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Could you fit all of your trash into a mason jar? While that’s definitely not the case for us right now, we’ve been starting to understand the zero waste lifestyle thanks to some guidance and tips that we’ve learned while reading the new book, Zero Waste: Simple Life Hacks to Drastically Reduce Your Trash.
Written by Shia Su, this guide demystifies and simplifies the zero-waste lifestyle in a fun way, providing effective strategies for waste-free living at your own pace. As the founder of Wasteland Rebel, Shia’s book provides useable insight on how to incorporate the zero waste lifestyle into your own life, featuring tips on how to build you own zero waste beginner’s kit to how to make your own DIY household cleaners to how to have a zero waste bathroom and tons more. We recently had the pleasure to interview Shia to learn more about her and her journey to the zero waste lifestyle. Read on for more:
Interview with Shia Su on the Zero Waste Lifestyle
Wellness Patterns: How did you get into the Zero Waste lifestyle? What are some of the first steps you took?
Shia Su: I never intended to go zero waste. Like most people, I heard about zero waste and dismissed the idea as “too unrealistic” for me. However, my husband and I did want to reduce our trash and live “a tad” more sustainably. We simply tried one thing after another at our very own pace. We never thought about what would be difficult or even impossible, because we assumed we’d only do what was within what’s manageable for us anyway. We actually made it a fun little challenge: “Let’s ask the sushi place around the corner if they are okay with putting our take out order into our own containers!” Or: “Let’s just ask the store owners, maybe they can order organic oats in a big paper bag for us!” Spoiler alert: We had the nicest conversations and ended up with a 25 pound bag of organic oats, a standing weekly sushi order in our own containers, and big smiles on our faces!
Wellness Patterns: What has been the hardest part about going Zero Waste?
Shia Su: It’s funny because I get asked this a lot. Personally, I think it’s a matter of mindset. We never took the “zero” in “zero waste” very seriously. But again, we never thought we’d be able to reduce our trash to this small amount. We simply ended up this way because each and every step was so doable! The “zero” in “zero waste” make it feel so overwhelming, and make people focus on what doesn’t work (yet) instead of the potential or what they have accomplished. With my book, I want to change the mindset from deficit-oriented to empowerment.
Wellness Patterns: What’s the best way for someone to start?
Shia Su: Start with what is easy and doable for you, and be kind to yourself. Have fun with it, and make it your own. There is no one right way to do things, whatever works for you is your right way. Keep in mind that the absolute amount of trash you’ll end up with will depend on what you have access to, your very individual situation, your responsibilities, your needs, and of course whoever you live with. And that’s totally fine!
Wellness Patterns: How can someone create their own zero waste kit?
Shia Su: Use what you’ve already got. It is not very eco-friendly to just toss everything and buy shiny new equipment. If you have cabinets full of plastic food containers—just use them. No reason to feel bad about it! If you don’t have a fancy schmancy tumbler for coffee—I don’t either! I simply ask the barista to fill up my mason jar that came with a store-bought tomato sauce, or I just have my coffee “for here”. We still use our laundry nets for produce, yes, the ones for socks and bras! My mom simply reuses the old plastic produce bags she already has at home. She rinses them out and hangs them up to dry. We hit the bulk section with cloth bags now, some of which we made out of fabric scraps. But we used to just grab whatever jars and (plastic) food containers we had at home. Whatever works is fine, really.
Wellness Patterns: What about families? Can this work with more people in a family unit?
Shia Su: Every family is different as human relationships are very complex. I have met zero waste families with kids for whom zero waste is normal. I also get about one email a week from teenagers that want to live zero waste but their parents don’t take them seriously and dismiss it as a phase. So can it work? Sure. Will it work with your family? Well, that will depend on your family. And sometimes that will also change over time. My mom made it very clear in the beginning that she wanted no part of it, both when we went vegan and later zero waste. Yet here we are now, four years down the line, and she prepares the most amazing vegan food for us, refuses plastic bags, and brings her own reusable chopsticks so she doesn’t have to use the disposable chopsticks many restaurants provide. Start with what you have direct control over, things like swapping your own body and tooth care products. When it comes to buying groceries, make it your share of the chores, so you can go for the package-free options as often as possible. Respect other family members’ choices, and ask them to respect yours. Living together means there will always be times when you butt heads, but also times where you are incredibly proud of each other, and that’s no different with zero waste.
Wellness Patterns: What have you learned about yourself through your own Zero Waste journey?
Shia Su: I have learned that there are many more options than what meets the eye. Like most people, I thought what I could do to align my lifestyle to my values was limited to what was offered on supermarket and drugstore shelves. I hated all the plastic-packaging and how all all this plastic waste is choking our oceans, yet I thought: “What can I do? That’s how things are sold.” However, once you start with going zero waste, you will see bulk everywhere. You will learn that your voice does count. You are not insignificant. So to me, zero waste is a lot about empowerment.
Wellness Patterns: Tell us more about the book? What do you hope a reader will get out of the book?
Shia Su: I wrote this book with the voice of one my best friends since high school in mind. She is a career woman with a busy schedule and a long commute. She always said she’d love to have a more sustainable lifestyle but simply lacks the time to do the research and to DIY everything. Besides, she prefers to spend the little free time she has with her family and her husband. And I get it—who’s got the time, really? She wanted a preferably skimable guide with simple hacks that she didn’t have to read cover to cover. So I came up with the very visual beginner-friendly cookbook-like concept. It helps you get into the right mindset and provides background information, much like the introductory section of cookbooks explaining the particularities of a cuisine. There is also a chapter on zero waste helpers so you know what equipment will be helpful for your zero waste endeavors. It’s helpful and very practical information, but if you don’t have the energy to deal with it, that’s fine too! You can just jump to whatever you feel is manageable for you at the moment, or whatever you feel drawn to when flipping through the pages, and try one or two easy swaps or a one-minute recipe!
Check out Zero Waste at Amazon or your local bookstore and be sure to read Shia’s blog for the latest in leading a zero waste life.
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There are so many factors that go into how our clothing is made. From where it is sourced to what materials that are used, the production of fashion has changed over the years to offer consumers cheaper items that are made a faster rate. This has a direct impact on the environment has more clothing is making its way to our wastelands–not to mention creating a new culture focused on cheap, fast consumerism. However, there are also many brands that are adhering to both ethical and sustainable practices to change the industry and thus how we consume. One such company that we recently learned about is virtue + vice, a women’s sustainable and ethical clothing brand.
Started by Melanie, who used to source and develop clothing for some well-known big box and fast fashion American retailers, wanted to do things differently and created virtue + vice. As a new clothing brand, virtue + vice provides eco-conscious women with style that promises to produce the smallest possible carbon footprint, while offering a safe work environment and living wage to artisans in India. With a focus on consumer education, virtue + vice gives a ‘behind the seams’ look at how the clothes are made, showcasing each piece’s unique story and the people behind it.
The debut collection, features a gorgeous collection prints, like oversized palm leaves, vintage florals, and scalloped mermaid scales is perfect for hot, sunny days, tropical getaways, or even just trying to bring a beachy bohemian vibe to your regular happy hour. To learn more about their styles and how the clothing is made, we spoke with Melanie who gave the insider scoop on this exciting new brand:
Interview with virtue + vice
Wellness Patterns: How did the idea for virtue + vice come about?
virtue + vice: I have worked in the fashion industry for over seven years, and lived and worked throughout Asia. During that time I have seen a lot places and a lot of things. I wanted to create a brand that pulled back the glamorous curtain of the fashion industry; and educated consumers on what it really takes to create shiny editorial magazine photos and pinterest porn. I wanted to do this while creating an ethical and sustainable brand with real 100% transparency, as a model for what the industry should strive to become.
Wellness Patterns: How is your production model important for the retail industry?
virtue + vice: Most retailers produce too much. They do this for a couple of reasons. Sometimes it is actually cheaper for them to make more (you get better prices the bigger the order) and to have left overs, than it is to make less. Crazy, right? They also produce to discount. They make the markup ridiculously high because they are planning for most of it to sell on sale. We don’t believe in either of those practices. We make what we believe we can sell, even if we don’t meet lower price minimums, and we price fairly. It’s less wasteful this way and better for the customer.
Everything we make is also ethically and sustainably made. We believe in paying more for quality products and factories with safe working conditions and fair wages.
Wellness Patterns: What can someone expect from the collection?
virtue + vice: Easy to wear day to night pieces. Most of the clothes are easy transitions from a day at the beach or a bbq, to going out at night. It’s a cute relaxed look, without trying too hard to be trendy.
Wellness Patterns: How are the clothes made?
virtue + vice: Everything is made in Gujarat India right now. I used a lot of khadi, which is hand spun and hand woven fabric. It doesn’t use any electricity or water to make, and each spinning machine and loom that is replaced by man power creates 150 jobs. I use low impact non azo digital printing on the khadi. Digital printing uses less water and electricity than typical industry printing, and creates less air emissions. I live at my factory usually for about 3 weeks during production times, to ensure fair practices and quality.
Wellness Patterns: What is your favorite piece?
virtue + vice: My favorite pieces are the VADA khadi shorts. I LOVE khadi, and the waist band is super stretching and comfortable.
Wellness Patterns: What are your plans for the future?
virtue + vice: I plan to introduce a lower price point line for spring 2018 using commodity fabrics, to make sustainable and ethical fashion even more accessible to everyone.
Excited to check out virtue + vice! They are also hosting a 48-hour private flash sale. Check out the details below to save big on their stunning sustainable fashions:
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You can pretty much go into any grocery store these days to discover aisles dedicated to organic and healthy snacks. What was once a niche category that you could only find at a health food store has now grown to $43.15 million dollar (2015 stats) industry with more people seeking out these healthy alternatives. One such company that was at the pioneer of this movement was Just Tomatoes. Conceived in 1985 by Karen Cox who envisioned a brand that would utilize dehydration and freeze-drying technology to bring farm fresh fruits and vegetables to the public year-round in the most nutritious, convenient, cost-conscious and flavor-packed manner possible. Working with her husband, Bill Cox, a fourth generation family farmer, they created Just Tomatoes – initially selling dehydrated tomatoes from their farm, then quickly outgrowing their name by adding apples, persimmons, berries, corn and mix to their line of naturally-fresh, chemical-free products.
During a recent chat with Bill Cox, we learned that the process starts by using fruits and vegetables directly from farms, ranches and orchards where they’re allowed to ripen naturally before being picked at the peak of flavor. The produce is then washed gently, and cut into bite-size pieces before being flash frozen. All water is then extracted by vacuum. Since the temperature never exceeds 90ºF, freeze-dried foods are considered a raw food (the company’s dehydrated products are dried at 125ºF). Whether freeze-dried or dehydrated, Karen’s Naturals’ fruits and veggies always maintain their color, nutrients and natural flavors without the use of any additives or preservatives.
Sadly, Karen passed but her family continues to honor and legacy and recently re-branding the company as Karen’s Naturals, to both honor her and continue her mission to create healthy, farm-fresh freeze-dried fruits and vegetables. This includes an expansion of their product line and retail distribution where you can now find Karen’s Naturals in 37 distinct fruit and vegetable variations, along with their new line of 100% natural fruit powders. Available in all-natural and organic versions, some of Karen’s Naturals products include: Just Apples, Just Bananas, Just Strawberries, Just Blueberries, Just Grapes, Just Peaches, Just Mango, Cherries, Just Raspberries, Just Tomatoes, Just Corn, Just Peas, Just Hot Veggies, Fruit Powders and more. Additionally, all of these products are naturally free of gluten, dairy, wheat and nuts.
A pioneer brand in the industry, Karen’s Naturals is a great way to snack on healthy veggies and fruits without having to worry about added any sugars, preservatives or GMOs.
Available online at www.karensnaturals.com, through Amazon.com and other online retailers and at such health food stores as Whole Foods, Karen’s Naturals offers individual “on-the-go” snack bag versions of its freeze-dried and dehydrated fruit and veggie products (all under two dollars each), as well as bulk packages and Variety Packs.
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