Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Welcome to [Zero] Wasteland

Last time I wrote in here was 2011. I lived in Melbourne and attempted to shine light on my Australian experience. After revisiting my previous posts, I think I may have achieved it. Especially all my [non]existent posts from 2011 onwards. Thank you, VCA for making every student a living hermit.

Since my last post, I've graduated, learned how to poach an egg and moved to Brooklyn to pursue acting and screenwriting. And now after being in this city of 7 million for 9 months, I realize I've been in love with a wasteland.

Everyday I see piles of black garbage bags on the sides of streets. Plastic bottles, Big Gulp cups and McDonalds wrappings in the subway tracks. Millions of people carrying paper coffee cups with lids and sleeves. And all of this became normal for me. In fact, it was always a norm for me, which I absolutely hate to admit.

In drama school, I had an average of 2 coffees a day - bumped up to 3 coffees during production week. Over 2,000 cups to fuel me flat whites, macchiatos, long blacks over 3 years.

Before moving to Melbourne, I was more conscious with my coffee. I used to carry an empty glass of Adam's Peanut Butter jar to cafes and politely ask the barista to make my latte in it. Somewhere in the last 4 years, I lost consciousness for reducing waste. And now, New York has put it in perspective how much trash 7 million people are producing by the second. Though I kept seeing and smelling this garbage day after day, hour after hour, I never acknowledged my contribution to this wasteland. Until, that fateful day when Lauren Singer's article was posted in everyone's Facebook newsfeed: "I haven't made trash to 2 years. Here's what my life is like".

No trash. In New York City. Are you human*, Lauren Singer?

*I did my research. She is.

After reading her article more than once, I was awe-struck. This gal is 23, living in New York, and is making ZERO waste in a Waste Wonderland a reality. What it really boils down to is simplyfying your lifestyle: reducing, reusing and recycling. In other words, what I learned at Boeckman Creek Primary. Which then made me admit "well shit, I have to go zero waste".

This has been my main New Years Resolution. Living in Zero Wasteland, hence the new blog title.

Obviously, this transition cannot happen overnight. It's quite the creative process. I'm in Day 12 of it and still ironically producing garbage.

For example:

1. Cleaning out. Readying your living space for zero waste will in fact produce more waste. Old receipts, pointless papers, plastic everything, used makeup, dust mites, that old apple core from last September: waste. Luckily, paper equals recycle.

2. Eating out. One may think eating out is not wasteful if you finish your meal: wrong. Are you getting actual silverware or plastic? Paper or cloth napkins? Did your Bloody Mary come with a straw? Is your burrito lined with paper and a toothpick*?

*On New Years day I was feeling very fresh from a night of Kings Cup in Manzanita, Oregon. My fellow cohorts and I stumbled gracefully into a burrito haven. Then, I noticed that every person eating in the restaurant had paper plates and paper lined burritos. Using my motor skills to the best of their hung over ability, I asked the cashier if there was any way I could get a burrito paper-less on a reusable plate. Their best option with a red plastic basket. I wasn't sure if it was a sanitary basket but if I'm still alive from the Ebola subway scare then game on. Unfortunately, I ordered a ginger ale in a glass bottle but forgot about the bottle cap... It's still in my purse and awaiting its creative genius.

3. Buying Out. Although I wish buying necessities would always come in a glass jar, sometimes you can't escape packaging*

*One item I've been searching for is the Diva Cup. We women/ladies/females inevitably produce a significant amount of trash once a month - thanks mother nature. So I thought: no more wasteful organic cotton tampons, I am ready to take a step further in my womanhood in purchasing the silicon reusable cup.

Feeling like an empowered and independent woman, my black ankle boots strutted to my local Natural Foods store to the feminine aisle. Unfortunately, the Diva Cup's packaging was heavy and overly priced at $35, but I knew it would end up saving future and frequent packaging and that the $35 would last me 10 years - yes, Diva Cup is potentially good for 10 years.

As soon as I got home, I was ready to make the official transition. I was pretty jazzed. But then I read the directions and noticed that I got a cup designed for women over 30 who have had children. Definitely still in my mid-twenties and vagina is definitely still birth-free. So after all the hype and 24 hours later, I'm back on the organic cotton tampons. For now.

Regardless of continually generating garbage, I'm developing an acute awareness to my actions and my surrounding community. I'm amazed how incredibly supportive or incredibly confused people are by my intention. My local coffee shop, Cafe Madeline, were enthused to hear that I didn't want paper napkins with my food and that I brought a mason jar for take-away cafe au laits. They gave me a righteous thumbs-up. However at Whole Foods, the cafe staff were slightly annoyed when I presented them a jar to have a kale-apple-whatever juice. To be fair, it was oddly shaped but I'm still surprised that they weren't trained to be supportive a zero waster initiative.

The beginnings of this long haul journey have only reassured that I'll continue to educate myself and  my surroundings more from these bizarre and beautiful vignettes. All of which, of course, I'll share with you here. Please note my next post won't be 4 years from now. Scouts honor.

Lets make it official: Welcome to [Zero] Wasteland.