It all started with a bamboo toothbrush.
When sophomore Clare Trively needed a new toothbrush, she looked for a biodegradable option. The computer science major is a member of Students Organizing for Sustainability (SOS), an environmental and economic sustainability student group, and she wanted to implement their goals into her daily life.
“I felt this rush of excitement when I saw the bamboo toothbrush because it went from this concept I had of living a sustainable life to actually making actions toward doing it,” Trively said.
After taking this first small step, Trively wanted to see if she could live a zero-waste lifestyle. The movement encourages producing as little trash as possible and reusing items. Coined in the 1970s, it has grown in popularity thanks to YouTube stars like Bea Johnson and Lauren Singer, who are so dedicated they can keep all of their trash for four years in one mason jar.
Yet Trively’s first experience with this lesser-impact lifestyle wasn’t the Internet, but when her family moved from Roswell to Malmo, Sweden, for two years when she was nine. “I would bike to school every day and take the milk bottles back to the grocery store,” Trively said. “I was always aware of this type of lifestyle but didn’t believe I could actually do it.”
With Johnson, Singer, and others as inspiration, Trively started her zero-waste lifestyle on Jan. 24, documenting it all in her own videos. She admits achieving zero-waste can be harder to put into practice while living on campus, but it is still possible.
“I don’t have as much control over my environment, but I do have control over how I choose to use it,” Trively said.
Trively carries around a reusable bag and cutlery everywhere she goes, doesn’t buy products in disposable containers like coffee, only wears second-hand clothes, and even makes her own toothpaste. She aims to inspire and encourage everyone to make their own small changes.
“It’s not about guilt-tripping yourself into doing this or being perfect by producing no waste,” said Trively, who admits she forgot that even cereal comes in a plastic bag the first month of living zero-waste. “It’s about being empowered to make the decision to be sustainable.”
One decision you can make today is saying no to plastic straws, Trively suggests. In the United States, every person uses 1.6 plastic straws day, which is nearly 500 million straws a day. Just refusing a plastic straw at a restaurant or bringing your own reusable straw could save nearly 600 straws a year — and keep a lot of plastic out of landfills.
“With sustainability, a small action can have a big impact.”