Remember the doubtful and negative comments that I originally received on this blog? … When people said that our lifestyle was too extreme and not realistic? I admit that, had I heard about a zero waste family 8 years ago, I too, would have thought to myself: “These people are nuts, I’m sure they live deep in the woods or she’s a stay-at-home mom who spends her days homemaking to reduce her family’s trash.” That is to say, I am not surprised by the criticism that we received. After all, the term Zero Waste was, at the time, essentially understood and used by manufacturing and waste management professionals – not the mainstream.
Looking back, I’m glad I didn’t listen to nay-sayers! With time, perseverance, and the help of the media, we were able to prove that we’re not ascetic hermits, but live a normal, modern, simple life, based on experiences instead of things. Our lifestyle has been profiled in magazines, newspapers, and radios throughout the world and more than 40 television crews have visited our house! Contrary to common thinking, we do not get paid to participate in these interviews – although my teenagers do request some kind of compensation from us now:). But our hard work paid off! We shattered people’s misconceptions about waste-free living and gave it a face. By showing that zero waste was possible at home (while improving one’s standard of living), we galvanized thousands of people to follow our lead, and with momentum a global movement was born! It fills my eyes with tears of joy just reflecting on it; how far we’ve come!
Along the way, we’ve inspired not only the launch of hundreds of blogs and startups (such as Jean Bouteille, a business offering returnable containers and liquid products in bulk to health food stores) but also the opening of countless package-free stores (such as Unverpackt, Germany’s first un-packaged store). I even had the honor of inaugurating one of them: Alice’s Day by Day store in March! Each week, I receive a thank-you email from a business entrepreneur. And I recently learned that photographing our family for People magazine was one of the triggers for Gregg Segal’s “7 days of Garbage” series and reading that same article empowered this restaurant owner to make his business Zero Waste!
As “the Priestess of Waste-Free Living” (New York Times) and the author of Zero Waste Home , my responsibilities today include a work load that evidently interfere with my blog posts’ frequency. It leaves me with a constant feeling of guilt, knowing that I am letting some of you down: But rejoice, for my radio silence here, is only a reflection of the success of the lifestyle! My professional work has changed overtime is now entirely dedicated to shattering the misconceptions associated with the zero waste lifestyle. It gives me little time to be a professional artist anymore. Nevertheless, raising awareness about this way of life now fulfills me more than developing my portfolio. I open my home to educational tours and am consulted by large corporations who, upon noticing the growing interest for waste-free living, are looking to adapt their businesses to the new shift. I am invited to speak at universities, non profit organisations, and conferences, all over the globe, from Australia to Norway -and in Brazil, I was asked to present my lifestyle as a way of the future! In March, I accomplished my first speaking tour with stops in Quebec, Switzerland, Belgium and France. In Roubaix (a city in the north of France), 700 people came to the event: Sadly, 200 had to be sent home for lack of room, but it proved an undeniable growing interest for zero waste. In the coming months, I will be speaking at Google and Burning Man (gasp! I need an outfit), and I will take on another international speaking tour (three-weeks long) to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled in the fall. As you can imagine, a speaking engagement sometimes requires flying, and therefore comes with a heavy carbon footprint, but I believe that if my talk has the power to inspire just one person to live simply and reduce his/her waste, then my trip was worth it: From the feedback that I receive, I can assure you that none of my trips has been a waste of fuel so far:).
It really is humbling to watch how fast zero waste is spreading! As an 18-year-old Au Pair, when I first came to the US, I could never have imagined becoming a public speaker, or writing a book that would be translated into Korean or, launching a movement that would be adopted globally! I feel blessed, honored and humbled. Better yet, I am full of hope for the future.”If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success” – MalcomX
If you started a blog or business targeted to waste-free living. Please share your URL in the comments!