This is really embarrassing, but I've never been big on recycling or the environment or global warming or saving the whales.
Truthfully, I didn't think it really affected me ... so I didn't really care. Yes, it was a pretty myopic viewpoint, and one I'm certainly not proud of now, but you need to know that I haven't always been the kind of person who asks the bartender not to add a straw to her drink because "they go straight to the landfill."
Let's go back. I suppose you could trace this ever-growing fascination and gratitude for nature back to when I first started seeing Joey. He introduced me to the Great Outdoors—and he's a camping in the dirt, zero running water, eating-with-your-hands kind of outdoorsman. After living in New York City for eight years, I thought anything green that wasn't planted by a gardener in a public park seemed like an anomaly. But I pretty quickly fell head over heels for how living for a few days in nature made me feel—after just a few days sleeping under the stars, I felt more grounded, thoughtful, relaxed, and energized. We'd get back to LA and my nature-induced bliss would last for a few days ("You guys, I'm zen AF. I'm outdoorsy now!"), only to be replaced by crippling anxiety and doubt as soon as regular life set in.
I realized pretty quickly that (a) my boyfriend just might kill me if I didn't chill the fuck out, and (b) I felt the most like myself when I could spend time outdoors, even if it was just for a walk or a quick run.
Over the next two years, as we got better at the whole camping thing and explored more places, we talked a lot about Leave No Trace. LNT is a policy that most serious campers consider as the Golden Rule—should someone stumble upon your campsite, they shouldn't be able to tell that you'd even been there. If anything, some people believe that you should leave your site in better condition than you found it.
I always found it at odds with our beliefs that we'd use things like paper towels, or saran wrap, or tin foil to prepare and cook our food. And then I noticed that most campers used prepackaged, single-use food packets for their meals, which they ate while wrapped up in weather-proof jackets made of synthetic materials. The thing that really got me was the amount of trash we'd have to carry out of our site after just one weekend—between the two of us, we'd sometimes produce an entire garbage bag of trash. Yuck. For people that love the planet and want to leave it better than we found it, we sure created a lot of waste.
And then I learned about the impact of the clothing industry on the environment. I'll never forget sitting on my bed, talking to a source about how much oil is used to support the textile industry every year, and looking into my open closet with horror.
The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.
I thought of my drawers full of moisture-wicking, four-way-stretch athletic gear. MADE OUT OF OIL. KILLING THE PLANET. WITH EVERY FREAKING SPORTS BRA! Basically, I suddenly became massively aware of my carbon footprint.
After that, I felt like I had to offset the damage I'd done to the environment somehow. I researched like mad, but the universe kept sending my little signs that I should check out the zero waste movement.
Eventually, I stumbled onto Lauren Singer's website (QUEEN!), which led to a lot more research ... which finally led me to decide, on January 5, 2017, to go #zerowaste. It's been over 30 days, and the changes have been huge. Not only have I started composting, recycling more (we'll get to why recycling isn't the best option in the world later), and buying in bulk, but somehow this challenge encouraged me to eat a cleaner diet, use better skincare products, declutter my closet and apartment, and even save a ton of $$$$.
On top of all that, I feel like I've made a difference. The average person creates 4.3 pounds of trash a day; after 30 days of living zero waste, I created 4 oz of trash. And you can bet that most of that ends up in a landfill, where it never breaks down. Just by changing a few habits, you can dramatically reduce that number—it's not even necessary to go zero waste to make a difference.
I documented my process on Instagram, and I've never had more people ask me about anything IN MY LIFE! So I figured I'd share what I learned here, and keep it going because I still have a lot of changes to make, too! As an athlete, I'm committed to finding ways to make zero waste part of my sport; we've never tried zero waste camping; and what does it look like to be zero waste if you move apartments or have a wedding or pop out a kid? I'll explore all of this stuff (hopefully not the kid thing for a while!) here and on my Instagram.