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The "Zero Waste" Musician Experiment

Did you know that there is a garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas? Thats about 270,000 square miles of TRASH. Most of that trash is plastic. Not only that but there are four more patches just like it swirling in gyres throughout every ocean, no one knows how deep they go or what the effect of all these plastic particles have on our ocean ecosystems. All we know is that we're showing no signs of letting up on our wasteful consumer habits.

Wait! Don't stop reading yet. I'm not going to lecture you, and I'm not going to guilt you into feeling like the end times are upon us. I'm here to inspire you.

Right now everything feels outside of our control, and I'm guessing a few of you readers feel the same way. The ice caps are melting, hurricanes have completely devastated communities in the United States, wildfires are consuming vast tracts of land and property and yeah......politics is a hideous train-wreck.

This helpless feeling had me pretty depressed. So I decided to try an experiment; to take back some control over my habits while making me feel like I could, in some tiny way, help make the world better.

On September 1st I decided to make three rules for myself.

  1. No Bottled Water

  2. No Styrofoam

  3. No Plastic Straws

My other rules were more like guidelines. I wanted to use as little plastic packaging as possible. I wanted to start transitioning household items like dish soap, shampoo, saran wrap and laundry detergent to re-usable or refillable items and I wanted to buy less stuff in general.

I consulted a lot of people about these goals. There are so many folks on social media (like and @zerowastenerd) with great tips on how to curb your waste. There are also other musicians who have also adopted habits that minimize their environmental impact (Ethan Jodziewicz who plays bass with Sierra Hull is one of them).

As a musician I feel I have an obligation to act on this. Yes, we spread love, joy and entertainment, but we fly and drive everywhere. We drink TONS of bottled water, we throw coffee cups away by the hundreds. We eat food from gas stations, festival vendors and backstages off styrofoam plates with plastic cutlery. A van after a long tour, or a festival stage after a concert is an embarrassing wasteland of trash.

I titled this blog post the Zero Waste Musician Experiment because its still a work in progress that is far from perfect. I have thrown plastic away in the last couple months, I have forgotten on several occasions to tell the wait staff that I didn't want a straw. BUT in the past two months, I haven't had a single bottle of water, not one single use coffee cup nor have I used anything made out of styrofoam. I've shopped at goodwill for “new” clothes and curbed my ordering on Amazon. I have re-filled many containers of olive oil, soap, coffee, kombucha and milk.

So, about that inspiration. All you need to do to join the experiment with me is assemble your zero waste kit. You probably have many of these items already!

Get a badass coffee mug and a metal straw (if you're into straws), or maybe start with a cloth napkin and a spork. Make yourself a couple kits so that if you forget one at home, you know you have another in your car or your backpack. Do the same with re-usable bags, always have some squirreled away in your car or elsewhere so you don't get caught without one. Over time it will feel like a satisfying mission. You will take joy in being that weird person who asks the barista to put a cookie on your outstretched hand rather than in a plastic bag.

To make your challenge just a tiny bit easier here are my most used “zero waste” items. There are 7 items in my “kit” and they have been invaluable to me.

  1. Coffee Mug (I love the Yeti Mug)

  2. Metal Straw

  3. Spork or Bamboo Cutlery

  4. Travel food container

  5. Cloth napkin

  6. Foldable reusable bag

  7. Small re-fillable bottle of Dr. Bronners soap (great for washing containers on the go)

So there you have it. A kit and a mission. Get out there on the road and start making small incremental differences in your habits. Over time they will add up to make a difference in your community and over time, our world. Remember, you will mess up! Thats ok. Just try again and again.

I'm here if you've got questions :)

*Drawing by @zerowastenerd

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