Zero-waste leads to contentment for former Mayor
Markeeta Little Wolf shares strategies and practices to stop using single-use plastic
January 23, 2020
Markeeta Little Wolf's journey to a zero-waste lifestyle actually started with a million steps. The former Waitsburg Mayor and City Council member happened to read on Pinterest (her only social media vice, she claims) about the Million Step Challenge. The idea was to walk 10,000 steps in 100 days - for a total of one million steps, or 500 miles of walking (dancing, cooking, cleaning, etc.) However, even that challenge wasn't daunting enough for her, she decided to clock a million steps in just one month. "Now, a million steps for me, works out to be 14.5 miles a day. I did it! I did over a million steps. It was eat, sleep, take care of my husband, and walk, that's all I did was walk. I did it in 28 days."
Upon reading about zero-waste, again, on Pinterest, Little Wolf found another challenge to tackle. First up was her Pellegrino habit. "We love our fizzy water; we would buy cases and cases of it." Her husband, attorney Mike Hubbard, had a friend who suggested they look into a SodaStream machine, a device that adds carbonation to plain tap water. "We have the best tap water in the world. We bought one of those, and now we have the best fizzy water in the world, because it comes from Waitsburg tap. Now, no plastic bottles of water."
The next initiative was to purchase a couple of TerraCycle boxes. TerraCycle offers recycling programs funded by brands, manufacturers, and retailers around the world to help consumers collect and recycle hard-to-recycle waste. Customers can buy different types of recycling boxes that can collect a wide range of items, from 3D printing materials, to action figures, fabrics and clothing, latex paint, media storage, even used chewing gum. Little Wolf purchased a large plastics recycling box for $349, and in it go all the 'bits and bobs' from her kitchen. Items like the plastic wrap on the outside of a turkey, or the otherwise unavoidable plastics she encounters. In six months of use, it is barely half full.
As I talked more with Little Wolf, her zero-waste choices began to seem more like a logic puzzle, answering this very basic question, how to stop using single-use plastic? Of course, reusable shopping bags are a given, but Little Wolf also says she has now gotten into sewing, to make for example, mesh bags in which she brings her produce home.
Another way to eliminate plastic was to make her own yogurt. Those plastic yogurt tubs add up. Her recipe from frugalgirl.com was a hit with her husband. The milk she buys for the recipe comes from Pure Eire Dairy sold at Blue Mountain Station in Dayton. "It comes in glass bottles, with a plastic top, but they recycle them. Bring the plastic tops back, bring the glass bottles back, you get a $2 refund. And so, it begins again."
She shared a long list of household items she makes herself to avoid purchasing plastic, including hand soap, lip gloss, laundry detergent, bread, rolls, mayonnaise, mustard and jam.
Other easy solutions to the zero-waste puzzle include line-drying laundry, walking wherever possible, buying in bulk, paying bills online, avoiding food waste and composting.
Another kitchen gadget she's brought into her home is a food recycler called a Zera. About the size of a large garbage can, the Zera is a Whirlpool company product that reduces food waste by over two-thirds its original volume in less than 24 hours, through a fully automated process.
"Using very minimal power, she (the Zera,) makes all sorts of little whale noises and songs and digests it (food) and at the end result is a chute at the bottom, a little drawer you pull out and it becomes fertilizer. It looks like chocolate cake mixture, it smells like chocolate and it is very, very fine." Little Wolf explained.
Due to my unfamiliarity with Little Wolf's Australian accent, at first, I thought there was an ogre inside the Zera, but sadly, it is just an auger which grinds up the food. Together with an additive substance made from coir and baking soda (coir is made from coconut husk, a rapidly renewable plant-based resource) the food breaks down to the chocolatey substance mentioned. The price tag on this one is steeper, the Zera retails at $1,200. "But they have a payment program!" Little Wolf says.
Another waste-reducing initiative she is highly interested in, is Loop. A venture in circular economy shopping, Loop brings mainstream food and personal care products to consumers' doorsteps in reusable, refillable packaging. The idea has been to cut down on disposable and reusable packaging options, turning the complicated process of refilling and returning empty containers into a simple, one-click act. It is now available in select zip codes on the East Coast of the U.S., with plans to expand across the country, and internationally.
Little Wolf also recycles razor blades through a program with Gillette, uses bamboo toothbrushes and 'Who Gives a Crap' toilet paper made out of bamboo, but there are two no-plastic puzzles she can't solve: her 'two addictions' Lysol and Pine Sol, which are only available in plastic bottles. "I just love the smell of Pine Sol, my mother used to use it, and to me it means clean."
If all of this sounds exhausting and expensive, Little Wolf has an answer for that. "Don't take a big bite, just take a little bite. Start by bringing your own bags to the grocery store." Reducing waste in your own life is also about choices. "Really, it's not that you don't have time, it's not a priority for you. See, this is a priority for me, I love to be in my kitchen anyway." she said.
When asked what feeling her efforts towards living a zero-waste life has brought her, she said, "Contentment." Can't argue with that!
FrugalGirl.com - Her motto: "Cheerfully living on less." Her site includes recipes, DIY projects, and re-purposing ideas.
Loop - loopstore.com - Learn more about the global circular shopping platform here. Not yet available on the West Coast.
Reducing Amazon packaging - Send an email to customer service (email@example.com) asking them to avoid plastic packaging and extra packaging - which means no bubble wrap or packing peanuts. Or, call them at 1 (888) 280-4331 and make your request over the phone.
Soda Stream - sodastream.com - $119 Sparkling water maker
Who Gives a Crap toilet paper - Made with 100% forest friendly bamboo https://us.whogivesacrap.org/ The company donates 50 percent of their profits to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.
Zera - https://wlabsinnovations.com/pages/zera - Check this site out to learn all about the Zera, ogre not included.