Meet Mary, Our Low-Waste Champion

September 23, 2019

Mary spearheaded our weekly summer beach clean up campaign and serves as an inspiration to everyone at CAUSEBOX HQ when it comes to protecting our planet. We couldn't keep her valuable insights to ourselves any longer! Read on to learn how to incorporate low-waste habits into your own lifestyle.

What first got you interested in living a low-waste life? Was it a documentary? A book? A blog? A conversation with a friend?

My elementary school principal was the most influential woman I’ve ever met, her name is Wendy but I call her J. She made our whole school compost, use silverware instead of plastic utensils, volunteer every week, grow our own food for lunch—all the stuff that you would expect in a tiny magnet school in Oregon. I started to become passionate about the environment and conservation at an early age, and I’m always learning about new ways to live more sustainably.

What kind of things do you tell people who are just starting to look into living a low-waste lifestyle?

Actions speak louder than words, and no one likes to be told what they are doing is wrong and harmful. I normally try to let my actions start the conversation, and hope that someone wants to learn more about low-waste living. Usually people will ask about my zero-waste kit, or why I just requested no straw in my drink. But I usually don’t start out by telling people how to change the way they live.

And when they start asking questions, what do you tell them?

I share that I don’t feel good about throwing things away. Why? Because there is no such thing as “away.” We have a finite amount of space to put our trash and a landfill is not a sustainable long-term solution. Imagine if “away” was your backyard, instead of “out of sight, out of mind.” If we were each held accountable for our own trash and had to keep it in sight, it would force us to confront the problem in more concrete terms, and we’d all come together to create sustainable systems for reducing and reusing.

What else should people know about reducing, reusing, and recycling?

I believe that it’s much more important that we focus on reducing rather than exclusively on recycling. There is a quote has had a pretty profound effect on the way I think about this: “If your bathtub was overflowing, you wouldn’t immediately reach for a mop—you’d first turn off the faucet.” Rather than focusing primarily on recycling single-use plastic, we should be thinking about eliminating single-use plastic altogether. We need to turn off the bathtub before we focus on cleaning up the mess.

What are some immediate steps people can take to begin reducing the amount of waste that they create?

First, do a trash inventory! Seriously! Look through your trash and see what you tend to throw away the most. For me it was food packaging. Once you figure out what you throw away the most, work on ONE thing. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try to go zero-waste overnight. Maybe that one thing is coffee cups, start bringing your own to your local coffee shop every morning or making coffee at home

John is the managing editor at CAUSEBOX and a traveling writer who lives on the road with his dog, Hank.