Hello everyone, welcome back! Today we are adding to our zero waste inspiration series today, talking to Alyssa. Alyssa runs an amazing podcast called Live Planted which covers all the topics, the grey areas, and the hard questions of living a vegan lifestyle in the most non judgmental, practical, and refreshing way. (check out my two episodes on the pod: one about zero waste and one about healing myself with plants). She’s a super busy and inspiring lady, working her day job and also working her passion of the pod, too. Lately she’s been shifting towards a zero waste lifestyle and I thought it would be so interesting to add this perspective to our series.
Alyssa lives in Ohio and is passionate about vegan living, thrifting, and traveling. Her stories on Instagram are really fun to follow too- she regularly shares what she’s eating, gym workouts, thrifting scores, her beautiful home, her beautiful cats, and so much more. She also cooks up some easy and delicious food- her split pea soup is so, so good and simple and a staple in our house.
You can find Alyssa on instagram @liveplanted, her podcast here (or search “Live Planted” on your Podcast app) and her website here– I especially love the vegan supplement post, the “20+ vegan and gluten free breakfast, lunches, dinners” post, and her “weekend roundup” posts where she shares inspiration and recipes for the week. Now, let’s get into it!
Hi Alyssa! Can you introduce yourself and share a little about your daily life/routine/ lifestyle?
Hi guys! I’m Alyssa, practical vegan, cat lover and podcaster at Live Planted. I’m from Ohio where being vegan and zero waste is less common. I work a ‘regular’ job Monday- Thursday and work on the pod on Fridays-Sunday (and really everyday if we’re being honest- it’s my passion), so I have a little corporate structure and a little freelance freedom. In the summer my husband and I do a ton of traveling in our camper van, we love being outside biking, paddle boarding, and hiking. I’m a second time zero waster as I started making less waste previously and completely overwhelmed myself. I ended up bowing out due to making it unsustainable. I’m back and more determined than ever, I started slower and have added in more zero waste practices as I’m ready. It’s been much more enjoyable and sustainable.
Where are you located and how easy or hard have you found it to live low waste in your area?
I’m in the midwest, in Cincinnati Ohio. It’s pretty uncommon here to be vegan, let alone be zero waste. Most people need a little info on what vegan is, it’s common people say, ‘oh thats just like vegetarianism, right?’ It’s not that I live in the middle of no where, it’s just that it isn’t on everyone’s radar to be eating plants and creating less waste. Thankfully I’m able to compost in my yard which makes being zero waste more accessible, we also have a great chain of bulk stores locally. They focus on fresh produce, bulk bins, and fair prices which is really helpful because it creates a lot of options for anyone looking to buy in bulk. More and more local restaurants are banning plastic straws as of recently, which is a great step forward. When a restaurant bans straws and supplies info on why it helps more people become aware of the detriment of single use plastics, especially people who wouldn’t be likely to come across the zero waste message. So we’re definitely on the up and up when it comes to starting to spread the message here.
What attracted you to zero waste and why did it resonate with you?
When I first went zero waste a few years ago, I was doing it more for the ‘natural’ aspect of creating my own goods without chemicals and preservatives. I wanted to rid my life of as many toxic chemicals as possible. I jumped in full force, making everything from dehydrated banana chips, to bug spray, shampoo, fruit leathers, and laundry detergent, I was even canning my own salsa, tomatoes, and peaches for the winter. I loved the idea that I could create less waste, be exposed to less toxins, and have homemade versions of everything at the ready. The problem was I wasn’t flexible, I couldn’t keep up making multiple batches of hummus (and everything else) each week while working a full time job and having any free time. I started to let things slip here and there until eventually I was only making a very few items and buying plastics once again. I felt overwhelmed jumping in too fast, so I went back to ‘regular’ shopping. Recently I jumped back in in a more cautious way and have been adding more zero waste practices when I feel ready. I have done a lot more research into the ‘why’ of zero waste, what’s happening to our earth from the plastics that I now have a reason to keep going from an ethical standpoint.
What were the first steps you took to reduce your waste, and how has this transition been- easy, frustrating, in between?
This time around I started with my kitchen. I wanted to start in one central location and work out from there. I started buying more items in bulk, paying attention to packaging. Is there an option with a glass jar and metal lid? I there an option in a tin can? I started to figure out what I really needed each week on my grocery shop and what packaged items I could do without. It’s a continuing process and unfortunately some items are only available in packaging, like tofu so I continue to purchase those. Currently I’m moving into the bathroom with zero waste options which is proving to take a lot more research than food. I wouldn’t say this transition has been easy or frustrating, I would classify it as slow, but that’s ok with me. I know that if I take the time to move slow and deliberately it will stick more as a long term habit.
For people who may be reading this and are near you, where are your favorite resources in your area for low waste shopping? Farmers market, bulk store, refill shop etc?
Fresh Thyme is a great small-ish grocery store all throughout the midwest. It’s a sister company of Sprouts. They have a ton of bulk options, they even have my favorite, liquid aminos in bulk which is awesome. We have a lot of good farmer’s markets, the Hyde Park farmer’s market is my favorite for anyone hyper local. They only have fruits and veg locally grown and so many of the sellers are so kind to work with you if you don’t want the plastic bag or carton.
Can you give us a brief rundown of your grocery shopping routine? Do you bring jars, bags, or both? How do you use them at the store?
I usually do a bulk ‘fill up’ once a month and little grocery shops in between. I bring cotton drawstring bags for dry bulk items like oats, nuts, loose leaf tea, etc, and jars for bulk liquid items like liquid aminos and balsamic vinegar. Then I bring a whole bunch of canvas tote bags to put lettuce and other produce directly into. Recently, I also bring gallon jugs to fill up with drinking water since my tap water isn’t super drinkable and our kitchen renovation removed the filter system. This is an awesome way to rid yourself of plastic water bottles if your drinking water isn’t great either. There’s water fill up station in most grocery stores with filtered water, mine only costs 48 cents per gallon, so you save $$ as well.
Are you able to compost in your area? I know this varies so much depending on access, location, city ordinances etc.
Yes! I have a large compost bin made from recycled pallets in my backyard and a airtight compost bin inside so I don’t have to make a trip to the big bin everyday. We make a lot of compost daily so it’s nice to have a bin inside. My husband and I bring home any compost from our lunches home, avocado skins, apple cores etc and are able to compost every last scrap. It’s so nice to be able to compost and use all that ‘black gold’ as they call it, in the garden as food for our veggie plants.
What is your biggest source of trash still, or whats been hardest to find a sustainable swap for?
Pretzels and snacky stuff. We’re currently going through a kitchen renovation so I’ve let some of the snacky stuff slide because we don’t have many cooking options other than a grill and rice cooker for the past 2 months. So we’ve been buying a few frozen burgers, pretzels, tortilla chips and other things we can grab as we’re working all weekend painting and putting in new floors etc. As soon as we’re done I’m planning on kicking back into gear and making home burgers I can freeze and pull out etc.
For your cycle, do you use a menstrual cup, reusable pads, or other? If so, which brand(s) do you recommend?
Currently I use the store brand tampons that come in a cardboard with a paper wrapper. I’ve researched the cup so many times but haven’t pushed myself to make the jump. I know once I’m on board I’ll say, ‘why didn’t I do this sooner?’ Maybe I should get on that…
Do you use an alternative form of birth control?
Big proponent of the Daysy. It’s a hormone free way to track your cycle and can be used as birth control or an ovulation tracker if you’re trying to conceive. It has a scientifically proven accuracy of 99.4%. You simply take your temperature everyday before you get out of bed and it tracks your cycle with a simple red, green, or yellow light telling you if you’re fertile or not that day. (There’s a lot more information on the app about your temperature and cycle if you’re into data.) On the days you’re fertile you use another form of contraception like condoms. It’s honestly so easy and also lets you be more in touch on whats happening with your body. Highly, highly recommend to anyone looking for another form of birth control. *I don’t count condoms as waste. They are a non optional item many people need access to.
For clothing, I know you love to thrift and buy secondhand! I always see you coming home with gems! Can you share about your thrifting technique/tips for success here?
I’ve been thrifting since high school and it just so happens to line up with my less waste beliefs now, which is awesome because I love hunting down a good find. I have a few rules to make sure you come home with gems. First, always stick everything you ‘kind of’ like in your cart while there. This way you can assess later and make sure you don’t miss out on anything since everything in the store is one of a kind. Second, don’t buy it just because it’s cheap. When you first go in, it’s temping to be like, ‘this is only $2!!’ and buy a whole bunch of stuff you won’t actually use or wear. Buy only what you’d wear tomorrow without fixing or hemming or changing in any way (unless you’re a sewing wiz you most likely won’t get around to it). Third, the more you go the better your chances of finding what you’re looking for are. It’s a numbers game, if you go often enough you’re bound to find something good. I keep a list in my phone of specific things I’m looking for so I stay focused when going, because a lot of the stores can be overwhelming if you’re just browsing. Most trends today can be found in the thrift for way cheaper and most importantly, way less waste. Kitchen items are plentiful, storage jars are always at the thrifts, and furniture is even an option if you need it. I always check the thrifts a few times before buying anything new. You’d be surprised on how many like new items are just waiting for 50 cents or some crazy cheap price.
In a recent Insta Story, I loved that you talked about simplifying your closet by having a set “uniform” that you know looks good on you and not deviating from that. Can you share more of your philosophy on this, and tips for others to implement this into their own life?
For a long time I had a lot of fun with wearing different outfits everyday. As I got older I realized that I was unintentionally uniform dressing, wearing a certain color scheme and the same pieces in different ways all the time. For years I’ve worn blue, white, grey, and black with a little red thrown in. Currently I’ve been adding green in to my uniform as well. It’s getting crazy around here, lol. I usually stick to the same flattering silhouettes and natural fabrics. It’s not that I’m limiting myself to only black and white, it’s that I’m drawn to those colors and find they take a lot of decision fatigue out of getting dressed. Right now I’m wearing trousers with tee shirts, blouses, and tanks with sneakers or sandals and usually a head scarf. You can do it 35 different ways and you’re really just wearing the same, comfortable and flattering outfit everyday.
If you want to try it out, I would suggest taking a photo of your outfit every morning for a few weeks. See what you’re repeating again and again, is it a certain dress or silhouette? Do you have a color scheme you gravitate to and other colors in your closet you never reach for? Once you see what’s getting worn again and again try sticking within that uniform and feel the ease that dressing creates for you every morning. You can make it as strict or as loose as you want. Once you get going it’s easy to get rid of excess in your closet that doesn’t feel good on or fit in with your uniform.
Ok I have to ask- is your husband on board with you regarding veganism, low waste, secondhand clothing etc, or do you two peacefully coexist with different lifestyles? So many people message me saying that transitioning their partners has been the most difficult part of any lifestyle change.
My husband actually went vegan first, and pushed me to make the change and go vegan. He’s always been an animal lover and had to learn everything about how animals were treated once he found out about animal agriculture. As for low waste and secondhand clothing, he’s on board but I’m driving the ship, if that makes sense. I grocery shop and make most decisions for what comes into our house so it’s up to me if I want to create less waste or not. He’ll use whatever I buy or make for him, which is nice. Once in awhile he requests something from the store that I wouldn’t typically buy and I get it for him. I feel that I chose to make this decision, and it’s up to me to supply the information on ‘why’ so that he’s on board and understanding. This is what he did for veganism with me, which let me make the decision on my own. He’s expressed a desire to continue pushing for less waste and recently started carrying his own silverware for eating out and about, which is awesome.
What inspired you to go vegan and how easily did you transition? Do you have any tips to ease the transition period for someone wanting to make the switch as well?
I was vegetarian for a few years and felt good about that. I didn’t know much about veganism except to think it was ‘extreme’. Unbeknownst to me my husband had been watching vegan documentaries and read a book or two before bringing the idea to me. He wanted to be able to bring me all the information on why he felt we needed to make the switch as a household. I said no I didn’t want to, we somehow agreed on a 30 day challenge and now almost 6 years later here I am promoting this lifestyle I once thought was so extreme. When I was doing the 30 day challenge I watched a ton of documentaries and was reading everything I could get my hands on as to why people would live this way. I found out about how calfs are ripped away from their mothers so we can drink their milk, how chickens beaks are cut off so they don’t self harm which is bound to happen in their small cramped living spaces, and how chicken’s legs break under the weight of their bodies from how fast they are forced to gain weight- I couldn’t go back. If you want to make the transition start edging out meat on your plate, eat more veggies and make sure and eat enough. Plants are MUCH less calorically dense than animal products, many people don’t eat enough and feel weak, headachy, and think this lifestyle isn’t working for them. When in reality you’re not eating enough and your body is trying to say, ‘feed me!’ Also, watch Speciesism, Forks Over Knives, and any/all of the Peta 60 second videos– supply yourself with the knowledge.
When you went vegan, was your family supportive? How do you handle food at family gatherings?
A couple people thought it was a momentary thing and asked, ‘how long will this last?’ Which I think is normal, it’s classified as a ‘diet’ when really it’s a lifestyle affecting all areas of your life and your beliefs, so I can see why veganism gets a bad rap sometimes. At certain family events my husband and I bring our own food, Christmas for example we bring a whole Christmas feast for ourselves including desert. Other times, usually more casual times there’s more options for us. Now that we’ve been doing this so long our families know what works and have quite a few recipes that everyone likes. Sometimes it’s easiest to be in charge of your ‘main’ dish, so for a bbq we’ll bring over our own veggie burgers to be able to participate. We also like to have our family over and show them that vegan food is great, usually people ask for the recipes afterwards. When in doubt, bring your own food, eat a snack before hand to be safe, and don’t be afraid to communicate with the host.
You pack your food for work and you always have healthy, simple food…do you have a routine in place or a formula of what you pack for a day to keep you satisfied away from home?
Yes! Formula lunches are what keeps me afloat on weekdays. I start with a filling base, rice, couscous, potatoes, and quinoa are my go-to’s. Next veggies, steam, roast, sauté whatever veggies are on hand. If I’m making this the morning of and don’t have a ton of time I’ll steam veggies in my rice cooker while my grains cook in the rice cooker. It does both at once so you can make lunch while getting other things done in the morning. Then add in your protein, so baked tofu, roasted chickpeas, beans straight from the can if necessary. I usually top with greens, shredded cabbage, cilantro, or green onions if i have time to chop those in the morning, it adds a nice fresh crunch. And finally top with a sauce, here’s where you can kick it up a notch and make any combo different and interesting. So if I’m running late I’ll just do liquid aminos and everything but the bagel seasoing, but you can also do a peanut sauce, an asian inspired sauce, a tomato sauce, a pesto, or hummus. Any flavoring you want will jazz it up. Different sauces let you not get bored of eating similar meals everyday, plus there’s so many combinations you shouldn’t get bored if you’re creative with the basics.
You seem like such a boss lady, with your job, the pod, and everything in between…but you still have time to fit everything in and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Do you have routines or organization in place to achieve this?
Recently I can upon the notion that, ‘life’s not that serious’. It’s been really freeing for me. I did a whole podcast on it because it’s been on my mind so much (episode #110- listen HERE). It’s not an excuse to be lazy, I’m just saying we’re so harsh on ourselves 24/7 but life’s not that serious. Happiness only exists in the present, so if you’re always striving for bigger, better, and more we’ll never reach happiness because you’re continually setting new heights to reach before ‘happiness’ is achieved. We live in a social media world where someone else is always doing it better. At no other time in history have people been able to compare themselves to such a large audience. Someone else is always going to eat healthier and have fancier workout gear. If you want to go vegan start eating more plants, focus on what you can do rather that what you can’t. I say all this because this is what I’ve been telling myself. You don’t have to work 70 hours a week to be successful, and you don’t have to have the newest yoga pants to kick butt in a workout class. This mindset has helped me slow down and realize, ‘I’m doing it’, because there was a time where I constantly felt behind on my pod work or other responsibilities in my life. I was chasing an unobtainable vision of being ‘ahead’ on everything. But you know what? I’m doing it, I’ve put out an episode almost every single week for over two years. That feels good to acknowledge and give myself the courtesy of being proud of the work I’m doing. We’re supposed to be modest all the time, but I think life’s not that serious, let’s be proud of what we’re doing. Not sure that that exactly answered the question, but my mindset is key in keeping everything rolling around here and it feels much more enjoyable now that I’m not constantly feeling guilty about what I haven’t yet accomplished.
I love that you are passionate about traveling and I read that your dream is to travel and work from an Airstream!!! How amazing is that…do you have any tips for vegan/minimalist traveling?
Be prepared! I pack so many snacks and food items that at the beginning of the trip I always ask myself, ‘do we really need this much?’ Yes, yes you do! The last thing I want to do on a trip is to be hungry and have to eat gas station snacks because we can’t find any other options. I have a section of snacks, fruit, nuts, chopped up veggies, and something crunchy like beet chips so that whatever you’re craving, it’s covered. One of my best tricks is to pack a premixed oats mix, so chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, coconut, cinnamon, etc already mixed up and ready for you to add hot water. I’ll bring multiple servings, and it’s good for road trips, airplane trips, camping, hotel stays, literally anywhere. Oats are filling and satisfying and I’ve found breakfast the hardest to find vegan on a trip. It’s also helpful for lunch or dinner on something like a business trip where you have to go out to a lunch or dinner that doesn’t have a vegan option other than a small salad. I’ll eat oats before or after the lunch to fill me up. My last trick is to bring your own water bottle, coffee cup, cloth napkin, and silverware. It sounds like a lot but takes up such a small area and is mega helpful in creating less waste and being prepared when you get somewhere.
What are some of your top easy, accessible swaps you would recommend to someone wanting to start out reducing waste, but who may feel a bit overwhelmed?
Start where you are. Bring the above mentioned water bottle, coffee cup etc. because being prepared is half the battle when you’re out and about. Then assess your trash, are you using a lot of straws, get a reusable one and nix the plastic version all together. Are you buying a lot of pre-prepared meals or pre cut veggies and fruits? Do the apples/oranges you buy come in a plastic mesh bag? All of those have an easy swap at your grocery, buy the un-bagged apples, stick your fruits and veggies in your own produce bags to save plastic. Set aside 15 min when you get home from the grocery to pre chop your carrots, onions etc that you were buying prechopped. Make extra of your dinner and stick the leftovers in your freezer for a homemade pre-prepared meal you can heat up when you don’t have time to cook. Does your grocery offer bulk options? Can you buy something in glass rather than plastic? Being aware of the plastic waste you’re creating is the first step and being open to changing a few habits is how you’ll start making strides in creating less waste. Move at your own pace and don’t feel a need to be perfect. You can do it!