Going Zero Waste with a Non-Zero Waste Partner


In honor of Valentine's Day and our upcoming 4 year anniversary, I thought I'd do a post with my amazing partner, Peter!

I absolutely adore this guy. He's incredibly supportive and appreciative of who I am, and who I want to be. 

I definitely have a tendency to ... uh ... how do I say this? Shake him up a bit... Like when I came home with bright blue mermaid hair with no warning, or when I had the idea to leave him in Denver and just go sailing for 3 months, whenever I drive home with a new craigslist find (or wrangle him into coming with me), or warn him not to touch my latest DIY experiment in the kitchen, or that time when I decided I wanted to try to stop making trash. 

As many of you know, I'm a biologist and incredibly passionate about our planet. I'm also lucky enough to have found someone who is as enthused about the Earth as I am. Peter has his degree in ecological biology as well, and can totally jive with me on all my environmental reasonings on going zero waste. He, therefore, was very supportive right from the beginning of my journey, and wanted to be involved! However, he didn't immediately jump head-first into it himself.

This isn't the only area like this for us. I'm also a vegetarian, and while Pete eats mostly plant based, he does eat meat about once a month. Like our mild diversions on zero waste living, this hasn't really caused any issues in our relationship.

So, taking a page out of Kathryn from Going Zero Waste's book, I decided to do a short interview with Peter to give you all an idea of what it's like to be on the other side of all this!

Me: What where your first thoughts when I told you I wanted to go zero waste?

Peter: I'd also been thinking a lot about how much waste I was producing in my own life. I'd had things pop up on the internet talking about going zero waste (I think I'm also a target audience or something), so I was actually excited to grow and learn and adopt a lot of what you were doing into my own life.

Me: How was co-existing in the beginning of my attempt to go zero waste?

Peter: It was exciting, it really opened my eyes to how much waste I was producing myself and ways I could cut back.

Although, sometimes, it was a little frustrating when I wanted to purchase something that was non-recyclable, and I would start to feel guilty about getting it, or just forego buying it altogether. Sometimes when you're craving something, it's hard to say to no just for the idea of waste reduction, you know?

Me: Was there a moment when your perspective on zero waste living really shifted, for better or for worse?

Peter: I would say it was when I started to notice that at my work place I would bring my own lunches, my own containers, my own mug, and on the occasion that I had to buy something I always made sure I could recycle the packaging. And I would notice others bringing food items in plastic bags and then throwing out the bags later that day.

I started to think that even though I am only just one person, and I'm not even taking all the steps that you've taken, I have still dramatically cut back on the trash I produce, which I would say is a positive shift. I started to feel good about what I was doing for the environment, that I was saving money, and that I was really just taking the extra step to do something that I believe in. And most of it really wasn't that hard. 

Me: How would you describe the past year of me attempting to go zero waste?

Peter: I've been very proud of you. I feel as though there have been times when you could have cut a corner or been tempted to break (like for girl scout cookies), but you've stuck true to your guns and been developing habits and routines that are good long term practices to have. I think those will be beneficial to us in the long run. 

I've been proud enough to tell people about you blog (even when you won't!) to help get the message out there. And it hasn't been that hard to adapt to what you've done. 

Me: You know you can be honest, right? Like, you don't need to just flatter me. I want you to give your honest opinion.

Peter: I know, that is honestly how I feel about the past year.

Me: What zero waste things do you participate or not participate in, and why?

Peter: I participate in most of your zero waste activities/habits/practices, whether its brining my own bags to the grocery store or my own containers out.

I don't do any of the DIY stuff. I don't make any body products, and I use Tom's deodorant and toothpaste (which can be sent to Terracycle), but I do use what you make!

I will occasionally buy things (like Goldfish, and Cheez-its) at the store that I know cannot be recycled and need to be thrown away, but other than that I really do try to minimize my waste.

Me: What’s your favorite thing about living (mostly) zero waste?

Peter: Feeling that I know what I'm doing is making a difference. I'm living more true to what I believe in as a biologist and a conservationist, and that I'm really putting my money where my mouth is in following through with this. 

Me: Hah! I thought you were just going to say the fresh sourdough bread!

Peter: Well, ya, that too.

Me: What’s been your least favorite thing about living (mostly) zero waste?

Peter: The guilt I feel when I buy something that can't be recycled. I don't like feeling guilty, and I almost feel like I'm being dishonest to myself about what I'm capable of doing. But it's probably a good thing...

Me: Do you think you would have taken any of these zero waste steps w/o me?

Peter: I feel as though I would have taken some of them, but maybe not as actively. Like bringing my own tupperware, I would occasionally do it, but not every day. I won't say I never would have done any of this, but definitely not at this point in my life.

Me: Have you ever felt pressured by me in a way that you didn't like (as far as zero waste is concerned)?

Peter: No, never, well, I mean ... maybe that look you give me in the store when I get a bag of Goldfish....

Me: If you could change one thing about this experience, what would it be?

Peter: A more active commitment on my own end. I wish I would have done a little bit more up from to help out with this, or had more of a commitment to some of these habits myself.

Me: What's one thing you wish you could have known before I started this process?

Peter: I wish I would have known that sometimes DIY projects don't always turn out perfectly, and it may take a few times to figure out the perfect recipe. Yes, I'm talking about the toothpaste.

I was actually interested in doing this in the first place, so I was eager to learn about it initially, but I didn't research into the detailed day to day things. I sort of assumed we would just reduce the plastic we bought at the grocery store. And it's more than what you buy at the store. It's everything you have in the house. I assumed a lot of it was just about food - but there's SO MUCH MORE.

Me: Any advice for other partners of zero wasters?

Peter: Engage in the activities. Do the DIY projects. You don't have to do everything, but every so often participate so you can learn more about it an help contribute to the process. Looking back that's what I wish I would have done.

Also know that you may experience some guilt in this process. Whenever I do buy something that I can't throw away I do feel guilty about it, which I think is ok because then your at least conscience of it. And as long as your not doing that every day, and trying to cut back on the trash you do produce, its at least a step in the right direction. Not everyone is able to make the jump overnight to living a zero waste lifestyle and I've even noticed the incremental changes you have made over the year, even though it seemed like monthly the amount you were producing was miniscule. If people long term follow those steps then the world will be a better place.