When I think back to who I was three years ago, it's amazing how different I am now. In a good way! Of course, I graduated college and have embarked on life as an adult, but I have also made countless other lifestyle changes that would probably cause my past-self to raise her eyebrows and roll her eyes.
I used to be pretty typical, and in many ways, oblivious. I thrived on shopping and buying new things, I thought disposable items were genius, and I insisted on using anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners. I had no idea how these things affected the bigger picture.
Believe it or not, it all started with just wanting to get into shape, to become fit and healthy. I was a junior in college and, at my heaviest weight to date, anticipating my first trip abroad. It was in January 2013 that I decided to seriously start taking care of myself. I started eating well, going to the gym, and running. As I started to take my health seriously, I became increasingly conscious about what was in the food I was eating. This led to concern about all of the things that touched my skin, like cosmetics and household cleaners.
At the same time, I was growing increasingly aware of the environmental crisis we are facing. I became very interested in the things my boyfriend was learning as an Atmospheric and Oceanic Science major, particularly his environmental classes. Then my best friend Tara decided to major in Environmental Chemistry. I started having really in-depth conversations with them about climate change and human impact on the environment.
In 2014, Tara and I decided to participate in the Teens Turning Green Project Green Challenge, a 30-day online program geared toward students to learn about conscious living. We didn't officially follow through with most of the challenges, but I took advantage of all of the resource material and learned a lot. This is where I first learned about zero-waste living, a concept that seemed extreme and intimidating at the time.
However, in the summer of 2015, I started following Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer's zero-waste blogs more closely and finally decided that zero-waste was a goal worth striving for.
As a result of all of this, I have ditched or replaced most of the items in my life in favor of sustainable and/or reusable alternatives and I now make many of my own products, such as deodorant, chapstick, toothpaste, and exfoliating scrub.
But what changed the most is not just what I do, but the way I think. I no longer think of garbage or material goods the same way. I now question and consider the necessity and life-cycle of every purchase I make. I look at the items in my trash bin and look for ways to avoid them. Despite all of the thought that goes into this lifestyle, my life is significantly simpler than it used to be.
Simple living has helped me to save money in many ways, especially as it halts impulse-buying in its tracks! For example, if I'm out and want a cup of coffee, but realize that I don't have my reusable mug, 9 times out of 10 I will pass on the coffee. I pause to evaluate what would be impulsive purchases: that's cute, but it's made out of plastic - do I really need it? How long will this last me? Where will it end up when I am done with it? If something is broken, I try to fix it before giving up on it. Instead of buying cheap low-quality products, I invest in quality products that will last.
I've also found peace in not relying on convenience items and putting extra effort into things. My boyfriend said it best when I asked him why he loves his French press so much, "There's something relaxing about doing something methodically". He's right. In our fast-paced society where we reject anything inconvenient, it's easy to lose sight of things or lack appreciation. When you make things from scratch, you're forced to slow down and enjoy the process, and you appreciate the effort that goes into the item.
There is serenity in simplicity, in not being so focused on "stuff". When you put more effort into things, you learn to appreciate them more. When you own less, and when the items you own are quality items, you're more likely to take good care of them. When you do things yourself, you gain a sense of pride and fulfillment!