Erin Augustine, founder of the Carbon Free Family blog, said the term waste-free is more of a mindset than a goal, but it's a lifestyle choice that guides just about all of her family's daily activities.
"Like absolute zero is unattainable. For me the mindset is recognizing that everything I bring into my life will eventually be waste and then managing for that," Augustine told Grand Rapids ABC affiliate WZZM on Monday. "We said, 'Hey let’s try to live waste-free or zero-waste or with a specific focus on plastics,' so eliminating single-use plastics."
She and her husband, Robbie, started by teaching their two daughters about the impacts of excessive waste. Next, they incorporated lifestyle changes like driving less and using solar-powered bikes for longer trips. They also avoid single-use plastics, utilize reusable bags when shopping and opt for glass mason jars to replace Ziploc bags.
The waste-free mindset quickly became a core part of their daughters' way of life.
"When we get in the car, my children remind me of the impact. Hazel will say, 'Mom, do we have to drive, because you know we’re harming the polar bears,'" Augustine said. "One of the things I love about children is they have 'A' plus 'B' equals 'C.' It's a very simple narrative in her head. When we drive we’re hurting polar bears."
The family also tries to shop solely at places that will put their products right into the family's glass containers when they pay. Augustine said sometimes she has to use some single-use paper products, like when she gets her tortilla chips, but says it's a good trade-off, as paper can go into her compost, according to WZZM.
"We’re building community, while we’re going zero-waste. So I have a significantly better relationship with my cheese shop and my cheese lady," she said.
She chronicles her journey daily on her Carbon Free Family Facebook page and said she hopes to encourage millions of people to take up the waste-free lifestyle.
When asked about her goal, she said, "I hope we taught something to a person who has never heard of this lifestyle or didn’t know where to start."