zero waste inspiration- in Ohio with alyssa

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?

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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?    

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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.

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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!

zero waste inspiration- in the midwest with Jen

Hello everyone, welcome back!  Today we are adding to our zero waste inspiration series today (check out all the other interviews HERE), talking to Jen Rivera Bell.  She is a beautiful and conscious vegan mama to one year old Luna.  Jen is passionate about both human and animal liberation, intersectional activism, empowering through decolonization, and minimalism.

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Jen lives in Missouri, which is exciting because we haven’t talked to anyone in the midwest yet in this series, or anyone with a small child.  My goal is to share regional, cultural, financial, and lifestyle diversity within the low waste/impact lifestyle so that hopefully you can connect with someone that inspires YOU personally and to share that living consciously looks different for everyone.

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You can find Jen on YouTube here (she shares awesome videos on travel, zero waste shopping, vegan eating on instagram @jenriverabell, and her website here.  All images shown courtesy of Jen’s instagram.

Hi Jen!  Can you introduce yourself and share a little about your daily life/routine/ lifestyle?

Hey ya’ll! Well my routine is much like any other mom: try to go to the bathroom without having a toddler yell at you. Ha! But seriously, my life is pretty average. I  am a work from home mama who loves to cook (mostly cause I love to eat), play outside with my little one Luna, and watch documentaries with my husband Zac.

Where are you located and how easy or hard is it to live low waste in your area?

I  am located in the middle of no where Benton County, MO. It can be really difficult to be low waste here, mainly because of the isolation. We don’t even have a recycling center. But we make do with what we’ve got. We typically make a drive into Springfield (which is about an hour and a half for us) to get our bulk goods and drop off our recycling. Luckily there are some pretty awesome bulk stores out there so we are able to get tons of great bulk items.

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Can you share a little about your journey to less waste?  What inspired you + continues to inspire you to reduce your waste?  

Once going vegan (about 5 years ago) I really started to dive in and research everything. I really wanted to have the a positive impact on the world, once I dug a little bit deeper I stumbled upon some plastic documentaries. That is where I was sold. When I  saw the horrific environmental effects that plastic have on our planet I knew I had to do something differently. That’s when I  found the zero waste/ low waste movement. At first it was very intimidating and very overwhelming but after a while I really got the hang out it. I continue to do my best in hopes that my Luna will learn to fight for what she thinks is right.

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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?

I have only been in the area for a few months but so far my two favorite shops (both located in Springfield) are Mama Jean’s and Lucky’s. They have TONS of package free produce and awesome bulk sections. Once the warmer weather comes around I will be ready to hit all of the local farmers markets. 

What’s your composting approach?  I know this varies so much depending on access, location, city ordinances etc.- how do you compost in your area?

For us almost all of our food waste becomes treats for our companion pig Mowgli. Ha! Since we eat a whole plant based diet she loves eating the ends of our veggies, fruit that may be over ripe, and tons more. And for everything else we are in the process of building our composting bin. 

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What is your biggest source of trash still/ whats been hardest to find a sustainable swap for?

Food packaging was very difficult for us at first, it has gotten a lot better with our access to amazing bulk stores now. We are also eating a lot cleaner now so that is helping out a lot with packaging as well.

For your cycle, do you use a menstrual cup, reusable pads, or other?  If so, which brand(s) do you recommend?

For my cycle I use reusable pads. Ever since first starting my cycle I was always very uncomfortable with tampons and once I was moving to a low waste lifestyle I was nervous about not finding an alternative. I was quite lucky to not have to worry about my cycle for a whole year after Luna was born. Ha! But once it started again my mom got me some reusable pads for Christmas which I love. I am actually not too sure on the brand.

For clothing, do you prefer to buy secondhand, support eco/fair trade/organic companies or both?  Also, what is your favorite brand for ethical undies/bras?

I love buying both secondhand as well as eco brands. For the majority of our clothes and shoes I purchase second hand but I also really enjoy supporting different makers online. (I am a huge Etsy fan). My most favorite undies brand is Pact.  note: shirt pictured is from Brown Wear Apparel.

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You have a beautiful one year old daughter, Luna.  Has it been challenging doing low waste with baby stuff?  I know you cloth diaper and breastfeed- do you also apply minimalism to baby “gear”, toys, clothes etc?

It has been surprisingly easy to stay low waste with her. Since we cloth diaper that takes a huge number of traditional waste completely out of the picture. Keeping her things to a minimal just went along with our values. I can’t imagine it any other way. check out Jen’s baby essentials here.

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Are there any supplements, herbs, foods that you regularly took during your vegan pregnancy and now during breastfeeding?  What about for Luna- do you give her any supplements at this time?

For both my pregnancy and now while breastfeeding I take Rainbow Light prenatal vitamins and eat a ton of whole food plant based foods. Tons and tons of rice and beans and lots of greens! check out Jen’s vegan pregnancy here.

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Is your husband on the same page with you regarding veganism, low waste and minimalism, or do you two peacefully coexist with separate views?

I am extremely lucky to have a partner that is completely on the same page on everything. We started dating when I  was 17 so we have really grown together in life and have managed to teach each other so much. We went vegan together, then found out about minimalism (he is a much better minimalist than me) and embarked on the low waste lifestyle at the same time. 

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What inspired you to make the switch to a plant based diet 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?

My inspiration for going vegan was my Mowgli (our companion pig). We got her when she was a piglet and from that day we said we could no longer eat pork. From then we discovered just how incredibly complex and emotional pigs really are. We slowly started to leave all meat behind and then ditched dairy and every other animal product. We transitioned pretty slowly and incorporated more and more plant based foods into our diet. My biggest tip for someone who wants to transition is to really find foods that they love and eat those. I get messages all of the time from people saying they just want to quit because they don’t like what they are eating. If you love smoothies then drink smoothies but if a green smoothie makes you gag you can totally find something to replace it that is also plant based. 

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When you went vegan, was your family supportive?  How did you handle food at family gatherings?  I feel like I get this question so much- especially about older family members like grandmothers that maybe can’t understand the lifestyle, and the feeling of guilt/disrespect for refusing traditional foods previously shared communally.

My family was definitely surprised at first (as was Zac’s cajun family), but they are extreme supportive and now most of my immediate and extend family is vegan. My family and I love to cook, so recreating our traditional family foods vegan style is our favorite thing to do together. As far as family gatherings I would always bring food and share it with everyone.  Zac and I are super blessed to have grandparents who understand our values and they love to make us vegan versions of our childhood favorites.   

What are your favorite go-to easy dinners?

My FAVORITE go to dinner is rice, beans, corn, with avocado. We could eat that for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Ha! 

Your parents are from El Salvador (your mom is so beautiful!) and you have been delving deeper into your true roots.  Can you share a little about your journey with decolonizing, uncovering truth, researching and activism on this front?  

Learning about my true identity has been one of the most impactful learning experiences in my life. I have always loved researching and history so it was almost inevitable that I would embark on my decolonization process. There had been so much history that we have been lied to about that learning the truth is liberating. I have so much to learn and so connecting with other people who are decolonizing as well has really helped me out on this journey. I feel it now my responsibility to stand up for those who are marginalized in our society.  book pictured can be found here.

Jen Rivera bell

I love that you travel, especially with your babe…do you have any tips/essentials for vegan/low waste traveling?

Be prepareeeeeed (sang in Scar’s voice from the Lion King) Really tho. Haha. We ALWAYS have food in our food containers basically everywhere we go. It cuts down on packaging and also money, so it’s a win win. I always have our reusable water containers and cutlery. We usually stay in airbnbs so we typically have a kitchen where ever we go. So the first thing we do is locate a grocery store and get our essentials. 

Jen Rivera bell

What are your favorite simple, accessible steps you recommend for people just starting out to reduce waste?

Ditch the disposables! Saying no to straws and  plastic bags is a HUGE step in the right direction. No step is too small! We all start off somewhere so just start small and with a bit of research you will see how drastically you can cut down on waste.

zero waste inspiration: Max

Hello again!  If you haven’t been following along in this zero waste inspiration series, we’ve been talking to inspiring people who are making zero waste work for their daily lives in so many different ways.  Last week we talked to Stevie Van Horn- read her interview here.

Today, I’m really excited to share with you Max La Manna, a zero waste and vegan chef.  You may know him from his drool worthy instagram @eatingwithmax where he posts about vegan food, wellness, zero waste and more.  Max is located in NYC and you can also find him + his recipes on his blog Eating With Max.  I’m so happy to be able to interview him because not only is he super inspiring, but I find men to be underrepresented in both the vegan and zero waste communities.  I hope you also find this helpful!  If you have someone in particular in mind you’d like to nominate for an interview, please let me know in the comments or on my instagram @mamaeatsplants .

Max la manna vegan chef

Walk us through a typical day for you- what do you get up to on the regular?
My days vary day to day, so whatever I feel like doing and is aligned with me in the moment is what I’ll get into. Normally, I have my morning routine that consists of a cold shower, yoga and meditation, positive affirmations, drinking a lot of water and conscious breathing. My favorite part of my day is when I wake up and moments before I go to bed – these are moments are so crucial and find them to be the moments where you set yourself up for success. Throughout the day, I am reading, researching, creating food and immersing myself in some creative action.

vegan butternut

What inspired you to go zero waste and what continues to inspire you to stick to it?

Well, I feel as though I’ve practiced zero waste in different aspects of my life since I was a child in small ways. I would look around and see trash everywhere and knew that this is not how I wanted to treat my planet and would pick up trash on the streets, and at the beach – I guess, the inspiration came from my good friend, Lauren Singer when we met late last year. Sometimes it only takes one person and you see something or feel something and in that moment I changed. What inspires me? Life! I’m going to live a long, healthy and happy life and if I am able to create less waste in doing so then I’ve done my part and hopefully, someone meets me and they change in that moment too and it continues…

Picking up trash New York City zero waste

How easy is it for you to live zero waste in NYC? Any specific challenges for this area?
Each day meets new challenges when I am traveling about this makes it fun, so I consisting have to check in and ask myself “where’s my container’s, where’s my reusable bags, do I have my mason jar?”. Anything new or a transition into a new lifestyle is going to bring new challenges, and being present and mindful in those moments is what allows me to continue to live a zero waste lifestyle. Taking in each moment which allows me to be present as well. The other day I was with Stevie and we forgot our containers, and had leftover food – we ended up having to take the food with us wrapped in a napkin. The weird looks from the wait staff did not deter us from continuing to do what was right because we knew they weren’t going to compost our food leftovers.

vegan food max la manna zero waste tiffin

Where do you shop locally for your zero waste food and household needs?
Go local! The farmers markets is where I go for my produce and food co-ops for other staples. I’m currently getting into making household cleaners with the use of citrus peels. I’d like to get into making shampoos and other hygiene products from scratch. The beautiful thing about being zero-waste is that you get to be creative and when you do your research you commit to it and you surprise yourself every time.

zero waste pasta vegan

If you live with a roommate, do they share your zero waste values? If not, do you find this to be challenging?
Oh, the roommates! No, they don’t practice zero waste or a vegan diet like myself, but I have seen changes in one of my roommates, which is amazing. Like I said, it takes one person. The other day I looked inside their garbage pin and saw plastic and other recyclable items and that made me mad, so I went out and bought a separate bin for them to separate their recycling and this has made an impact in our household. Small changes, big impact!

Vegan chocolate peppermint macaroons

You work as a chef- my husband manages a restaurant and waste is a HUGE issue in the food + hospitality industry, I believe. What ways have you modified your cooking when you made the switch to zero waste?
Growing up in my father’s kitchen and even in the restaurants I’ve worked in, I saw a lot of food waste and it made me upset that food was being thrown away and was still perfectly good for consumption or for other practices like composting. When I started practicing zero waste, my cooking style had to change immediately. I strongly feel that a vegan diet compliments this zero waste lifestyle completely. I started off buying ingredients in glass jars, so then I can reuse the glass jars and refill my ingredients. Then, I started shopping for ingredients that had no packaging – bringing cloth bags and those jars to the store with me to collect dry goods and spices in bulk and bringing my eco bag to carry my groceries home with me. This has made all the difference in my cooking! I feel clean, pure and I know exactly what is going into my body.

Vegan curry

Vegan chefs are a minority in fine dining- I hear a lot of negative comments about how cooking without animal products severely limits a chef in terms of possibilities, flavors, and cultural/traditional foods. Have you received such comments/negativity from peers in your industry and what is your view on vegan culinary “limitations”?

Of course, and then I welcome these people to try my food. My closest friends are not vegan and when they come over to eat, they are blown away by the flavor, texture, the colors that are incorporated- I guess I’m boasting a bit and puffing my chest, but seriously I have not been upset or limited with my cooking with lack of flavor or possibilities.  Think of this for a second, what are you seasoning that steak or chicken with?  VEGAN ingredients- like herbs and vegetables, so what am I really lacking?  (note: this is SO true, in my experience the flavors we crave are actually a result of the seasonings, spices, cooking techniques and sauces that we put on it- is plain no salt meat palatable?  No, its the way we cook it and the flavors we add that make it good.  Case in point- buffalo wings- its all about the SAUCE, and when made with cauliflower they taste just as good if not better and you can feel GOOD after eating a whole bowl instead of too full/sick).

Vegan pizza rainbow

pictured:  Max’s almond cheese rainbow pizza, recipe can be found HERE.

So many women message me saying they have a really hard time trying to introduce plant based food into their male partner’s lives and I’ve noticed that veganism and masculinity have this weird stigma in our culture. Did you have any hangups about this before you went vegan? Do you have any tips on how to help men lean more towards veganism/plant based food?

The moment the idea about veganism entered my mind I changed the way I ate immediately. I think people get hung over with the name “diet” because we are constantly introduced a new trend, a new way to lose weight, a new this or new that – I think you need to do what feels right to you and your body and forget what others have to say. At the end of the day, who is going to take care of you? I’ve always been the person who thought outside the box or when everyone went one way, I went the other. I educated myself and read countless articles of veganism and then did my research on what to eat as a vegan. Over the years, I started to realize how good I felt and how much energy I have on a day-to-day basis – far more energy than I did when I was eating meat. For the men, who are out there who are considering or are just turned off from the idea – ask yourself – is my health important to me? Is the environment important to me? Is an animals life important to me? If you answer, yes to at least one of these then you need to take a good long look at yourself and accept that there is an awakening- change! Welcome the change with open arms. The strongest animals on this planet are herbivores – think about that for just a second.

zero waste vegan men

Continuing on this masculinity stigma, have you experienced negative reactions from male friends, coworkers, etc upon going zero waste? If so, how have you dealt with that?

I definitely hear it from others – male and female. What’s funny to me now is that those people are now practicing zero waste in small ways and practice going vegan a couple times during the week, so I guess it’s working. The first time I brought my compost to the farmer’s market I felt like I made such a difference – the feeling was so palpable and the rest of my day I was flying on a cloud. Knowing that you are making small changes creates bigger impacts down the road.

Composting is an essential part of zero waste and everyone does it a little differently. How do you compost in the city?

Compost freezer new york

Well, I am fortunate to have a compost bin in the front of my apartment, so I can easily go outside and toss my food scraps into the compost bin anytime. I typically will go the farmer’s market with my compost one week and then next I will use NYC’s compost. So, during the week I keep my compost in my freezer and sometimes I’ll take photos of the food scraps as it reminds me that food is art and no matter how you look at it – food can serves multiple purposes.

What is your biggest kind/source of trash still?
Napkins! Every time I go out to eat I always reach for that napkin – I’m getting better at it – this is a process and a change that is new for a lot of us, so we must be kind to ourselves.

max la manna vegan chef

You cook so many amazing delicious recipes, all from scratch. What’s your view on home cooking and how do you make time for it, even as a busy person?
Wow, thank you so much!  There is nothing better than a home cooked meal in my opinion.  I choose a home cooked meal any time! I do take my time and it shows in my cooking- I believe, and I feel that you can taste that in every bite as well. Truly, I make the time to cook at home – I hear from others that they don’t have time and you can’t make that excuse anymore – If it’s important to you then you’ll make the change. It’s about commitment and allowing yourself to research and create a recipe. I love what I do! I’m constantly receiving messages from people and they hire me to create recipes for the weekly.  This is the fun part of it all, and of course, eating the food too!

Vegan chef max la manna

Do you have a zero waste kit for when you’re out and about? If so, what’s in it and what do you carry it in?

Absolutely, I think you have to! When I do go out I carry my backpack with me or my eco bag. I will always bring my stainless steel container and mason jar with me as well. These are simple fixes and you may not get it right on the first couple times you go out, but after awhile you become pro and if you’re actively making a change then you’re stepping in the right direction.

Zero waste on the go

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zero waste inspiration: in the city with Stevie

Welcome to a new series on the blog of zero waste inspiration: I’ll be interviewing different people from all kinds of locations, lifestyles, ages and backgrounds to share how they make zero waste work for them.  My hope is for you to be inspired to start somewhere reducing your waste…no matter what your situation.

This week we are talking to Stevie Van Horn- someone I’ve followed for a while on Instagram and continue to be inspired by daily.

stevie sustainability plastic free straw

Stevie is an all around amazing lady living a zero waste lifestyle in New York City.  She is an advocate for living sustainably, self love, positivity, and getting outside in nature (one of my major goals to work on in 2018!!).  She thrifts her clothes, she recently adopted & tamed a stray cat lurking around her building, and she absolutely radiates joy + love.

Zero waste vegan food

You can find her inspiring people on Instagram @stevieyaaay, on her blog tradingwasteforabundance.com, and her YouTube where she fuses environmental topics and DIY recipes with dancing + general hilarity.  She makes living without the trash seem effortless.  Read on to find out how she does it all.

Tell us a little bit about yourself!  What’s your daily life like?

My name is Stevie, I am zero waste and a sustainability activist. My daily life varies day to day! I have a couple projects coming out this year so some days its embroidering for long days, writing, and creating!

Embroidery body positivity

What prompted you to live zero waste + did you make the transition gradually or all at once?

What inspired me to be zero waste was actually a bit odd. I started an obsession with fungi and mycelium. Mycelium is known as the neurological network of the forest and the fruiting bodies is mushrooms. This organism regenerates, rebalances and communicates with its environment and without it, the forest would be in shambles.

Mushrooms sustainable mycelium

I started really asking myself what the role of humans are and realized there are so many things we can do to be more harmonious with our environment. Zero waste is one of those things that I started doing and realized Ill never go back to my old way of consuming. I decided to prepare for a couple months before I started so I can be more successful but since I had all these trashy things to begin with, the transition is ongoing even today!

mycelium

What was your biggest source of trash pre zero waste + how did you get rid of it?

My biggest source of trash was food waste and food packaging! I never liked leftovers, I opted for plastic packaged everything and filled up a trash bin like once a day in the kitchen. I got rid of it by composting food scraps, being more mindful of utilizing all my food, and shopping in bulk, and fresh and organic. I’ve completely remedied my biggest source of waste just by paying more attention and being more mindful!

How easy or hard is it to live zero waste in your area?  Are there any specific challenges you’ve had to find a work around for?

It’s easy for me to be zero waste in NYC because of all the options I have. There are farmers markets often, there are co-ops in manhattan and I can find a bulk store in almost every borough. They have a compost pick up at our house too for easy composting. The challenges, I think, would be traveling to certain stores or finding a convenient time to do it. It was a habit switch for me though so gradually it got a lot easier to trek to these areas just by this mental switch and I really enjoy doing it!

Zero waste shopping

What’s your grocery shopping look like?  How often do you go, where do you go, and what kinds of foods do you typically buy?

Grocery shopping for me is heading to the farmers market for seasonal, organic fruits and veggies and then I head to a bulk grocery store or Whole Foods for the rest. I shop mostly organic and try for mostly local with produce. All my staple items come from the bulk section such as rice, lentils, nutritional yeasts, gluten free flours, nuts, dried fruit etc… Lately I’ve been on a kick of making cashew coconut milk, burcha, and sweet potato toast!  (note: Stevie’s post on how to lower your FOOTPRINT is so helpful)

You live with a roommate- has this been tricky on your road to zero waste? Does she share your values in this respect?

My room mate is also my best friend and she supports what I do 100%. She backs up the lifestyle and tries her absolute best to minimize her waste too!

Composting is a huge part of reducing landfill waste and everyone does it differently depending on where they live.  How do you compost in the city?

Composting in the city is easy for me! My neighborhood finally has a compost pick up every Thursday I believe. Before I would take it to the farmers market which I find it was just as easy.

compost travel

What’s your view on recycling and how much do you rely on it?

Recycling is great if you can recycle it 100% ! I used to buy a lot of cans but recently looked into what I can actually make instead of using them and cut that by like 75%. Beans, soups, and coconut milks were big for me.  I find that if you find the alternative and its easy to handle, then reducing the amount you recycle would be awesome. If I don’t have time to go to a specific bulk store, then I just opt for paper packaged, aluminum, or compost packaged items and I think thats totally fine!

vegan zero waste groceries

Some people worry that zero waste is expensive- what’s been your experience here?

Zero waste I thought would be expensive and I find that there are certain things that can be more expensive but as a whole you are getting more bang for your buck and often times we are spending more on the actually packaging and labels of it. I also used to buy packaged foods because they were just tempting. I would buy like 20 granola bars, cereals, bottled drinks, and all that just because they did a good job at branding and now I find that I can make things at home for way cheaper. You realize there are so many things you can live without that was just being given into by good advertising.

It seems that you travel a fair bit- how do you avoid waste while traveling?

Traveling takes some prep and some good tupperware. If you have a mason jar, produce, and prepped snacks you can avoid all waste. Home made popcorn, bananas, veggies, and rice bowls are all things I usually take with me and the food scraps go in the mason jar until I compost it or bury it next to a tree if I can’t. This is a habit switch that just takes a bit to get used to since you do have to make room for that time you spend prepping but its worth it !

sustainable zero waste travel

I know you’re palm oil free and it’s something I’m just starting to be aware of looking for.  Could you explain a little about why this is an ingredient you avoid, and what ingredient names to look out for in products that are palm oil derivatives?

Palm oil is one of those secret ingredients not a ton of people know about. Palm oil extraction takes place in plantations where they were previous peatlands and forests. A main hub for these plantations is in Indonesia in the Sumatran rainforest. Not only are they burning down vast forests everyday to meet the demands we have for this oil, but they are treating elephants, orangutans, and tigers like they are rodents where they are electrocuted, shot, and poisoned.

sustainable palm oil is a lie

These forests are the only place where these amazing, intelligent species all dwell symbiotically and we are losing it so fast just for us to buy detergent, peanut butters, lipsticks, chips etc… There are so many different alternatives to this ingredient and to brands that carry products with this ingredient inside it. Some names it goes by are: Organic Palm Oil, Palm Kernel Oil, Palmate, Stearic Acid, Glyceryl Stearate, Palmitate, Sodium Laurel Sulfate.

Palm oil not sustainable

note: “sustainable” palm oil actually isn’t sustainable at all- don’t be fooled and please just avoid this ingredient all together- everyone should do this, but especially if you are vegan, buying palm oil products DIRECTLY contributes to SUFFERING- which is why I don’t consider palm oil products “vegan” even if they are, in fact, animal product free.  Dr Bronners is one well known brand that uses “sustainable palm oil” BUT this is an ecologically destructive ingredient whether or not there are animals involved.  Consider this information from Big Spoon roasters:  “ ‘Sustainable’ palm oil claims have arisen recently to represent an approach to oil palm agriculture that aims to produce palm oil without causing deforestation or harming people. However, “sustainable palm oil” has rightly been under fire for several years from environmentalists and organizations that have compiled evidence that such claims are nothing more than greenwashing schemes. This view did not improve within the environmental community upon the formation of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) in 2004. The RSPO is a not-for-profit organization and currently the largest sustainability-focused organization within the palm oil sector, however its standards do not ban deforestation or destruction of peatlands for the development of oil palm plantations.”

I’ve heard people comment that living zero waste is too time consuming.  You DIY a lot of products like toothpaste, cleaning spray, facial moisturizer + cook healthy homemade food- what’s your experience been with fitting these into your life?

zero waste on the go

I think zero waste can be considered time consuming like eating home cooked meals can. There’s no way around prepping but much like having a Sunday prep day, you can make it a fun routine, where once a week or the same day as meal prep you can stock up, create, and prep for the weeks or months ahead depending on different products! I tend to run out of a couple things at the same time which makes it perfect for remaking it all at the same time too!

What would you say to someone who is curious about zero waste, but feels overwhelmed and doesn’t know where to start?

My advice to someone who wants to start zero waste but seems a bit overwhelmed is to take it easy! This is supposed to be an incredibly eye opening and fun transition and that takes time. First notice what you waste within the next week or even a month. Once you identify where you waste, you can then look for alternatives which is where the fun begins!

Stevie yaaaay

Another big piece of advice is do not expect perfection, you will not get it! Every positive action you take is a HUGE WIN! So celebrate them all and learn from the ones that are accidents or giving in cravings!