Hey #stashersquad, meet Meg Lazaros! She's a creative director and designer who is passionate about creating a future where humans can live full, happy lives in harmony with nature. She shares her low-waste journey and tips on living sustainably on her Instagram @megmakeslesswaste, and today, she's sharing her journey with us! She's also taking over our IG stories today so check 'em out. Enjoy!
The first time I truly started thinking about living a low-waste life I instantly felt my pits start to sweat and my chest tighten. I’d seen those Instagram pictures of minimalists with their collection of trash from the past 5 years stuffed neatly into a mason jar, and I’d think “how the f*#% can I ever live up to that?”
I was already trying (and failing) to have a work-life balance, spend more time with my family, and find the time to date ... In New York City. Adding another task to my ever-growing to-do list was just too overwhelming and down right stress-inducing! So I did what lots of us do—I completely ignored it. I ignored it for a long time. I told myself that I’d start living more sustainably once I got my life in order, once things calmed down at work, once the new year started, and so on. But I soon realized I was deliberately procrastinating from making these challenging life choices because I feared I wouldn’t be able to succeed.
image via @megmakeslesswaste
What stopped me from making strides towards living greener was the idea that I had to do it perfectly. I thought that once I vocalized my intentions, I could never make trash again or fill up my car with gas without being seen as a hypocrite. But the problem was, if I always strove toward perfection, I was ultimately doomed to feel disappointed when I came up short. And it’s pretty much impossible to not come up short!
First, I decided to to tell myself that it was not only ok to be imperfect, it was actually better to be imperfect. If I was flawless at this green living thing, that would mean I’d be done with my journey before it even started. Making mistakes means I have the space to grow, to continue to learn from others, to listen to different perspectives, and to gain new insights throughout my entire life—which all sounds more fun and interesting than being the one with all the answers.
image via @megmakeslesswaste and @go.nood
As soon as I changed my mindset, I was able to start letting go of some of my anxieties around making those behavioral changes in my life. As weird as it might sound, giving myself the permission to mess up really jump-started my path toward living sustainably.
Big little changes
Ok, so I’m not going to lie.
At first, the idea of refusing a plastic bag at the grocery store sounded like total BS to me. I couldn’t see how not using a few plastic bags could really help the planet when we’re dealing with mass extinction of plants and animals, droughts and famine due to changing climates, and our ocean’s health in complete crisis. A plastic bag or two just seemed like a drop in the rising sea. I had this idea in my head that to truly make a difference, I would need to immediately leave my urban dwelling, go off the grid, sew my own clothes, grow my own food, and mill my own damn wheat!
But the more I read about sustainability and green living, I realized that there are hundreds of little changes we can make to our everyday habits — and they all add up! For example, that little ol’ plastic bag that I wrote off as insignificant … yeah, not so much. It’s estimated that, the average U.S. resident uses between 350 and 500 plastic bags each year! And plastic bags make up more than 10% of the washed-up debris that pollutes the U.S. coastline. Suddenly, that small decision to use a tote bag for groceries instead of accepting a plastic bag seemed like it could really make a big difference.
Some other big little changes that I started to implement over time:
- Using handkerchiefs instead of tissues (Americans throw away more than 255 billion disposable facial tissues each year). Added bonus: vintage hankies are WAY cuter than boring Kleenex.
- Trading in my disposable coffee cup for a reusable one (it has been estimated that 53,000 homes could be powered annually by energy needed to make and dispose of paper cups).
- Using stashers and beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap or plastic baggies for food storage (based on stats provided by statista.com, an estimated 171 billion plastic baggies enter landfills in the U.S. every year).
- Making my own toothpaste from simple, natural ingredients (almost all drugstore toothpaste tubes are non-recyclable and over 1 billion plastic tubes wind up in landfills every year)
Once I feel like I’ve turned a small change into a true habit, I try to introduce another one into my life. That way I’m only juggling one thing at a time.
So no, I’m not living in a hut on an island and fishing for my dinner, but these everyday behavioral shifts have a big impact by significantly reducing my carbon footprint over time. And when making changes little by little, these new behaviors are more manageable and have a better chance of becoming long-lasting habits (creating an even larger impact over the course of my life!).
image via @megmakeslesswaste and @refinery29
Give yourself time and be kind
If you told me two years ago that, in the near future, I’d be composting my food scraps, shopping in bulk, learning to sew, picking up trash off the streets (willingly!), not ordering takeout (unless I’m sick), and talking to strangers on a daily basis about my experiences living low waste, I’d probably just nervously laugh and continue sucking up my iced coffee from a plastic cup through a plastic straw.
My point is, everything feels daunting at first. Lifestyle changes don’t happen all at once. They happen the same way any big change does—one step at a time.
I’m still not done making change towards my ecolife and I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m working on it at a speed that feels right for me. And if, despite my best efforts, I still wind up accumulating some plastic bits or some weird non-recyclable packaging, I shrug it off. I try to remember that it’s not a failure — It’s another learning experience. Let’s face it, sometimes, I’m going to make trash. Nobody’s perfect. And that’s A-O-K.
Say it with me people: I do what I can, when I can! And that’s all anyone can ask for.