Cutting down on waste and living a more eco-friendly lifestyle is a hot topics in the news lately. France has recently banned the use of plastics in a dramatic effort to reduce harmful waste, and there is a growing movement to support local, and sustainable, organizations.
Ariana Schwarz is a rédactrice living in Paris, who is dedicated to sustainability. Her blog, Paris To Go, covers everything from building an ethical closet to travel destinations.
She sat down with us to give a few tips and explain how she made the switch to a zero- waste lifestyle.
When did you make the decision to switch to a zero-waste lifestyle?
I was a sustainability student, and I was frustrated that despite what I was learning, my lifestyle wasn't very eco-friendly. I was driving everywhere and relying on chemicals and plastics in everything from food to personal-care products. Then a geology professor sent me an article about Bea Johnson and her zero-waste home. I thought, here is someone truly living their values. I started a class project to live zero waste, at first for a week, then a month. Once I realized how easy it was, it stuck with me. I just got used to the simplicity and sense of well being that comes with being zero waste.
Why is living a zero-waste lifestyle important?
Zero waste as a consumer movement is encouraging manufacturers to eliminate single use items and non-biodegradable materials. We all know plastic pollutes, and harmful chemicals in our beauty and cleaning products harm wildlife and waterways, not to mention ourselves.
Zero-waste living is driving a push towards a circular economy and increases demand for package-free products or reclaimable packaging. Living this way also heightens awareness about unsustainable consumption and shows that individuals have the power to affect real change.
What are the biggest misconceptions about zero-waste?
The biggest one is people really think it means zero. Everybody produces waste and nobody is perfect. You don't have to live an extreme lifestyle to lessen your environmental impact, though. Simple switches, such as using clean beauty products, refusing plastic straws or disposable napkins, and using a bamboo toothbrush make such a difference.
Also, people think it's expensive because of the focus on organic and reusable products. However, zero waste actually saves money because you only buy what you truly need, you make things that you were spending a ton on before (such as healthy unpackaged snacks), and often reuse and repair items that would otherwise be trashed.
What inspired you to make the change to a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle?
My family was always into composting and growing their own food, and made sure my brother and sister and I spent a lot of time out in nature. But as I grew older, I left those values somewhat—driving everywhere, always wanting the newest and latest. Realizing the profound impact overconsumption has on the planet made me want to change.
I first started by switching to all-natural cleaning products, like white vinegar, savon de Marseille, and flour-sack towels (instead of paper towels). When I saw how well those worked, it inspired me to keep making more changes. I was so happy with each simple switch—I kept doing more!
What are the basics to cutting down the amount of trash we throw away?
Be prepared. Tuck a few reusable shopping bags into your car, purse, or backpack and use them instead of taking a plastic bag. You could also carry a reusable straw and napkin when you go out to eat. Try to buy secondhand where possible, or buy the best quality you can afford to minimize the need for replacement purchases. The easiest way to reduce trash is to simply drink tap water—it's clean, safe, and best of all, free.
Any advice to beginners to get started reducing their footprint?
Try eating vegan one day a week. It makes the biggest difference in reducing one's carbon footprint. Buy better, opting for clean, natural ingredients and minimal processing as well as reusable or fully recyclable packaging as much as possible. And consume less.
Evaluate what you really need and how much. You'd be surprised at how much you can live without, and the lighter, more peaceful feeling that comes with shopping less and experiencing more.