Whenever I go shopping for food, clothes, or products, I always remember the mantra: want less, waste less.
Most of us go to the grocery store where almost everything is wrapped in plastic.
As a fifth grader, I started on our school’s Green Team and began learning about waste, compost, and recycling. Even though in Boulder we had some grocery stores with bulk, I wondered if there were different stores that focused exclusively on bulk and made profit without plastic.
In high school, a close family friend, living in Longmont, shared her curiosity in Simply Bulk Market and we set out to explore.
I imagined unicorns and rainbows with no plastic seen, mason jars, and happiness in the air. Could this be true? I went and saw the magic. I brought containers. First, we put a sticker on the jars, next we weighed them, and then we joyfully filled them up with delicious things—nuts, cereal, rice, pasta, lentils, and tea. My personal favorites are the chocolate-covered pretzels and the kombucha on tap.
For bakers, they have containers and containers of different types of flour and yeast. And for dog lovers, there are zero-waste treats for your cute pooch. I thought we should also try out cleaning products like dish and hand soap. I liked that I could try as little or much as I wanted of each product. None of these products had packaging. I was wowed in disbelief.
I was aware that I had to drive out to Longmont, consuming gas for this bulk store experience, but…I had a 15-year-old hybrid car, and I was logging my driving time on my learners permit. What I learned is yes, it is possible to do zero-waste shopping, but it takes focused time, intentionality, and budgeting. I have gotten familiar with a smaller but great bulk store, Nude Foods Market, in Boulder.
Finding a system that works for you is necessary when aiming for less waste. I encourage you to develop your own strategies and routines. Some examples are: shopping bulk, going to the Farmers Market, trying out meal planning, eating leftovers, using alternative transport, and being more aware of what you waste and why.
As a sophomore in high school, I was interested in learning more about circularity and waste management. So, I created a small business called Help The Planet For All. It started with helping family friends with waste audits. I learned many new skills sorting compost, recycling, trash, and managing hard-to-recycle materials.
I felt passionate about sharing this knowledge with others. I learned how to design a website and Instagram to promote ecologically friendly content. Little did I know, creating a website and social media from scratch and maintaining it takes a lot of work, but I enjoyed it!
The services I provide are waste audits, the collection bin, and a holiday pick up.
Waste audits: I sort through clients’ trash and other bins to change unhelpful habits. Sharing my experience about home waste reduction is one of my passions. I know you are most likely thinking: who would ever want to go through my trash, let alone anyone’s trash? It’s me…my commitment to the earth goes deep. It’s a joy for me to look through your trash and do my thing. It’s a time for conversation, learning, and asking questions. When I don’t know an answer, I look it up real-time on my A-Z recycling app.
I understand how hard it is to change lifestyles and problem solve, even if it helps Mother Nature. I remind my family daily of how to sort, and I live in this house! If you can’t afford a waste audit, you can sort on your own. There is a guide made by Eco-Cycle, a company I worked for, called How To Quit Plastics Workbook.
The collection bin service: helps people with all materials. Sorting is confusing, especially with unfamiliar items like old bike tubes, styrofoam, bubble wrap, and more. My job is to take these items where they go and educate people by answering questions, giving insights, and suggesting alternatives. While in the process of collecting friends’ and family’s bins, I learned about a newer formal business, Ridwell, doing this in Denver and surrounding areas. I hope to work with them in the future.
The holiday pick up service: First of all, I encourage everyone to use materials they already have to wrap their gifts during the holidays. I have been doing this for the past five years—my parents thank me for saving money on wrapping paper. Some eco-oriented materials include reusable gift bags and boxes, drawstring bags, newspapers or magazines, pillowcases, and fabric. If you don’t have these, there are other options. Please check out Eco-Cycle on Instagram; they posted two holiday guides, one in English and one in Spanish. For those who want someone to responsibly take away and recycle their lights, bubble wrap, wrapping paper, and more during the holidays, check out my holiday service.
Back to the start: want less, waste less, and enjoy! I decided to make a fun video for Instagram at Simply Bulk Market to encourage my followers to look for alternatives. Remember your six “Rs”: reuse, reduce, recycle, refuse, repair, rethink.
I have also been having fun doing research on small and large businesses that are doing ethical work for the environment. I have 35 businesses doing good work for the earth on my website and more to add (see my “Exemplars” page of the website). I research each company in depth by learning about their mission, vision, and practices before putting them on the site. I try as many of their products as I am able. I hope to partner with a few of these businesses in the future.