About a month ago, when I knew Earth Day was coming I was super pumped. But the closer it got I started to feel mild dread. The approaching Earth Day was starting to symbolize this massive failure, because I had not written a single word in a month and the project I was hoping to announce was not ready.
People may be attracted to the idea of zero waste (or minimalism) for different reasons. This might make movements like (ethical fashion, sustainability, zero waste, minimalism, low impact etc) seem like new ideas because perhaps they require a process of unlearning and are new-to-you, but living “zero waste” has been around forever.
Images represent ideas, and on Instagram, where images can be posted with little accountability, it means that big concepts like “#zerowaste” get represented by whoever makes images. When a movement based on intentional action, making less waste, or mindfulness becomes “content making” for the sake of content making…
I can’t stop thinking about how this quote from @ecowarriorprincess, applies to things we unconsciously consume in the name of “sustainability.” And how good intentions can have unexpected negative consequences. I wonder if consuming online content, scrolling through pictures of vegetables, jars…
Writing in this space, on Instagram, has helped me practice authenticity, build courage and speak honestly. I want to continue participating, not out of obligation, but because the process of creating and sharing moves me forward and contributes to growth. By trying to be intentional and fully present, I’ve been forced to investigate what I’m doing and why.
If you’re into Zero Waste or just interested in being more ecofriendly, and you start looking around online, you can easily start to self-judge and notice all the things you’re not doing “right.” Our day to day lives are a lot messier than what’s shown online; it’s hard to continually be inspired, especially if you’re always seeing other people’s highlight reels.
When I started writing about why donating clothes is not sustainable without introspection and change, I got asked “what do you suggest that I do with older clothes that I’ve had before I went zero waste?” A Zero Waste response could be: wear them. Fully use up your existing stuff so there is nothing to donate.
Working on one seemingly good habit, like Zero Waste Shopping, is like opening a door. As you pass through, twenty other doors appear, each with a new ethical question. This can feel overwhelming, but it doesn't have to. It can be empowering because you hold the power to go through each door, with any mindset or attitude you want.
There are many aspects of our relationship to objects and consumerism that I believe are problematic; like the illusion that something external, like physical possessions, will bring lasting happiness. This is especially on my mind with the resurgence of Kon Mari decluttering.
Do you know the ingredients of your soaps- what you put on your body, down the sink, into our water system? Buying a shampoo, laundry, or makeup product is also about deconstructing the object. You’re buying the plastic bottle, the ingredients, the health effects. One of the easiest Eco swaps is choosing non toxic liquids.
We’re sold the message that when we get the right stuff, job, clothes, relationship, we'll be happy. If this were true and stuff held intrinsic happiness, we wouldn't need to keep buying, and producing. Because once you got the thing you’d have happiness forever, you wouldn't need more.
Did you know that in most stores every piece of clothing comes shipped to the store in a plastic bag? Each bag gets removed by staff and goes into the garbage, all before the item hits the sales floor. These bags are not usually recyclable.
The nature of bringing certain things into your life will require movement- shifting, clearing, releasing. Calling in requires space. And space is made by letting go. As a positive way to think about the squeezing and discomfort of change, is reframing it into the shape of a “U.” We start at the top, look across- the edge of a canyon.
Changing how you live doesn’t happen overnight. Often we want quick results, but that’s not how things work. When we try to change ourselves it’s a continual practice, it’s a muscle and the more you use it, the stronger you become. At the start, the amount of energy required to change is a lot, you make mistakes, you feel bad, you learn, you try again.
Breaking habits is difficult, but it’s totally possible. A lot of the time it means getting really honest with yourself, accepting that you may need something specific to make a real change. The first step can be figuring out what’s best suited to who you are.
I started refilling coffee in reusable jars not because of Zero Waste, but because I needed a solution for my clutter problem. I was hoarding coffee bags, shoving them into overstuffed drawers because I didn’t want to throw them out and make garbage. It was frustrating because I wasn’t using the bags, but I also couldn’t bring myself to get rid of them.
I’ve been decluttering and letting go of stuff for five years. And the thing is; my values and interests are different than they were five years ago, and I’m different as well. So how do you separate what’s right for you now, from what you’re just holding onto because it’s there?
Trying to live a simple and clutter free life isn’t just about getting rid of stuff. Applying minimalism to all areas of your life eventually comes down to decluttering your internal world. For me, the process of healing mental and emotional health is about getting closer and connected to who we really are.
Last spring I found out I got rejected from every Grad School MFA Program (painting) I applied to. Once I processed the general disappointment of being rejected, I realized that I didn’t actually want to go to school. Not getting into grad school was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
When we start to think about letting go (objects, foods, routines, beliefs, expectations, relationships) we often first approach it from the perspective of loss. We anticipate that by giving something up, we will have less and will be lacking (now or in a possible future) and that letting go decreases our happiness.
If you're working to change and interested in growth, there will be slip ups; when you-know you know better but cave to an old pattern anyway. You can consciously be aware that something is not healthy, and still do it. This is part of the process of change.
Working on yourself to heal and do better is like taking inventory. You first work with what you already know. Layers like onions, peeling back one at a time in a non attached, curious, patient way. Because when you meet a layer you didn’t know about, you treat it with kindness, investigate it, figure out the best way to unravel, how to set that part free.
Accepting where you’re at is tender, but that softening brings you back to the moment and into your body. When we want something to be different than it is we miss out on our lives. Wanting uncomfortable feelings to pass, or waiting for a moment in the future, is wishing your life away.
Rising from a place of destruction, preparing to face things you’d rather not, is like gathering every possible tool for your toolbelt, ready for excavation. You gather everything, the dust fluff in the corners, and the weird snacks at the bottom of your bag. You take everything out of the room. Collect all the things you've learned and the things to unlearn.
After using all my energy for a cause I believe in, I’ve realized there’s no amount of work I can do if I don’t take care of myself. To soften into accepting this- letting go of struggling, wanting it to be different, and being willing to face and feel it gently without resistance. In hindsight, it’s kind of obvious self care 101: you can’t pour from an empty cup.
I always expect healing to be a straight trajectory. But it isn't. Taking two steps forward then one back still means you’re taking steps, even if they’re one at a time or sideways. Although it kind of sucks, deep healing is probably essential if we genuinely want to change, to be better for ourselves, everyone else, and the planet.
Authenticity to me feels like finally stopping after running for a really long time. Breathing. Feeling still in my body, not my mind. A slow inhale and exhale. The place where you don’t have to hold on anymore, a releasing and deep vulnerability towards yourself. Softening.
When we read a book sometimes we struggle to keep reading, while other times it’s so compelling we breeze through in hours. When you stop reading it’s because you either; finish the book, choose to read something else- or a passage resonates so profoundly it stops you in your place, jolts your insides alive and you can’t turn the page until…
The combination of minimalism and yoga for me has been a beautiful opening. It’s about continually looking at how I’m showing up and acknowledging where I still need to grow. Every time I’m able to clear something away that I’ve been holding onto, a layer softens, and I am more able to connect and love the different spaces of my heart, even through discomfort.
When I started making changes in my life and working towards minimalism and zero waste, I never thought it would bring me to my heart. And if I knew that’s where it would lead me, to be honest, I might not have had enough courage to start. It wasn’t until the space was cleared that I truly started listening.