Hi there, I’m Shia, a fun-oriented hot mess and insubordinate cookie monster that has yet to learn how to shut her trap or to grow up.
How it all began…
Back in college, my then boyfriend (now husband) Hanno and I used to talk a lot about wanting to live more sustainably. However, being on a tight budget we thought we weren’t able to. “One day, when we become adults that have joined the workforce,” we used to say, “we will pay the real price for everything, you know, what things would cost if they were produced without any exploitation.”
Needless to say that it didn’t quite work out the way we thought it would. Sure, we both had steady paychecks. But instead of spending the money on organic foods or ethically produced items, we started to spend an alarming amount on convenience products, junk food, and completely superfluous consumer goods.
At work I had to run campaigns that told people to buy more. After work, I was too exhausted and drained to do anything much. That definitely wasn’t what I thought my adult life would look like. Instead of finally being all grown up and independent, I felt small, insignificant, and trapped. Powerless against what we felt was wrong in this world. Living a sustainable life, a life on our own terms that aligned with our values, seemed so out of reach at that point, like a utopia.
I decided to quit my job without knowing what exactly it was I wanted to do. Corporate life wasn’t for me, that much I was sure of. We had enough savings to keep up our standard of living for at least one year even if I had no income at all. One year to reclaim control over our lives. One year to work towards aligning our actions with our values. We chose to move to another city, we went vegan, we learned about minimalism, and we reduced our electricity consumption from half of what the average German two person household consumes to only one third of it. Fun fact: the North American household average is roughly three times the German average! It was so liberating!
It must have been August or September 2014, when I stumbled upon the story of the Johnsons. I couldn’t believe their landfill trash of one entire year could fit into just one Mason Jar! And they weren’t living somewhere off-grid in some windy tree house! No, they lived in Downtown San Francisco in a beautiful house that looked like it came straight out of an interior design magazine. They just happened to not produce any trash. Simple as that.
I was instantly captured by how far they managed to push it. Why didn’t I ever try to look for those kinds of alternatives? Why did I just surrender as if I was forced to buy all those things that will fill the landfills, pollute the oceans, contaminate valuable soil, endanger animals?
We will never even come close to that, we thought, but, hey, we can at least be a tad more conscious when it comes to waste!
Fast forwarding to today, our trash of one frigging year fits into a quart jar, and it still seems so unreal to me…
A Little Goes a Long Way
Fitting one year’s worth of trash into a jar does sound totally insane, I know! But truth to be told, it is nothing more than the sum of many surprisingly small and very doable changes. Even though it may seem this way, it is not black magic, and frankly, all you really need to bring to the table is the drive to change your life for the better, some excitement to try out new things, and patience. #TurtleSpeedPower
Hanno and I, for one, never really expected to ever “become zero waste”, which, in hindsight, really took the pressure off. Every little success felt like a victory, and we never really bothered to even think (and be frustrated) about all the times when we didn’t remember to bring our own containers or when restaurants still served our drinks with a straw despite us asking them not to.
We started going to health food stores and the farmers market, talking to all the amazing people there, asking them if there was a way for us to buy this or that package-free, or if they could order some organic staples for us in big, preferably plastic-free bulk bags. One health food store decided—on the spot!—to open the big 55 pound paper bag of rice and to sell rice in bulk to people who bring their own bags from then on. Another health food store set up a bulk section. Other customers got curious and also started to bring their own containers to buy things from the deli counter.
All of that blew our mind! Who knew you could actually change things as an ordinary person that is neither the CEO of a big corporation nor a politician? Just by implementing ridiculously small changes in your own daily life and talking to people? Well, we certainly didn’t! We realized we felt empowered!
About This Blog
Hanno and I are simple minded folks. We don’t like to spend a lot of time on household chores, errands, or meal prep. So all the DIY recipes on this blog are as simple as they come. Ridiculously easy even. A clean home is good enough for us, we don’t need super fast drying dish soap, laundry detergent with oxy power, or an all-purpose cleaner with ocean scent. We rather know we are not risking our health just to test some unnecessary property. Just so you know what to expect.
What’s more, I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all solution. We all come in different shapes and sizes, have access to a different infrastructure, have different needs, obligations, or situations to take care of. There is no one “right” way to do things. So I want to encourage you to start where ever you feel comfortable and only go as far as you feel comfortable at any given time. Keep things doable and don’t overwhelm yourself. There is no rush and it is not a competition. We are lucky to have access to an infrastructure that enables us cut down our trash to only one jar, to have met so many amazing people who also wanted to challenge the system, to push the boundaries. But you might find yourself facing more challenges, many of which might be beyond your control. So your trash does not fit into one jar, so what? I am sure you are still rocking it!
Feel free to customize the recipes, to try other recipes or methods, or to simply go crazy and experiment! Have fun with it! And remember: you will fail. I don’t mean this in a discouraging way. Quite the contrary! I like to compare it to a child learning to walk. Of course they will fall! But that’s just part of the process. The child will not think it is impossible to walk and quit because they keep falling. No, they will simply get up and keep at it until they have learned how to walk. And after a while, walking will become second nature. You don’t really have to think about it, but you might still stumble from time to time. It’s the same with zero waste. It’s my auto pilot setting.
So fasten your seat belts, and join me on this ride towards a more sustainable, zero waste, vegan, plastic-, and palm oil-free lifestyle!