Hi. My name is Amy. I am a private person – a hands down introvert with personal 15 foot boundaries! Well, kind of…it’s really a joke from waking up on a sailboat to paddle-boarders scouring inside my boundary for hidden treasure; I yell, “15’ clearance for all moored boats PLEASE!” My husband laughs at me. That said, the idea of blogging about my feelings and thoughts is somewhat mortifying; however, the last couple years of my life have warranted some major changes in behavior. It’s time to shake it up! If my story can relate to someone and inspire them on the life path of environmental and self reform, then it will be worth the effort. 

I’ve always been connected to the environment and animals. I love animals. I grew up watching and falling asleep to Animal Planet safari footage and Shark Week. I was totally fascinated by all the species and how they existed. I understood that each animal lived its purpose and I grew to love the complexity of each ecosystem. Meanwhile, I was fortunate enough to have supportive parents who allowed me to follow my childish animalistic dreams. At the age of 4, I decided that horses would be my center of devotion. I found so much relief and peace from their presence. From my first horse, Scout, to my last horse, Debauchery, each have taught me life lessons and imprinted pieces of themselves onto me. My tenderness, patience, intentional breath and love comes from a place I learned from the horse. I feel forever in their debt. 

After pursuing a professional career in training horses and teaching people, I began to feel like it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact trigger of anguish, but there was a looming anxiety that I could not shake. I had hoped that owning a horse would inspire and spark a new light of interest. After only eight months of having him, Debauchery coliced and died November 7, 2018. There was nothing I could have done. Now, in debt from medical bills and depressed from losing what felt like my adopted child and all hope for a future…..I was struggling. I was flailing. 

My husband Dave was so supportive and patient. He encouraged me to keep going. One day I stumbled into a secondhand book store and found Zero Waste Home, written by Bea Johnson. It was a dry read, but the book inspired me to go from room to room in our house and eliminate waste. The book changed me and, in turn, transformed our household into a zero waste home. Some books strike a cord with you. Zero Waste Home was the particular book that struck the cord with me. It had laid out a tangible way to make an impact on the environment. I was able to set a goal.

Within thirty days we had accomplished something extremely gratifying – we got rid of our trash service. What had previously been driven by motivation was now driven by addiction. I was into it. I love to learn and I love to see results. I’ve learned so much about cooking and food and waste. The best part is that I’ve enjoyed learning how to do all my daily duties without waste!!!! It’s empowering!!!  

There are many issues we can concern ourselves with. I feel and I see environmental degradation everyday. I see land treated as a commodity instead of a living species. Going zero waste gave me tangible change. My home is now net positive. My health is improving daily. My goal is to inspire less waste through a fundamental process we can all understand. A little bit out of each consumer will make the difference.  

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Zero Waste Initiative

I’ve read different definitions of zero waste, but this one is the simplest: Zero Waste is achieved when none of consumer goods end in the landfill or incinerator. 

This is a big concept to think about. Everything we consume has some sort of packaging or a label that ends up in a trashcan or a grassy field or a road or a river or the ocean or the atmosphere or maybe even a landfill. Unlike our population, the Earth is not growing in size.  Where is all this waste going to go? The land surface on Earth is decreasing as human population grows and sea levels rise. To add fuel to the fire, our waste output has more than doubled in the last 60 years.  The combination of convenient consumption habits, online ordering, and cross country shipments of packaged and processed food allows our waste output to continue its rise to frightening levels. 

We can decrease our waste. It stars in each individual household. Individual consumers are a force that controls our economy. It may sound crazy (and intrusive), but each consumer choice is recorded as data. Each time you make a purchase, that store is tracking your purchase. If purchases begin to change, then the data begins to change. If consumers begin to buy home goods with a desire to better themselves and their surroundings, then these small conscientious efforts will echo throughout the data. Our continued advancements in technology make this a great time to be leaders in global social efforts, right from our homes!!! There are thousands of ways we can make changes that will impact the World. DZW’s goal is to bring those ideas to the forefront and provide a platform for them to be utilized.

Zero Waste – (ZW) for me, is a tangible way to make an impact. I can see and feel the benefits immediately in my mental and physical health. I had no idea decreasing my footprint on this lovely planet would spark my fire the way it did. I am only 32 but I was truly worried that I was deteriorating at a faster rate than I should be. Before my ZW initiative, my body ached constantly and I struggled with keeping energy throughout the day. Although doctors would give me a clean bill of health, I did not feel healthy. The change of lifestyle to ZW has brought a deep connection with my surroundings and myself. 

Every endeavor worth completing takes inspiration. For me, inspiration for ZW may have sprung from depression and simply longing for a better connection. I am so grateful I found Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home. Honestly, I connected with this lifestyle before I even knew what it was. I was shopping in a secondhand store and something drew me to buy, and actually read, this book. Often times, I buy a book and it just sits in my house until I clean out and take it back to the thrift store. I read this book, cover-to-cover. 

I’ve put a lot of thought into this. My master plan is this: 

(a) Start talking about environmental sustainability so more people are aware of it’s current condition

(b) Innovate a business that makes this lifestyle more convenient for average consumers…. BIG feat. But we can do it! If people can cut down on household waste, it would make drastic rippling effects on our entire economy and ecosystem. 

OK. So what does going zero waste entail?? Let’s start with inspiration. There are lots of personal benefits and reasons to take it on, but I’ll outline some macro reasons: environmental, health, and emotional. To me, these points overlap and are all connected. I don’t believe it’s possible for there to be a healthy person in a destitute environment or a healthy environment that harbors ailing species. The environment we surround ourselves with needs clean air, water and food for life to flourish.  The goal is to inspire new possibilities and improve our health. We must connect our heads, hearts, and actions to begin engaging in a conscious effort to save our planet. 

So bring on some inspiration!!!

Environmental

Waste: useless consumption or expenditure; use without adequate return; an act or an instance of wasting.

Waste is all around us. We’ve all seen trash and plastics on the side of the road and on our favorite trails. You can see trash from airplanes and satellites. Our convenient habits are taking a toll on the environment. People have prioritized their ideas and conveniences over the natural ecosystem, a system which thrived for thousands of years before humans devised a global trade economy. Not too long ago, our food was farmed and distributed locally. Today, food gets shipped from country to country. Much of the food’s shelf life is spent in transit, therefore becoming waste shortly after arriving at its destination. Once waste, the food and it’s packaging is then shipped to another country for disposal. People are starting to recognize this as an unsustainable strategy for environmental health. The resources needed for transportation and the emissions emitted in the process are detrimental to the future of all species on Earth. Most consumer products are not designed to breakdown in the environment. The micro-plastics that do breakdown can cause further issues for other species as they get mistaken for food and end up killing aquatic life in a slow and agonizing manner. As oceans continue to be over fished, many of these micro-plastics end up back in the human food stream. Fish eat the micro-plastics, humans catch the fish, humans eat the fish and the plastic inside the fish. Most of what we consume will not be thrown away without a negative effect to the environment. A lot of what we’re wasting is not actually making it to a landfill or recycling center – it’s blowing around the highways and eventually into our atmosphere and oceans. The best outcome is to change our waste so that it can be rejuvenated into food yet again through natural composting systems. If cannot be re-used, it shouldn’t be bought. 

Individual packaging engulfs the globe and broadcast itself as a convenience with “clean” isolated contents. However, the amount of packaging it takes to enclose a bag of chips or a pack of face wipes is not worth the environmental toll that is invading the natural habitat. That bag of chips cannot be digested by an animal and it cannot be broken down by air, water, or soil.  If we continue on this path, it becomes inevitable that our planet will begins to resemble the one depicted in the Disney movie Wall-E. Humans will be forced to harbor on a spaceship while machines inhabit the Earth and begin stacking waste into sky-scraping piles, cleaning up after humans until Mother Nature resets.  In Wall-E, this was the alternative to people acting responsibly enough to curb waste and environmental degradation. This would be my worst nightmare. To live in a time where progress is treated with more importance than responsibility, in a time when people abandon their duties as human beings, and in a time when accountability falls by the wayside. Compare it to a new couple inheriting a generational family home. It’s not a perfect home, it’s old and it has its issues as all homes do. But it is livable and, with a little TLC, it could stay strong for many generations to come. But instead of the family even doing the bare minimum to care for the home, they don’t. The home begins to deteriorate. Instead of attempting to fix the clogged drain or repaint the walls or support the foundation, the couple just waits until it falls apart and is forced to find a new home. This is happening to our earth. You wouldn’t let the walls fall in on your home, why would we let them fall in on our planet? We have one Earth and, currently, it is not sustainable for future generations. We have all taken part in our current crisis. ZW is a great way to set an example for future practices and help gear mentality towards sustainability.

Farmed meat emissions for human consumption are equivalent to all travel in the world. Let’s think about that: emissions from every car, bus, train, airplane, and boat is equal to the emissions of growing food to feed the animals we eat. Farmed cows, pigs, and chickens, and the gaseous pollutants caused by them,  put off as many emissions as every vehicle in the world. This is staggering. The best thing we can do is substitute plants for meat in our diet as much as possible. If you need or want to eat meat, it will help the environment and decrease emissions if the meat is sourced as locally and sustainably as possible. This takes us back to being a more conscientious consumer. We need to reduce our meat consumption and stand up to the degradation caused by farming at such a massive degree.

Of course, we all grew up with almost anything accessible. Future generations have lifestyles even more convenient than the previous. You want some obscure ingredient for a family dinner, just order it from China or Mexico. Even though your phone works fine, you need the new one simply because there is a new one. The reality is that there are not enough precious metals mined for phones in the world for everyone to enjoy new phones all the time. The resources and even human health should be taken into account when we consume and make purchases. People mining the metals have poorer quality and shorter lives than the people that can afford to buy the metals. Most of us don’t even think about what’s inside the smartphone, let alone how all those pieces got there. This is the lack of connection I’m referring too. We all need to begin thinking a little bit more and taking time to process each step of our day. Our ancestors were forced to be more connected and future driven. Growing food year round alone takes so much thought, planning, and action. It has a purpose. A product without a purpose becomes waste and should have never been a product in the first place. As consumers, we begin by questioning the product. Where did it come from? How was it made? Can it be re-used? Do I need it?  

These are some poignant resources I enjoyed watching:

Our Planet – Netflix Documentary

Inside the Garbage of the World – Amazon Documentary

Into the Gyre – Amazon Documentary

https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/robert-swan-and-our-planet/

Health 

It’s easiest to achieve a zero waste lifestyle for people on a plant-based diet. My husband and I continue to eat meat, but our consumption has dropped drastically since going ZW. It’s simply not sustainable to eat meat, nor is it sustainable to eat multitudes of species  throughout the day. According to the documentary, Game Changers, on Netflix, eating one single meal that contains animal byproduct clouds your blood and restricts capillary flow throughout your body. The average American can and will eat meat every meal of the day. In addition to clouding our blood, this leads to vast amounts of farming resources for the growth and transport of animals. The global emissions of farming animals rivals the biggest pollution habits of our time. People have evolved through time by foraging, hunting, and growing their own food. Today we buy our food in packaging that contains bacteria, preservatives, and carcinogens. The packaging isolates the product in an unnatural state. Most food on the Standard American Diet (SAD) is processed and contains harmful pollutants to the human body and, in turn, to other species along the way. The SAD is designed by a flawed lobby driven government that encourages people to eat this processed food. According to Lisa Goehler, PhD, in Conscientious Eating: Mental Health, Inflammation and the Aging Brain this has led to a plethora of health problems.  Her presentation explained 87% of health problems in the United States can be solved or improved with proper diet and nutrition. This includes depression, diabetes, gout, and kidney and gall stones. The way we consume food in the U.S is based on convenience and processed tastes we have all become accustomed to (like high fructose corn syrup). When you go to the grocery store and purchase most foods from the shelves, you are getting some derivative of soy, corn, and meal by-product. These are not substances our bodies have evolved processing. Eating this way leaves our bodies lacking key nutrients and vitamins, forcing us to rely on another step to acquire these nutrients: supplements. We would not be deficient in nutrients if we ate real food.  We need to avoid food that is heated, pressed, and stuck together with sugar. Again, back to the power of the consumer, the more we begin shopping for whole foods, fruits, vegetables, and bulk grains, the less we will be plagued with disease and medical expenses. Healthy diets can decrease health costs throughout the country and improve the quality of life for millions of people suffering from chronic debilitating illnesses. It takes effort and passion for positive change. It takes courage to empower people to take on a ZW lifestyle for health reasons.  

Check these out:

What the Health – Netflix Documentary

Game Changers – Netflix Documentary

Tedx Talk: Food for thought: How your belly controls your brain – Ruairi Robertson Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=awtmTJW9ic8

Lisa Goehler, PhD https://www.ibpceu.com/content/pdf/eating-s19-outline.pdf

Patriot Act: Hasan Minhaj – Netflix Series; Obesity Episode 2019

Food as Medicine – Amazon Prime Documentary

The Magic Pill – Netflix Documentary

Emotional

I do believe we are all connected on this planet. There is no way I would treat pets, family members or even my own garden the way our current system treats consumer needs. Picture cows on dry lots being drug with chains, a semi truck wrecking on the highway spilling thousands of piglets onto the road, a terrible farm stench that takes over your car while driving because pigs, cows, or chickens are stacked by the hundreds of thousands in small stocks and barns. The manure and agricultural drainage flows to the ocean contaminating water tables with pesticides, antibiotics, plastics, and waste which results in infested waters that are not safe for children or anyone with open wounds. Water is the source of life; however, we contaminate our water and buy products that cause irreparable degradation to water sources all over the world. Ideally, the change towards ZW will reach the children’s lives in Bangladesh where clothing factories dump so much waste and dyes into the water supply that kids are developing fatal and incurable diseases. In the U.S, there are so many campaigns around children being the future – so let’s leave a planet for the children in the future. It seems like common sense to me.  

We’re also ingesting chemicals people pump into the products and animals to help preserve them or grow bigger, which is not good for our health or the animal’s health. The fact we have to look for the words “Pasture Raised” on our animal products to feel somewhat satisfied that the animal we are consuming was allowed outside some portion of a day for its life is so sad. Most of the animals farmed for consumption are deficient in Vitamin D and muscle, they are raised solely indoors, and forced to stand in one spot for most of their life with processed food in front of them. Emotionally, I feel there is no quality to that life, and I do believe we are all connected creatures. If the animal we are eating to help fuel our own lives is deficient itself, then what we are consuming cannot be positive consumption. If we continue to consume ill-treated animals, it will lead to the deterioration of human health. When raised in a natural environment, cows, pigs, and chickens all help their surroundings thrive by maintaining soil quality and adding to the native ecosystem surrounding them. So – why do we stack these animals inside with poor air quality, no sunlight, and stress? The answer: To meet our demand. This is emotionally and morally wrong. I know there are children in factories and sweatshops around the world that endure awful conditions which I cannot fathom. Why should we focus on the animals before the children? I think they go hand-in-hand. With a ZW lifestyle, a new level of mindfulness can reach every corner of the planet and improve how we treat every living species. This will promote a consciousness for future generations and successes.   

The government farming subsidies go toward growing corn and soy; ie, processed foods for mass food production, agriculture, and livestock.  There’s not much incentive for farmers to grow what we actually should eat: lettuce, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumber, kale, beets, radish, herbs, and the list goes on. So, the farmers growing these vegetables really don’t get enough credit for supplying us with staple foods at the dinner table. Not only that, but they’re struggling across the U.S to stay in business. I really don’t understand how we have moved so far away from supporting our farmers. Farmer’s lives are a struggle. From the cost of land and resources to grow enough food to supply some portion of a local demand to the costs of raising a family and just staying afloat in our current society, it’s not fair family farmers that have had land passed down to them for generations are struggling to continue the business and maintain the farm. Government subsidies need to change to fuel food that is healthy for the population. If we are what we eat, then we are confined, drugged, poisoned and ridden with despair. From the animal you’re consuming to the farmer growing it, our current system is failing us. The thing that can change the current system is the individual consumer. For the right of the planet and out of respect of our ecosystem, people should be conscious of what they’re eating and how it got to their table. People that are kind to animals are mostly kind to humans. As people begin to reflect on their impact, the treatment of animals will improve and the quality of meat for consumption will also ameliorate.

Vegan 2019:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AYOViszK_A

I AM: Gaia Documentary

H.O.P.E   What You Eat Matters: Film by Nina Messinger

https://www.hope-theproject.com/the-film/the-film/

Cowspiracy: Netflix Documentary

Earthlings

http://www.nationearth.com

Vegucated:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrWx_e1wuZQ