Erin Jones is the writer of Tropically Trashless, a zero waste lifestyle blog that aims to help people reduce their waste and live more eco friendly lives. Read on to hear about her journey to discovering zero waste living and what it means to her.
My name is Erin Jones, I’m a History undergraduate student (currently on a gap year). I live in Bermuda where I was born and raised by British and Canadian parents, who met while on short posts to the island, and have been here ever since.
My first experiences with nature were in my father’s sprawling vegetable patch at the bottom of our garden, bursting with neat rows of vegetables like tomatoes, corn and watermelons, as well as one perpetually unruly herb garden, where the basil grew into such a jungle that he occasionally had to take the lawnmower over it - the smell was magnificent. When I was three or four he would take me down the green hill into our garden to look at it all, just sitting and appreciating it, observing the life that was growing there. I remember once we were in a lush, leafy section of the garden, and he reached into the earth and just pulled out a potato, like magic! Where had they come from? How did he know they were in there? It was sorcery to a toddler.
Gardening still fascinates me, although I do understand how potatoes work now. Putting a tiny seed in the earth and having food spring up from the ground will always be magical to me.
Throughout my life, I’ve had a consistent urge to make things, whether through knitting, sewing, or gardening, and I try to bring this passion into zero waste, whether through saving resources and money by sewing produce bags from thrifted sheets and tablecloths, or growing a herb garden to avoid plastic clam-shells and $8 oregano.
My other great love has always been words; creative writing and debate were a large part of my book-filled childhood, heavily indulged and encouraged by my wonderful English and History teachers, who would talk with me for hours about history, and arguments and the joy of language. This ultimately led me to pursue an undergraduate in History and to feel confident enough to start writing Tropically Trashless.
I discovered the zero-waste movement when I was fourteen. Landfills and ocean plastic pollution had distressed me for a long time - not only because of the destruction, but because of how preventable it seemed. Landfills weren’t filled with essential medical waste or disaster relief equipment, they were filled with takeout trays and chip bags. I felt powerless against my own part in creating the trash. Even though I turned lights off and had shorter showers, I was a spectator in the fate of our planet.
I remember sitting in my room on Google, just searching to see if there was another way, when by chance I found Kathryn Kellogg’s blog Going Zero Waste,and it changed my life. Here was a woman who was making virtually no trash - she wasn’t just recycling it, she simply wasn’t making it, and she had easy instructions for how anyone else could too. She didn’t live in the wilderness or on a permaculture farm high in the Andes - she lived in San Francisco, and had a regular job. From that moment on, armed with the term “zero waste”, I was able to discover a whole community of people who want to protect the planet, and were determined to figure out how.
Everything I have been able to do within the zero-waste movement is because of Kathryn Kellogg’s blog Going Zero Waste and I am so grateful for it.
Having been part of the movement for four years, and reading loads of fantastic zero waste blogs like Gippsland Unwrapped from rural Australia, Trash is for Tossers from New York City and Gittemary Johansen’s gittemary.com, I realised I had accumulated an abundance of knowledge about living zero waste, from shopping at bulk stores, to easily mending clothes, to which brands sold eyebrow pencils without the plastic cap. Yet all of this information had nowhere to go, except to my best friend (who I’m sure was sick to death of being told which laundry detergents were free of plastic scoops!)
Ultimately I decided to start Tropically Trashless in April 2020 as a place to compile all the zero waste knowledge I had found, as well as what I was personally doing, in the hopes that other people would find it helpful. I decided to name the blog Tropically Trashless to honour my Bermuda roots.
While Bermuda does not have a bulk store (yet!), there are many places to buy all sorts of things without plastic, or even completely package free, if you know where to look. I am working on a community database called “Where to Shop Zero Waste in Bermuda”, where people can leave comments on local low waste/package free options to be put in. For me, gathering and sharing the eco-friendly knowledge of your community is an important part of having a zero waste presence.
Recognizing the amount of waste and unnecessary plastic in our homes can feel defeating. For those looking to reduce their impact but who may feel a bit overwhelmed, remember every little bit counts - it really does. Pick one area. One swap. And just do that. Maybe that’s putting a fork in your bag so you can forgo the disposable plastic ones. Once you feel you’ve accomplished that, add something else. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (Though the eco-conscious try to refrain from eating the critically endangered, as a rule).
A great way to get started is to look at your weekly trash to find most common item – begin with that. Fundamentally, just remember that you are in the driver’s seat of your own journey. The speed is up to you. Don’t let the fear of not doing it perfectly stop you. The planet doesn’t need a few people doing zero waste perfectly, it needs millions of people doing it imperfectly.
While I first came to the zero waste movement to help protect the environment and reduce my impact, living zero waste has saved me time, money and mental energy. I started thrifting to reduce my closet’s impact on the environment, yet I’ve found beautiful and vintage pieces, inexpensively, which I would never have come across otherwise. I began bringing my own reusable coffee cup to save on landfill, but it also means my coffee stays hot for hours, and can be popped in my purse, instead of in a disposable cup that must be kept completely upright. When I carry my groceries home, I know my reusable bags won’t rip or tear. Eating more plants to reduce packaging and emissions also made me feel healthier. I suppose I love zero waste for what it reduces, but also what it increases. Zero waste has given my life so much more than less waste.
Check out Erin's blog Tropically Trashless here to follow along her journey on zero waste living.
Follow her on Instagram @tropicallytrashless
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