I’ve Gone Full Granola

by Amy on January 25, 2019

Just over five years ago I stopped drinking alcohol.

What I didn’t anticipate was how much my life would change. One tiny change turned out to be a tidal wave. I lost weight. My sugar cravings went away. I started to exercise more. I STARTED PLAYING TENNIS AGAIN!!! I dealt with a lot of emotional stuff I had been avoiding. I learned so many things about myself. I could go on and on.

There are some habits that spark a tidal wave of other habits. Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit,” calls them KEYSTONE HABITS. I imagine there are good and bad keystone habits. I remember when I used to smoke. That habit led me to STOP exercising (too hard to breathe), I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating, I stopped hanging out with non-smokers, I drank more to go with the smoking, etc.

My choice to stop drinking booze was a POSITIVE keystone habit. They say that making your bed is a keystone habit. Apparently people who make their beds are more likely to like their jobs and exercise… Really? And families that eat dinner together supposedly have more confident kids with better grades… Someone explain that to me…

Well I stumbled upon ANOTHER keystone habit that in the space of a few short weeks has already dramatically altered my universe in tangible ways. Real changes for the better. NOT correlation. Causation.

By now you are wondering what it is right?

Take a deep breathe because some of you might not like it.

ZERO WASTE.

Yes, people, I have gone full granola.

Since the beginning of the month I have been fastidiously bringing my own bags to the store, shopping the bulk aisles, forgoing packaged products and making my own fucking laundry detergent.

You know that scene in The Matrix when Neo swallows the red pill (or was it the blue pill?) and all of a sudden he can see all this scary shit? Stuff that has been happening all along but suddenly he is aware of it.

It’s like a switch flipped in my brain.

All of a sudden I am standing in the condiments aisle at Whole Foods and I’m thinking, do we really need this much stuff — this much packaging, this many choices, so many kinds of mustard?

In reality though the change that led me to go full granola was more gradual. After reading an article about how recycling isn’t working — too many manufacturers doing different things, different protocols depending on the region, stuff that looks like it can be recycled but really can’t be (like paper Starbucks cups! What?) mucking up the system. All those pictures of sea animals being injured by pieces of plastic packaging. Articles about the ocean filling up with plastic.

And then Christmas. All that stuff. I’m raising my kids to consume at a pace that isn’t sustainable and they won’t know any better unless someone teaches them a different way.

Not to mention the chemicals in all those cleaning products leaching into our bodies and into the earth.

I read the average American produces around 4.4 lbs of garbage every day. Let me just say that in my household it was probably double that. I LOVE garbage service. The way I can put all my rubbish into the bin, drag it to the curb once a week and POOF it disappears. But it doesn’t disappear, does it? It just goes somewhere else, where I have the (white) privilege of not having to see, smell or deal with it.

So this former queen of consumption who loved shopping, shopping, shopping… The gal who never brought her own bags to the grocery store, who rolled her eyes at people with their own mugs at the coffee shop, who thought she needed all the condiments…

… is now making her own laundry detergent.

I decided to try going Zero Waste as an experiment. I honestly didn’t think I had what it takes. Could I consistently remember my own bags? Would it be too time consuming? Would the rest of the family join in? Would people roll their eyes at me when I bring my own mug to Starbucks?

We aren’t totally Zero Waste and I don’t know if we’ll ever be. But let me be clear, it is a KEYSTONE habit. Here are 10, mostly unexpected, things that have changed for the better after going almost Zero Waste:

1) Eating healthier – Yes I’m eating healthier because I’m not consuming processed foods but my kids you guys! They are eating so much better too. They swiftly developed a preference for fresh baked bread (that I buy at the bakery) and home made kale chips to the processed stuff we used to eat on the regular.
2) I am spending more quality time with them too – because we don’t buy cookies that come in a package, we are making cookies together at least once a week. My kids are getting into baking and we have a new thing we like to do together.
3) We are bonding as a family – I never expected my kids to embrace this zero waste stuff but they are totally into it. We celebrate each time I come home and show them all the ways I avoided buying stuff in packaging. They are having fun problem solving with me and figuring out ways we can conserve.
4) We are learning new things – like how to compost, and how to make kale chips (so easy) and what food has the most vitamin C (so we don’t purchase supplements in plastic containers).
5) We are saving money – Seriously this was NOT my motivation but I am already seeing my grocery budget shrink. Instead of buying a big o’l plastic bin of TIDE from Costco for $20 I threw together some ingredients and made my own. It adds up!
6) My house is tidier – I read Marie Kondo’s book a few years ago and followed her method. It was life changing (but not sustainable). It didn’t take long for things to get cluttered again. Because I was still consuming at the same pace. 
7) Style – I just have to say that a glass jar of white powder is much prettier in my laundry room than a big orange bin of TIDE detergent. Zero waste is so stylish. It makes me happy to remove all the commercial branding from my shelves.
8) We are doing Something – I have felt so overwhelmed and helpless when it comes to the environmental situation. But now I’m doing something. I’m making a political statement through my purchase decisions. If enough of us start saying NO to excess packaging, manufacturers are going to notice.
9) I am teaching my kids – My kids are thinking twice about single use items like juice boxes and straws. Not because I’m making them but because they want to do their part for the earth. 
10) Feeling closer to the earth – Most of the stuff we throw away now goes into compost which then turns into dirt which will eventually help us to grow our own vegetables (fingers crossed.) We are learning this through actual experience. Me and the kids. And it’s helping us develop an appreciation for the the cycle of life.

Going zero (or low) waste isn’t perfect. Tonight I’m making pizza dough from scratch to avoid buying dough in plastic bags and I’m off to Fred Meyer to see if they will cut me a slab of mozzarella so I don’t buy it prepackaged. But, really, it hasn’t been as time consuming as I thought.

The hardest thing about it so far has been trying to find zero waste birthday gifts or zero waste valentines. And who knows what I’m going to do when the twins turn eleven in February. Or having to explain why you won’t be bringing juice boxes after the kids’ basketball game without sounding like an asshole.

If you want to learn more about the zero waste movement, check out Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home.

Isn’t it pretty?
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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Westermann January 31, 2019 at 5:46 pm

We picked up some pastries in Vegas on a recent trip. A few little overpriced bite sized treats. The packaging was SO wasteful. A fancy little box with ribbon and it MAGNETIZED closed and this was put inside of another heavy weight fancy bag with ribbon. If I had been home I might have re-purposed at least the box, but we walked down the strip a bit, ate our treats and threw all that packaging away!

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Michelle January 31, 2019 at 8:42 pm

Amy!
You rock and I am continually reminded as I read your letter that EVERY CHOICE counts, and makes a difference!! Love hearing about you making your own laundry detergent!! Personal bags to the store, yes! I remember being laughed at when I shared about not drinking anything that says sugar free or diet soft drinks……the ingredient in ANY and ALL sugar free pop, etc., is a neuro toxin and can cause Multiple Sclerosis like symptoms!! Plus all the already published info about such chemicals being poison (wood alcohol) ingredients (diet candy) etc.,etc., etc.!! Superb job, and I love reading your work! I stopped drinking 15 years ago, and as you said, the clean-up continues!! HUGS, girl!!

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