Preface to The Zero Waste Voyage 

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The ‘Zero Waste’ Lifestyle is all about limiting trash, and in particular single-use plastic. This holds true for a wide array of things we consume in our every day lives— food in our kitchens, products in our bathrooms, clothes in our wardrobe, office supplies at work …

Unless we were to become hunter-gatherers living in tree houses with boar skin wrapped around our waste we are condemed to produce waste: the cars we drive, the houses we live in, the cinemas we go to, the tents we camp in… all have embedded waste. Today, scientists perform Life Cycle Assesments to uncover the real footprint of our possessions which is often far more than we might think.

The Zero Waste Voyage is an exploratory gap year with my brother, it’s about finding creative ways to keep my waste to a minimum in order to reduce my footprint and inspire others to do the same. The zero waste voyage is about ‘voluntary simplicity‘ – it’s not about trying to make everything from scratch (although I strive to !) as one would do when homesteading, but it’ bringing a jar to the granola bulk section at Whole Foods, asking the baker to put a loaf of bread in my tote and bringing own container to the take-out section to avoid single-use packaging.

Note: so called ‘compostable utensils’ and ‘recyclable cointainers’ don’t really count because they require a whole lot of energy to produce and recycle.

Illustration by Maddie Bright


 

How did this idea come about ? 

Learning about zero waste living has been a life-long journey. As a little girl I always enjoyed berry-picking in the mountains of Chamonix, making beetroot lipbalm with my friend Jeanne-Lyse,  and cooking from scratch with various foraged wild edibles.

As my passion for plants grew I applied to Cornell Unversity to study Plant Science. This was quite a leap for a girl living in London, where getting ready for school was like getting ready for a runway show. I did the best I could to be cool, fashionable and blend in with the the rest of the crowd.

When I got to Cornell located in Ithaca, New York —a hippie town in the Fingerlakes region—I had to hike up a massive hill to get to class and I realised more than ever that practicality & functionality was more important than fashion. That’s when I got a second hand North Face backpack that I still use, sturdy leather boots and a winter coat that went all the way down to my ankles to stay warm in the freezing winter months.  I soon became friends with other tree-huggers, I went camping on the week-ends, went to my professors’ house to eat wild venison and Yoga became a bi-weekly routine . I learnt about composting food waste, the importance of community, eating locally etc. I took all the classes I possibly could outdoors—my favourite of which was Forests, Fields and swamps — a Monday afternoon class which entailed a 4 hour walk outside observing nature: leaves, bark, seeds, birds, soil… what a nice way to ease into the week !

Bee keeping at Dilmun Hill in Ithaca – a student run farm

My junior year I discovered permaculture, which was a gigantic leap into the ‘Zero Waste Lifestyle’ I still hadn’t heard about at the time. Permaculture is a design system that reaches beyond sustainability, designing to replenish and regenerate life, restore and enhance ecological health by creating new stores of energy and productivity after providing for basic needs and maintenance of systems. Permaculture is also a life-style that is thought to be the epitome of sustainability . It’s a holistic way of living where waste becomes a resource: where your food scraps become food for plants, where multifunctionality is your mantra. For instance, a chicken on your farm doesn’t just produce waste: it fertilises your soil, it keeps pests at bay and it eats your food waste etc. Once I learnt about Permaculture I could place all of my interests and passions underneath one umbrella term as permaculture covers everything from organic farming, agroforestry, agroecology, bee keeping, edible landscaping, biomimicry, food forests, holistic medicine, herbalism, ethnobotany, natural construction to renewable energy … and the list goes on!

 

Permaculture principles . Source: Left top: unknown , LEft middle: ONe World Permaculture, Bottom left: Lucy Everett . Right : unknown

At his point in university I realised how fortunate I was; I coudln’t have picked a better discipline to study, I lived in a town that I loved, and going to the farmers’ market with friends became a weekly get-together. I was proud to be an environmentalist and prepared to spend the rest of my life preaching permaculture and fighting to protect the planet.
In 2014, my senior year at university I got together with two friends and we brainstormed about ways to combine water-sports with environmental awareness: how could we make environmentalism cool? That Spring I told my parents I was going on a Stand Up Paddle Board expedition around the Island of Bermuda to document plastic pollution with two friends from Cornell: Christian and Gordon. When I first told them I was going to sleep on my SUP in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle with two dudes just to proove a point my parents wern’t too pleased ! I lived off my paddle board for 11 days, charging equipment with solar panels, drinking rainwater and foraging prickly pears. This adventure took me one step closer to striving to limit waste as it suddenly opened my eyes to the frightening amount of plastic in the ocean. Soon after, our non-profit Plastic Tides emerged. Ever since, we’ve been organising beach clean-ups, school visits, permaculture workshops, Plastic-Free SUP races and expeditions around the world. Our primary aim is to educate people and get youngsters excited about fighting plastic pollution.

Waimanu Valley Expedition, Hawaii 2016

Beach Clean-up , Bermuda 2016

Plastic Tides Junior Summer Internship, Ithaca 2015

Plastic Tides Junior Summer Internship, Ithaca 2016

Beach Clean-up Bermuda 2015

Beach Clean-up and PLastic Sorting , Bermuda 2015

At this point I was avoiding the use of plastic water bottles, plastic bags, straws, microbead Infested toothpastes… but it’s only when I started studying at Oxford that I became extremely interested in the Zero Waste Lifestyle. I read about the work of Bea Johnson – an amazing woman that persuaded her family to adopt a way of living that enabled her to produce only a small jar of trash in a year. PLEASE CHECK THIS VIDEO OUT !

I realised that minimalism and simplicity could help make my life easier and I decided I wanted to share my zero waste living tips with as many people as possible, starting with my friends.

What will readers learn from the Zero Waste Voyage blog posts? 

I’ll be sharing tips about ways to reduce waste in the kitchen, in the bathroom and specifically when traveling. This will include gear & product reviews, food recipes, DIY  (for cosmetics, cleaning solutions), how-toos for office supplies (refillable fountain pen, home-made glue)  … and lots of enticing pictures because minimalism and simplicity is beautiful.

I want to prove that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort or elegance to live conscious life . Zero Waste is approachable and you can incorporate aspects that work for you , and work your way up to a jar of trash a year!

As zero wast guru Bea Johnson says, it’s a lifestyle that is rich in experiences rather than things, a life that is based on doing and being rather than having.

Farm harvest, Hawaii 2015

Aloe Vera first-aid, Brazil 2016

Farm harvest, Hawaii 2015

Home-made sleep tincture for restless nights


What about my air miles, don’t they negate the Zero Waste lifestyle ?

I am very aware that my discourse might sound controversial as air miles counteract any carbon-saving, footprint reducing initiatives I take part in. As climate scientist Peter Kalmus puts it, “hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly in a plane”. If I were to refuse a disposable bottle on a flight to Asia I’d save 0.04 kilograms of CO2. However, the flight itself emits more than 4,000 kilograms, equivalent to about  100,000 bottles…This topic is taboo for many environmentalists, and you can read more about my opinion on this topic here.

Although we are flying around the world for a good portion of our gap year , we will be hitchhike sailing around Europe all summer – a fun way to travel with a small footprint

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