or dry sweeteners or other flavors at this time, but be careful not to over-blend the oats.

Strain the milk using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or sieve/strainer over a bowl. Refrigerate for up to 5 days in an airtight container. 

Yield: 4 cups

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RICE MILK
By now, you’re getting the idea that you just need grain/nut/seed/bean + water to make delicious, nutritious milks. 

Ingredients

3/4 cup uncooked long grain brown or white rice
4 cups water (use less water for thicker, creamier milk)
Pinch of salt (optional, but it enhances the flavor)

Optional ingredients such as vanilla extract, cocoa powder, dates, maple syrup, agave, etc. 

Directions

Soak rice in 2 cups very hot (not boiling water) for 2 hours. The rice should be soft at the end of 2 hours. Drain and add to a blender. 

Add the 4 cups of water, salt, and any additional ingredients. Blend well. Taste for sweetness and adjust accordingly. Strain using a cheesecloth, nut milk bag, or sieve/strainer. 

Yield: 4 cups

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SOY MILK
Possibly the oldest of the bunch is soy milk, which originated in China thousands of years ago and was used long before we have written records to document the precise “day of discovery.” You can certainly make soy milk without a machine, but it is oodles easier to invest in a simple soy milk maker. (Here’s my favorite.) You’ll make back your investment in no time with the amount of delicious, nutty milk you will make. 

Though water is really the only beverage we have a physiological need for (beyond our own human milk when we’re young), it is certainly convenient and tasty to be able to make creamy, nutrient-rich milk from nuts, grains, legumes, and seeds. No packaging, no additives, no pregnant cow required. It’s a win-win during times of crisis or anytime. 

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PLANT MILK? LEAVE YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!

 

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Colleen Patrick-Goudreau is an author whose topics include animal agriculture, animal protection, and plant-based eating. She has written seven books, including several cookbooks, is a regular contributor to National Public Radio and LiveKindly, and has published letters and commentaries in The New York Times, The Economist, and The Christian Science Monitor. 

*Photos by Marie Laforêt

Homemade Flour Tortillas (Vegan Recipe)

I’m no “survivalist,” but I do know how to whip up a number of staples from scratch, and for that I am grateful.

Tortillas are something I make from scratch fairly regularly since becoming zero waste, but mostly corn tortillas made from masa flour. However, at my recent visit to the Food Mill for my dried bulk pantry items (beans, grains, flour, sunflower seeds — for the squirrels!), I forgot to get masa.

We make a LOT of beans in our house, and after making a beautiful pressure-cooker pot of chipotle pinto beans, I was jonesing to pair them with tortillas.

No masa? No problem.

It was time to perfect my flour tortilla skills, and I think I nailed it.

RECIPE FOR HOMEMADE FLOUR TORTILLAS

Ingredients
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup HOT water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use olive)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour and salt.
  2. Stir in the water and oil. You might start mixing with a wooden, but it’s oodles easier to just use your hands. Get those hands dirty!
  3. If you find the dough is sticky, sprinkle in some more flour; if it’s too dry and not forming a ball, add a smidge more water. You want a nice smooth ball of dough.
  4. Turn the ball onto a floured surface, and knead about 10 or 12 times. Let  it rest for 10 minutes.
  5. Divide the dough into 8 portions. Begin shaping each one into a round disc, then on a lightly floured surface, roll each portion into a 7-inch circle.
  6. Spray a little oil into a nonstick skillet, and cook each tortilla over medium heat until lightly browned, 1 minute on each side. The subsequent tortillas will take less time once the pan is well heated.

Yes, you can freeze these beauties in a sealed package, but I think you’ll find you’ll eat them up before you have a chance!

ENJOY, and let me know what you think! (Also, don’t forget to check out the Quick and Easy Meals recipes for my famous No Queso Quesadillas. Now you can do so with these homemade tortillas!

How Zero Waste Changed the Way I Eat (And Why Baby Carrots Are Evil)

Once you decide to make zero-waste, plastic-free, low- or no-packaging a priority in your life, you learn very quickly you have to make some changes when it comes to what you buy, how you shop, what you eat, and how you cook. Some might find this an inconvenience. I find it an adventure. Journey with me as I share some reflections on favorite foods and how my relationship with them has changed since “becoming zero-waste.”  Oh right, and I’ll also share with you WHY BABY CARROTS ARE EVIL from this joyful vegan’s point of view. 

Thank you to supporters for making this a 100% listener-supported podcast. Become a supporter at patreon.com/colleenpatrickgoudreau!

25 Meaningful Zero-Waste, Ethical Gifts

Aspiring to live “zero-waste” doesn’t mean being perfect or never buying anything ever again. It means valuing and taking responsibility for what we bring into our lives or into the lives of others.  This list first debuted on my Food for Thought Podcast, so if you’d like to hear it in the context of a larger story about living meaningfully, compassionately, and thoughtfully, check out the episode Lessons and Gifts: Making Meaningful Holidays (and Lives).

As for our list, I’ve categorized them into a few different categories and look forward to hearing your thoughts and your ideas for meaningful, zero-waste, ethical gifts. Please use the comments below to do so!

FOOD

  1. Loose Tea — find your favorite in bulk or in tins; if you order from FarLeaves.com (their tins are reusable and recyclable), enter “colleen” as the coupon code for 10% off
  2. Herbs and Spices — If you can’t find them in bulk near you, you should be able to find spices and herbs in glass jars (which can be reused again and again).  When creating your gift for others, you can make theme-based gift packets, such as “baking spices” (including cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cardamom), or “Italian herbs” (including parsley, basil, and oregano), or “favorite herbs for soup.” You get the idea. Add the spice jars to a basket and wrap in a pretty kitchen towel and raffia ribbon.
  3. Fruit and Nut Basket — Go to a local farm stand or farmers market and buy some beautiful seasonal fruits like persimmon, pomegranates, and apples and some whole walnuts (along with a nice metal nutcracker) — even a jar of local or homemade jam and create a gift basket. Add a couple hand-written recipes that feature the fruits you’ve included. 
  4. Ready-to-Bake Ingredients in a Jar — Instead of giving chocolate chip cookies, what about giving chocolate chip cookies ingredients (and promising to come over and bake with your friend)! Get a bunch of jars from a thrift store and add exactly the amount of all the ingredients in each jar, along with the recipe itself. Make it more special by adding a pie plate or cupcake tin, and pack it up in a pretty paper box. 
  5. Homemade Baked Goods — Bake a pie, crumble, or cobbler and hand-deliver your gift! Make my Caramel Popcorn (from The Joy of Vegan Baking), and present it in a pretty  tin. There are so many ways to create a pretty presentation of homemade goodies.

REUSABLES
Give these individually, as stocking stuffers, or Secret Santa gifts — or create a gift pack of some or all of these. (If you order online, just call when you’re placing your order to request using only paper and not plastic packing materials.)

  1. Reusable straws
  2. Stainless steel food containers
  3. Reusable coffee cups
  4. Reusable grocery shopping bags
  5. Reusable produce bags
  6. Reusable water bottles
  7. Reusable tea thermos (you know me and my favorite tea thermos!)
  8. Reusable shampoo and conditioner bottles
  9. Reusable travel cutlery set
  10.  

EXPERIENCES

  1. The 30-Day Vegan Challenge Online Course 
  2. Concert or Theatre Tickets  — Either find a theatre near your recipient and pick a show you think they’d like to see, or buy a gift certificate from the theatre so your recipient can choose exactly what show they want to attend. 
  3. The Gift of Time (in a Coupon Book): Something I’ve done over many years is create a little coupon book, which you can make as simple or as elaborate as you like, that you give to a loved one for them to redeem — for a massage, a home-cooked meal, a movie, a walk, a hike, a dance — whatever experiences you want to encourage you loved one to ask you for. There are companies that sell these nowadays, but I just like making my own. 
  4. Travel by Theme: My husband David and I set for ourselves the goal to sleep in every county in California. When we lived on the east coast, one theme was “Literary / Author’s Houses” (and still is, depending on where we go) as well as “Lighthouses of New England.” The National Parks of North America is another on our list, and that can be done either by driving or by train! (Travel doesn’t have to include flying, though if you want it to, then I recommend my CPG Vegan Trips!)
  5. Local Walking Tours. Many cities have walking tours led by docents who love where they live and relish sharing the history of the place with others. Lots of cities also have themed walking tours — they might be literary, history, architectural, women’s history, etc. (For those who came to my Compassion in Action a couple years ago, I led a walking tour of the animal protection history in Oakland!). Contact a city’s chamber of commerce and register you and a friend today! Many are free; some ask for donations, some you pay a minimal fee for — it’s worth it! I promise!

BOOKS 
 Obviously, as a writer and a reader, I’m a huge fan of books — even if they’re ebooks or audiobooks. I usually buy a bunch of my favorite books to give out throughout the year, and I’ve listed some below that I use as manuals for living every day. I encourage you to create your own.

  1. Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu (trans. Stephen Mitchell)
  2. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius (trans. Gregory Hays)
  3. The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
  4. Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker
  5. Zooburbia by Tal Moses
  6. Commonplace Book and / or Blank Journals — I journal every day, but I also keep a common book inspired by the Stoics. (Ryan Holiday explains here.) The idea is to not only record your own thoughts (blank journaling/free-writing) but also to record quotes and thoughts of others you find meaningful and want to remember. The act of just writing down meaningful sentences and paragraphs penetrates your mind even more than just reading them. 

BONUS IDEA: MY BOOKS. I’m an author. I’m proud of my seven babies. If you’d like to buy one or more as gifts for others, you’ve made it worth the work I’ve put into each of them. Thank you. 

ENJOY!


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How to Host a Zero-Waste Holiday Dinner

It’s no secret in our home and among our friends: I love to host — parties, dinners, dinner parties, happy hours, anything that brings our loved ones together. 

I blame (READ: credit) my mother. She was the consummate hostess, and I have very fond memories of constant parties at our house — in every season.

  • In the summer, she hosted neighborhood picnics and potato sack races in our backyard!
  • At Christmastime, she hosted holiday parties and even arranged visits from Santa!
  • In the spring, she hosted brunch and Easter egg hunts.
  • And I have oodles of photos of my mother in every Halloween costume imaginable as she this holiday very seriously.

She loved bringing people together, and I just wish I could tell her how much she inspired this quality in me — without even realizing it. She died in 2020.

And so on this Thanksgiving, eight of us sat down to dinner together, and in keeping with my intention to live “zero waste,” I thought I’d share with you how I’m able host dinner without buying any “stuff.” Of course, the term “zero waste” is aspirational rather than rigid. No one is truly zero waste, but for me it means:

  • valuing what I choose to bring into (or already have in) my life/home
  • giving away or refusing what I don’t or can’t value/use
  • taking responsibility for whatever goods I do bring into my life/home
  • avoiding single-use plastic/plastic packaging as much as possible

With that as my guide, it’s very easy to look around my home and see what I already have that can be used for decorating and table-scaping.

THE TABLE

I have had the same couple sets of plates for decades — and one in particular is perfect for fall and winter. I let the season, my mood, and the light dictate the decor, and this year…it’s warm greens and browns.

THE CENTERPIECE

This beautiful stag is our year-round centerpiece, because…deer! But for the Thanksgiving dinner, I added height by propping him up on a cake stand and creating a bed or rosemary for him to stand on. 

ELEMENTS FROM NATURE

On that note, I use a lot of natural materials whatever the season — going outside and gathering leaves, pinecones, flowers, branches — and in this case, cutting rosemary from the numerous rosemary plants we have.

NAPKINS AND TABLECLOTS

We use cloth napkins every day as a matter of course, and of the yellow, brown, and green ones we rotate, the brown seemed perfect for this table. I’ve had these leaf napkin rings for eons, and they’re perfect for fall and winter. I have a few different runners for the table, but I don’t tend to like to use placemats. I find it’s just easier to wipe the table than wash table linens. That’s just me.

PLACE SETTINGS

I wanted to personalize the place settings, which also makes it easier for everyone to know where to sit, so I printed out everyone’s names on cardstock — using paper I already had and ribbon and string I picked from my “gift-wrap” drawer. I also pulled out these little bud vases, which you can easily find these in thrift and second-hand shops. Or, alternatively you could just tie the rosemary together and lay down on the plate.

CHAIRS

As we have only 6 chairs for our small dining room table, instead of buying additional chairs, we borrowed 2 from a neighbor.

THE FOOD

Even though we’re hosting, our friends are also contributing dishes (such as  bread stuffing, green bean casserole, mushroom gravy, salads, pumpkin pie, and apple cobbler. I, however, am in charge of the main dish and some sides:

Oh, and cranberry sauce. Here’s a confession. My husband loves the cranberry sauce from a can, which actually works out well from a zero-waste perspective. As I said, it’s not that zero waste dictates we don’t buy anything; it means we take responsibility for what we do buy.

(SIDE NOTE: Because glass and aluminum are both materials that still have a value in the marketplace and are thus recycled again and again and again (unlike plastic, which is either NOT recycled or able to be recycled only once or twice before losing quality and thus being sent to the landfill). Plus, most plastic is just packaging and just goes straight to the landfill. Listen to my podcast episodes on this topic in Food for Thought.)

  • That means if I have the choice of buying something in a glass container, aluminum can, or plastic container, I’m going to choose glass first (because I wash and keep the bottle/jar), aluminum second (it gets properly recycled), and never plastic (if I can avoid it). 
  • Because I wanted to add corn kernels to my cornbread and because David wanted cranberry sauce, I was able to find each in a can. (Corn on the cob is not in season right now.)  In the past, I used to buy corn and cranberries (to make fresh sauce) in the frozen section in a plastic bag. Being mindful of packaging now, I would rather buy in aluminum cans.
  • Everything I needed for my lentil loaf was already in my cupboard and had been bought in bulk (lentils, herbs, onions, etc.), but we had just bought walnuts that David cracked open as his contribution to dinner.
  • The milk for my cornbread (and potatoes) came was homemade soymilk using my 2nd-hand soymilk maker and dried/soaked soybeans. 
  • The flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda all came from the bulk sections of my local grocery store, and Miyoko’s butter actually comes in paper packaging that I can compost.
  • As for my carrot soup, I’m thrilled to have found a few grocery stores in my neighborhood that sell carrots in bulk — meaning NOT in plastic bags! Yellow potatoes are also easy to find not in plastic (especially at the farmers market but also in stores, as are ginger and garlic (the other ingredients for the soup). 
  • We also serve wine and spirits, all of which are in glass and thus recyclable. 
  • Finally, all of our food scraps are added to our own compost bins OR to our city’s green bins (Oakland has a robust compost program). 40% of food brought into our homes goes straight into the garbage (and thus the landfill), causing additional problems such as the creation of greenhouse gases. (Listen to my podcast episode Food is Not Garbage for more on food waste.)

And so there you have it. It’s not about being perfect, but it is about doing the best we can. Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something. Anything. 

Happy holidays!

What are your favorite zero-waste tips for decor, table-scaping, and cooking? PLEASE ADD YOUR COMMENTS BELOW!

From Consumer to Owner: A Zero Waste Mindset

The changes I recently made to incorporate more zero-waste actions into my life have resulted in a change in my perspective. Listen to my NPR commentary about how we can have a zero-waste mindset while reducing our environmental footprint. Listen below, on KQED’s website, read the transcript below, and please share with friends and family. It’s a perspective that can change the way we interact with the world.

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A Zero Waste Mindset

I’ve always tried to live lightly on this earth and avoid causing harm to animals. I’ve been vegan for almost 20 years. I shop with canvas bags. I compost all of our family’s food and yard scraps. We irrigate our gardens with grey water from our showers and sinks. We shop at our local farmers market. We purposefully live where we can walk everywhere. And when we do drive, we have a single car — a plug-in hybrid whose gas tank we have yet to fill up.

Not perfect, but not bad. And yet earlier this year, I realized I may have unconsciously stopped doing more because I thought I was doing a lot. And so I did it: I “became” zero waste. And it has been absolutely life-changing.

The first time I heard the term “zero waste” was in 2006 when Oakland adopted its zero-waste policy in relation to its waste management. In fact, the term “zero waste” has its root in Oakland as well. It was coined in the 1970s by a chemist as the name for the company he founded to find new ways to use surplus chemicals discarded by the electronics industry.

The simple concept of zero waste is to prevent rather than divert trash, but at its core it’s about valuing and taking responsibility for goods we bring into our lives — replacing a linear system whereby goods are designed for discard with a circular system whereby goods are built for longevity and recirculated for as long as possible.

We need governments and manufacturers to help create a zero-waste world, but there’s so much individuals can do. We can replace our reliance on single-use plastic, reuse rather than recycle items like glass jars and bottles, repair what we already have, eliminate food waste in our home.

The journey thus far has been enlightening and overwhelming and exhilarating, and there have been many gifts and discoveries. Becoming zero waste has shifted some of my behaviors. I buy less, and I value more what I actually buy. But most significantly it has shifted my mindset — from seeing myself has an owner rather than a consumer of goods.

I’m not just living a zero-waste lifestyle. I’ve come to have a zero-waste mindset.

With a Perspective, this is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.