The Surprising Truth About All Your Stuff

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It isn't too often that I take time to consider how much I consume and then throw away. I have just always gone about my daily life, without a second thought as to what I purchase, use (or don't use) and then throw away, without a second thought to all my stuff. Recently, I heard about the idea of zero waste - the philosophy that an individual or family can reuse everything and send nothing to a landfill. Nothing. At all. The concept stunned and intrigued me, and I immediately wanted to know more.

As I began exploring the idea of zero waste, I realized how much it would simplify our lives. It would also be an incredible way to improve our environmental responsibility. Zero waste felt a little bit overwhelming, so I decided to begin a journey toward minimal waste instead. To begin reducing the amount of stuff we own, to better control what we're buying, and to start recycling more. I was stunned at how my lifestyle, as I am living it now, affects the world around me to such a huge extent - and I had no idea! Today, I'm sharing what I've learned so far, the small changes I've implemented in our routine, and how you can get started making a difference right now. Let's get started!

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How it all began...

When I first learned of the styrofoam ban in San Francisco, I was seriously annoyed. In my 9-5 job, I work with vendors who sell styrofoam coolers to customers all around the world....including San Francisco. So, since this ban was going to be adding to my workload, I figured I might as well learn what it's all about anyway. But that was just the beginning...

I spent the next hour combing through articles on San Francisco's Zero Waste initiative's website. I was fascinated by their attention to detail and stunned by how many ways our waste affects the environment. It's amazing how such a large city is dedicated to this cause, and to educating their citizens about zero waste.

The next click took me to a website with a video called "The Story of Stuff." I watched it at home that night and it completely changed my perspective on the styrofoam ban in SF. If you've never seen it, I highly recommend spending 20 minutes to watch the video or at least download the annotated script. Go ahead and watch it now, I'll wait :)

See what I mean?

I was inspired to start making changes. The first was plastic bags. I saw pictures of used bags washed ashore in other countries, even on the West Coast! I was astonished and heartbroken. I usually try to recycle grocery bags on my next visit to the store. Now, I am much more diligent in doing so, but I would really rather not use them in the first place. My plan is to purchase durable, reusable shopping bags. I just need to find the right ones!

We live in the country, so we haven't recycled for the past few years. That's always been hard for me, since I learned how to recycle growing up. The habit becomes ingrained in you! But we have gotten out of the habit since my husband and I were married and had no way to recycle. Recently, though, I've decided there's no excuse - there MUST be a way we can recycle!

So I started researching... I learned that the nearest town offers recycling drop off locations all around the county. There's one literally 7 minutes from my house! As happy as that made me, I was also disappointed that I hadn't researched this sooner to prevent all those plastic milk jugs and cardboard boxes from reaching the landfill.

Where grace comes in

But I am giving myself grace. There's a huge chance that I never would have discovered zero waste or started making changes at all. It's good to start taking small steps. But I am just one person, and my husband and I are just one family. It's going to take a whole lot more than that to really impact our world.

We first have to start by giving ourselves grace. If you're like me and after watching the Story of Stuff video are feeling a ton of guilt about your consumption, it's okay. We live in a time that makes it almost impossible to achieve zero waste. That's why it's so cool to see entire cities like San Francisco pursuing it. It makes it seem more possible for individual families to pursue it, too!

Shortly after beginning to make small changes in our lifestyle, I started reading a book called Zero Waste Home - it's about a family who produces so little waste, it fits in a quart-sized mason jar! Now, this is when I started to feel like zero waste was slightly out of reach for us at this point. There is just SO much consumption in our lives - I didn't know where to start. There are so many areas we can start changing our habits, especially with the tips from Zero Waste Home - we could make changes in our grocery shopping, personal hygiene, clothing, cleaning supplies, kitchen & cooking materials, and even gardening tools!

That's why grace is so important in this journey. I decided on minimal waste to give myself grace and allow room to celebrate small changes. A little impact is better than none at all! I hope you're feeling inspired to do the same. I'll be sharing my small changes from the past few weeks and throughout my journey to minimal waste. I will also be challenging you to join me!

The CG Simplicity Challenge!

Each week's post will include a Simplicity Challenge - one small task to complete or change to make that will help you simplify your lifestyle, create balance, or take a step toward minimal waste. I hope you're as excited as I am about the weekly Simplicity Challenge - I can't wait to see the progress we make in growing in grace and simplicity together.

For this week's Simplicity Challenge, I want you to watch the Story of Stuff video! Maybe you've already watched it by the end of this post, maybe you didn't. Now is your chance! I'm making this the challenge for this week, because I truly believe the things I learned from the video really made me start thinking seriously about what I am buying, using, and throwing out. We can take this first step together! Once you've watched the video, let me know you've completed the Simplicity Challenge by commenting with the most surprising thing you learned from the video (trust me, it'll be a challenge just picking only one!).