The Whole Point of Zero Waste [spoiler alert: it’s not about the waste]

The Whole Point of Zero Waste [spoiler alert: it’s not about the waste]

You heard it here first, folks. Zero Waste is not actually about the waste.

When I first hopped on the waste-less bandwagon around a year ago, I kept seeing all these articles by negative Nancys basically calling the zero waste movement a fraud.

“It’s not actually zero waste,” they said.

“It’s not even going to make a dent in the waste problem.”

“The only way to save the planet is get big business and government legislation involved.”

Ok, so I hear all of this angsty, “why bother” business and I realize that they have all missed the entire point of the zero waste movement.

It’s not about the waste.

Technically it is about waste, but in reality, this way of life is MUCH MUCH bigger than just how much garbage you personally produce. It’s about more than reusable shopping bags and stainless steel straws and cooking from scratch and BYORC [bring your own reusable container – I bet you couldn’t tell I made that up…]. It’s not about storing all your trash in a jar, or in anything at all. None of that matters if we’re missing the whole point.

So what is the whole point?

Are you ready for it?

Zero waste is about affecting social change.

In other words, zero waste is less about how much actual waste you are producing and is much more about how you are influencing other people’s understanding of the waste problem. Sure, you can store five years worth of rubbish in a can, but if you are the only one doing it – I’m sorry – it’s just not going to help.

On trash pickup day, I see so many trash cans in my neighborhood filled to the brim. Some houses have several cans out. Some have whole piles of extra crap next to their cans. I would have to be certifiably insane to think that I am helping the cause by not contributing trash to the weekly pickup. That’s just nonsense. The quantity of trash is just plain enormous.

But I’m not trying to discourage zero wasters [or potential converts]. On the contrary, I’m trying to encourage everyone by saying that you ARE making a difference. Just by participating in the zero waste movement and living the zero waste lifestyle [and it doesn’t have to be perfectly, by the way] we are influencing those around us.

The whole reason the zero waste movement became defined by the trash in the jar stuff is because it is shocking. When someone holds a pint jar and says that all of the trash they have produced in the past year is inside, well, people notice. Because that is just plain not normal in our society. And that catches people’s attention. That plants a seed of curiosity, which we all hope will lead to research and then enlightenment and then changed behavior.

After all, that is the journey that we all went on before going zero waste, right?

My favorite zero waste blogger, Anne-Marie Bonneau at The Zero Waste Chef, says,

“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”

Those millions of people aren’t just going to wake up one morning and start refusing plastic straws. But maybe if they see us doing it, if they hear us talking about it, then maybe the millions will join us.

It seems like a daunting problem from the perspective of the individual – and, yes, we do need corporate and government support to create significant and systemic change. But we shouldn’t let that discourage us either. All of the businesses and governments in the world are made up of people like you and me. It may seem like corporations and governments are huge insurmountable obstacles in the fight for the planet, but when you look closely, they are just people – people who have friends and families, who like to vacation at the beach or hike in the mountains, who also put their trash cans by the road each week. These people are not unreachable and all it takes is for us to set an example of sustainable living that spreads until it reaches the companies and government agencies that can create the biggest impact.

Don’t listen to the nay-sayers. We can create a positive change. All we have to do is set the example.

This is our purpose. This is the whole point.

❤️❤️❤️

Karis

[Nearly] Zero Waste Shoes

[Nearly] Zero Waste Shoes

Do you know how badly I wish there were such a thing as truly zero waste shoes????

Like, really badly.

And I’m not even a shoe person. But when I committed to sourcing my clothes through ethical, sustainable means I just kinda assumed that it would be possible to find shoes the same way.

Turns out, I was mistaken.

Of course, this post is not ALL bad news. There ARE some sustainable shoe brands out there – Made Trade, Everlane, Rothy’s, Allbirds [among others]. But none are totally zero waste [that I have found]. And more importantly, none of them make performance running shoes – which is, of course, what I need.

Eco-Friendly Running Shoes

The issue with finding sustainable running shoes is that they have to be able to perform well. They need to have cushion and support or my running [and feet and knees and legs and hips] will suffer. They also need to be replaced every 300-500 miles because the soles wear down and then, once again, my running will suffer. This also means that I can’t buy them used.

My dream is to find a running shoe that is comfortable and lightweight and can handle 500 miles of pavement pounding AND is 100% biodegradable.

I’m telling you right now, that is a total pipe dream.

At best, I’m hoping for a brand to someday take back worn out running shoes to recycle into new shoes. That would be the second best option. If we could close the loop on the running shoes, I would consider that zero waste. But, unfortunately, no such shoe exists [at least not that I know of, but I have my eye on the new Adidas project called Futurecraft.Loop].

So, while I’m waiting for the perfect zero waste shoe, I had to find the best alternative.

And this is where my new Adidas UltraBOOST Parley running shoes come in.

Meet My Adidas UltraBOOSTs

These are a collaboration between Adidas [the athletic shoe giant] and Parley for the Oceans [a nonprofit that is trying to save our oceans]. The top of the shoe is made [of some undefined percentage] of recycled plastic from the ocean.

Well that’s pretty cool.

And, honestly, the shoes are pretty cool with or without the ocean plastic. They aren’t kidding when they call them UltraBOOSTs…

Eco-Friendly Non-Running Running Shoes

While I was researching sustainable running shoes – and by the way, I did A TON of research – I came across these beautiful runners by Allbirds.

Meet my Allbirds Tree Runners

Unfortunately, despite being called runners, they are not actually for running. But they are so beautiful and from such a great eco-friendly company that I bought a pair for casual wear.

You can wear these without socks!!! THEY ARE SO COMFORTABLE!!! And they are machine washable [which is important because I went with white].

These are sparking some serious joy, folks…

Even the packaging they came in was totally waste free. 👍🏻

In Conclusion

So, basically shoes are still tough to find zero waste – especially athletic shoes – but it’s important to me to do my homework and make the most ethical and most sustainable choice I can.

All I can do is give my consumer dollars to the companies that are doing their best for people and planet and hope that others follow.

If you have sustainable shoe brands to share, let me know!

🌍 🌎 🌏

Karis

Lessons in Motherhood and rewarding good behavior

Lessons in Motherhood and rewarding good behavior

As a [mostly] stay-at-home mom, these four kids are my whole world…and they require TONS of my time and energy, which is bad because I’ve been sleep-deprived and short-tempered for the past two months.

Now that I’ve had my fourth baby, I can confirm that my favorite Jim Gaffigan quote is 100% correct…

I’m not kidding, folks. It’s been rough.

The Parenting Problem

Specifically, I’ve been struggling with correcting bad behavior [or in other words, getting my kids to do what I want them to do].

Until recently, our method was simple: disobedience or other bad behaviors resulted in a time-out or the loss of a privilege [treat after dinner, screen time, special activity, etc]. But it has turned into me constantly threatening the kids with consequences that end up being consequences for me too – which only makes me more upset.

I began to feel like I needed to switch to motivating with positive reinforcement. Otherwise, it feels like I am constantly taking things away from them – or threatening to do so.

But I didn’t know how to make the switch. It wasn’t like I could give my kid a cookie every time he or she did something kind or obeyed right away.

This just a random recent picture of the kids being cute – DON’T BUY IT! 😂

The A-Ha Moment

It suddenly occurred to me one night as I was trying to get my kids to lay quietly in their beds that by changing my wording, I could turn the consequence into a reward.

So instead of saying, “lie down and be quiet or you’ll lose your video tomorrow,” I said “if you lie down and stay quiet, then you’ll get to watch a video tomorrow!”

Strangely enough, it worked.

So now, instead of saying, “pick up your room, or you can’t go outside,” I say, “everyone who helps to pick up their room will get to go outside to ride bikes!”

Instead of saying, “if you don’t finish your dinner, you won’t get ice cream,” I say, “if you eat your last three bites, then you’ll get to have ice cream!”

I’m not sure why we always resorted to threatening a punishment when we could have just changed our phrasing and offered a reward. Nothing we are doing has changed. We have just changed the way we present the choice to them.

It’s too early to tell whether I’m actually getting more consistent good behavior from the kids, but it’s already making me less crabby.

Rewarding feels so much better than handing out [and enforcing] consequences. Now I don’t always have to be the bad guy.

Another one of the kids looking all innocent…

The One Caveat

Of course, this doesn’t work after a bad behavior has already happened. There are definitely times when a consequence is necessary, but a lot of parenting is trying to motivate kids to behave better and I don’t know about you, but my kids are much more motivated by rewards than by threats.

In general, my kids are great. Of course, they have their moments, but I’m not trying to make it sound like they are always terribly behaved. But as they grow older, I am facing new behavioral challenges and I often feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.

Any and all advice in this area is appreciated!

😁😁😁

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

Plastic Free July 2019: My Failures [and Successes]

No one is perfect, right? 🤷‍♀️

Seriously, though, I’m glad this plastic free business is not about perfection. Our take-and-toss society makes living without any plastic nearly impossible [especially if you have kids] and single-use plastics are EVERYWHERE.

Image from UN Environment

And old habits die hard, folks. But I am slowly making new, more sustainable habits.

Overall, I’ve been doing great with my zero waste goals. I went so far as to not buy anything at all on my entire 12 hour drive to New York…WITH FOUR KIDS! If you have ever taken a road trip with children, you know how tempting those drive through nuggets are so you can toss them into the back seat to keep the kids quiet. But I just couldn’t face the waste.

My three-week-old baby on her first road trip. ❤️

As far as Plastic Free July went, I did pretty well for the month – but, to my embarrassment, I made some rookie mistakes.

These were my commitments for the month:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. For the aforementioned “New York or Bust” road trip, we didn’t buy any drinks. Our one stop for dinner on the way home was at Panera where we brought in everyone’s water bottles and refilled them. We ate out of real dishes with real utensils [one of several reasons that I am a Panera fan]. We also took our own water bottles when we went to Chuck E. Cheese for Evangeline’s 5th birthday.

[Failure #1] BUT when Brett and I went out for a date night and ended up at a local ice cream chain, Brett’s sundae came in a big glass bowl with a real spoon and my low-calorie smoothie came in a plastic cup with [egad!] a plastic straw. I was literally half way through the smoothie before Brett pointed out that I was drinking out of a plastic. I was so concerned about the healthfulness of my choice, I totally forgot to think about the plastic.

🤦‍♀️

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. The only restaurants we ate at all month were Panera and Chuck E. Cheese, as I mentioned above. For Panera, we had no leftovers, but at Chuck E. Cheese we had about a whole pizza leftover [Failure #2] and, of course, I forgot to bring a container. We ended up carrying the pizza home in styrofoam.

🤦‍♀️

Since then, however, I did remember to bring a few reusable containers when we went to Red Robin…but of course we had no leftovers. There must be a Murphy’s Law about this…

Buy only plastic-free groceries. Oh man, this was tough – especially when blackberries went on sale for $.88! But I stuck to my commitment and didn’t buy a single thing in plastic packaging all month. [My husband might have – but let’s not discuss it.] I even stopped an employee at the grocery store who was putting handfuls of loose green beans into plastic bags and asked if he could just put them straight into my reusable bag. He looked at me like I was crazy, but he did it! Which made me very happy because I LOVE green beans and my grocer always sells them in plastic bags.

Well, everyone already knows how much I care about this stuff [and I still end up using plastic sometimes] but for all you “no-big-deal” folks out there, here’s why single-use plastics are a big deal.

So that’s how my month went. Anyone else have confessions to make???

Karis

The birth of my baby [and the end of an era]

The birth of my baby [and the end of an era]

On June 7th, I gave birth to my fourth baby – a beautiful girl. We named her Eleanor.

She was born in our living room surrounded by family and friends.

It was the perfect conclusion to my childbearing years. The most precious part of the experience was having my first born there to witness her sister enter the world.

I still can hardly believe that five years ago I gave birth to my first baby and now I’ve given birth to my fourth and last baby [knock on wood].

I feel as though I’ve been pregnant for five years straight – and, in fact, I pretty much have been, since I became pregnant for the first time in October of 2013 and I haven’t experienced a full calendar year without being pregnant since.

As wonderful as my children are, I’ve never enjoyed being pregnant so I couldn’t be happier to leave all the morning sickness and swollen ankles and weight gain and hip pain and not being able to eat sushi or drink wine BEHIND ME AT LAST.

Anyway, all that to say that I haven’t been posting because I’ve been fully consumed with newborn life – nursing around the clock, rocking the baby for hours on end, and changing what feels like a gazillion diapers. All in addition to the job of caring for three other toddlers.

Sheesh.

But I intend to be back. I may not be writing, but I’m still busy zero-wasting and making everything for scratch and rethinking how we shop, etc. If nothing else, having another baby [my first since going green] has shown me how much the zero waste movement is missing resources for parents and children.

But more on that some other day.

I think there’s a diaper I need to go change…

🤱🏼🤱🏼🤱🏼

Karis

Semi-Annual Book Reviews

Semi-Annual Book Reviews

At the start of 2019, I resolved to read two books per month – one fiction and one non-fiction.

Here are the books I’ve read:

[The star ratings are for my own amusement and only reflect how much I personally enjoyed reading the book.]

January

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is one of those classics that I hadn’t read previously – so it was time. My favorite part of the book was actually the opening paragraph which contains great advice and is quite profound.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.‘”

7 by Jen Hatmaker

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book restored my faith in fundamental Christianity – to a degree. I already wrote a whole post about this book: Environmentalism isn’t just for Liberal Tree-Huggers. If you consider yourself to be a Christian, you should read this book.

February

I Want It by Jill Soloway

⭐️ ⭐️

I randomly picked this book up at the library. An interesting memoir, though not what I expected – it challenged how I view the transgender issues our country is currently grappling with.

Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book has been on my list for a long time. While I don’t agree with everything Harris writes [I am not an atheist], I do agree with many of his observations about religion in America.

The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I LOVED this book! It’s much better than the movie – read it!

“Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.” -Rahim Khan in The Kite Runner

The End of Reason by Ravi Zacharias

⭐️

This book was written in response to Sam Harris’s book above (Letter to a Christian Nation). Unfortunately, Zacharias comes off as an emotional kid who has had his feelings hurt. He also commits the same mistakes he accuses Sam Harris of committing. The truth is, both books were written for the people who already share their worldview. Neither will be effective at changing the others’ mind – so why did they even bother?

The Unstoppable Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Antonia Felix

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is a FANTASTIC book. This woman has become my hero for being just plain brilliant and for dramatically improving the rights of women in America. [The documentary, RBG, and the movie, On the Basis of Sex, are also great.] Ginsburg’s story impacted me so profoundly that I almost named my baby Ruth…almost.

“In striving to drain dry the waters of prejudice and oppression, we must rely on measures of our own creation – upon the wisdom of our laws and the decency of our institutions, upon our reasoning minds and our feeling hearts. And as a constant spark to carry on, upon our vivid memories of the evils we wish to banish from our world…May that memory strengthen our resolve to aid those at home and abroad who suffer from injustice due to ignorance and intolerance, to combat crimes that stem from racism and prejudice, and to remain ever engaged in the quest for democracy and respect for the human dignity of all the world’s people.”

– Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Amen.

This woman has restored my faith that someday America may be great again – not because our economy is booming and our unemployment rate is low. Not because we have abundant wealth and prosperity, safety and security – but because we once again are concerned for “the human dignity of all the world’s people.”

March

Pussy by Regena Thomashauer

⭐️

I stumbled upon this book in my search for works on modern feminism – and it is just plain weird. I think Mama Gena might really believe that the source of life is in her who-who. Of course, she prefers to use the “p” word…

To each their own, I suppose.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Another great book! Fiction, though loosely based on a true love story that is both terrifying and inspiring.

Weconomy by Craig and Marc Keilberger and Holly Branson

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is a great book that taught me to use my current sphere of influence to impact the world. For a year, I had been begging Brett to move to a clothing retailer that is transparent and committed to ethical and sustainable practices, but this book showed me how he is able to use his position in his current company to encourage the business to be more socially and sustainably minded. And I have realized my own responsibility to use the spaces I have been given [my part-time job and my children] to make a difference in the world.

I learned so many other things from these three leaders in the charitable world. You really should read this book!

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book was a gift from my cousin and I am so grateful for it because it really helped me to understand the people around me so much better. I highly recommend this book for everyone who wants to help end poverty here and around the world.

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

An easy read – I think I read it in one afternoon – but I don’t really understand the point. I wish I had read it in school and could have benefited from a classroom discussion.

April

Posture Alignment by Paul D’Arezzo

⭐️ ⭐️

I’ve had this book for a long time as a resource for my personal training clients, but never read through it. While it contains useful information, it is boring. Not my favorite read this year – but I did have a client with some posture alignment issues shortly after reading it and recommended many of the corrective exercises in this book.

The Rough Guide to a Better World by Martin Wroe and Malcolm Doney

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is a free ebook [read it here] that was funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID). In only 112 pages, there is a TON of information here about how to help end poverty in our world. The issues facing developing countries are complex and challenging, but we are not powerless to help. This little book showed me the importance of fair trade, charitable giving, volunteering, and even eco-tourism [which I had never heard of before].

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I picked this up because it is on Emma Watson’s book club list. I can’t believe I had never read it. There is a lot of beauty and wisdom in this story.

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” – The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Now I have to watch the movie.

The New Homesteader by Bella and Nick Ivins

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

While it was fascinating to read how the Ivins have turned this beautiful property into a self-sufficient Homestead, the best part of this book is definitely the gorgeous photography!

How to be a Woman by Caitlyn Moran

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This is another book from Emma Watson’s book club list. Caitlyn Moran is hilarious – and I listened to her reading it on the audiobook, making it even funnier. Sometimes it really does suck to be a woman [ok, more than sometimes], but this book helps. Though I don’t agree with her definition of feminism [or some of her other viewpoints], I like her unapologetic style.

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book is super practical and makes waste reduction super simple. I already wrote about the book here: My 34 Ways to Go Zero Waste.

“In today’s world, one of the most radical things you can do is find contentment.”

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg

The Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Riveting reading – just kidding. But a super useful resource that was so educational I will have to borrow from the library again when we get ready to plant our garden or raise chickens or make our own cheese.

May

The HIIT Advantage by Irene Lewis-McCormick

⭐️

This is a textbook about using high intensity interval training for women. I read it for my personal training recertification. First of all, I learned nothing new. Secondly, there was absolutely nothing gender specific in the book. Third, there shouldn’t be anything gender specific because HIIT workouts are the same for male and female. 😡

Thirst by Scott Harrison

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

LOVE this book! What an inspiring story about an inspirational non-profit working to provide access to clean water to everyone in the world! I am proud to be a supporter of this organization.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

One of my favorite books on childbirth [and I have ready MANY]! A must read for any woman who is even considering having a baby.

Letters to the Church by Francis Chan

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I have a lot of respect for Francis Chan and I am grateful for this book which I hope will help to change the American church.

“We must stop creating safe places to hide and start developing fearless warriors to send out.”

– Francis Chan

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Another book on Emma Watson’s book club list. It was strange and not my favorite. I like my fiction to have deep philosophical themes – but more about love and peace and good virtues – and less about a creepy future dystopia. Maybe that’s just me. 🤷‍♀️

June

Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

This book was fascinating – and terrifying. I’m afraid to buy any clothing ever again… but that fear leads to greater resolve to make more intentional, informed choices when it comes to what’s in my wardrobe. We shouldn’t want to be willfully ignorant.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

I have to admit, I got impatient during this book [which is sad because it is short]. But the payoff in the end was worth it. There are several great themes and lessons in this story.

“When you’re on a journey to fulfill your personal legend, the whole universe conspires to help you achieve it.”

The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

And from now on, I will refer to my life’s purpose as my “personal legend” because that sounds cooler.


Wow – that was a long list. I doubt I’ll be able to read as much now that the baby has arrived. But these first six months of 2019 have been very educational for me and I have even enjoyed the fiction books!

Happy reading!

📚 📚 📚

Karis

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July 2019: My Commitments

Plastic Free July is here and [of course] I’m participating! I’ve already been avoiding single-use plastics for a year and have made my stainless steel water bottle, cotton produce bags, and reusable shopping bags a normal habit…but I still have struggled with avoiding the plastic that comes with take out, fast-food, and even dine-in meals.

So these are my three commitments to reduce my single-use plastic waste this month [and hopefully forever]:

Refuse plastic straws and disposable beverage cups. Even though I really hate plastic straws, I do occasionally end up with them in my [or my kids’] drinks. So this month, I am committed to not buying beverages out at all. We will just bring our reusable water bottles and drink water when we go to restaurants. [It is healthier anyway!]

Bring my own reusable container for restaurant leftovers. I have yet to bring my own container to a restaurant for the leftovers – and with four little kids, we ALWAYS have leftovers. So, this month, I will keep a reusable container [or two] in my car for this purpose.

Buy ONLY plastic-free groceries. I’m pretty good about this, but not perfect. I never use the plastic produce bags and I always choose the loose produce over the bagged options – but not all foods can be found package free at my grocery store. My kids love grapes and they always come in a plastic bag. I love berries, but I can’t find them without plastic packaging either. I often end up compromising on some of these items. So, this month, I am committed to doing without any food that I can’t find plastic-free. But it won’t be much of a hardship because I LOVE pineapples and apples and watermelons.

I hope you are joining the cause this month!

What are your commitments?

Let’s save the oceans together!

🌊 🌊 🌊

Karis