I know what you’re thinking: It’s already halfway through October and I’m late with my Zero Waste September update. I’ve been sitting on this for about a month trying to figure out exactly what I want to say on the subject.
My Zero Waste September ended up being a Zero Waste Half-September. I’m typically very disciplined and very good at sticking to my funny little challenges—not matter how hard they are. But after a couple of very difficult weeks I found myself just wanting some comfort food. I talked about this a lot in my post about self care and I’ll talk about it again now. It’s important to know when you need to prioritize your mental health and that was how I was feeling about halfway through the month of September. I hit a moment when life was heavy and a little difficult and all I wanted was lasagna. That’s right, my Zero Waste challenge was taken down by the humble lasagna.
Lasagna has been one of my longest standing comfort foods. As a kid I use to participate in the Odyssey Of The Mind competitions (I have no idea if these still exist). For anyone unfamiliar, it was a team competition that combines creativity and logic to solve both long-form and short challenges. I would compete on a team that would have to write and perform a short skit (each skit would have to meet a particular sub-set of challenges that would change from year to year) and then compete in a short-term challenge day of (often it would include either building a structure with a limited about of provided supplies or verbal challenges similar to an acting warmup). Each year my team would make it past regionals and compete at the state level. One of these years my team came in 6th place at state. I was crushed (I’d personally written the script for the skit and felt very attached to the work).
To cheer me up, my family took me to this classic, old Italian restaurant in Eugene, Ore. called Mazzi’s (it’s been a staple in the area since 1970). We had to drive an hour to get to Eugene and then waited another hour for a table. (I actually fell asleep on an classic Pac-Man table while we were waiting). It’s the longest I’ve ever remembered my family waiting for a meal and way later in the evening than we would normally eat—all so I could have the famous Mazzi’s lasagna. It was also the very first time I’d ever had an Italian soda. I’ve always liked lasagna but I’d say it was this particular experience that bumped it up to comfort food status.
So when I was facing a tough moment in my life and a voice inside of me wouldn’t shut up about just how much I wanted lasagna, I decided to listen. However, there’s one difficult issue with being Zero Waste and wanting lasagna: There isn’t a zero waste option for cheese. Yes, I could have gone to a restaurant and ordered a slice of lasagna but I wanted to cook it myself. (I haven’t been to every Italian restaurant in Portland but I already know there’s no Mazzi’s here and if it’s not Mazzi’s it better be my mom’s lasagna recipe instead). I’m not leaving my comfort food up to chance.
Am I giving up on my zero waste goals? Has it gotten just too difficult to sustain? No. I’m not giving up completely. I’m still choosing to shop the most local option whenever possible; I’m still using as much reusable containers as possible and avoiding single-use plastic; I’m still favoring brands and companies that aline with my personal values and avoiding companies that I find less ethical; I’m still going out of my way to buy the most eco friendly option of a product I can; I’m still making my own cleaner or using a more eco safe cleaning product in my home; I’m still limiting online shopping; and I’m still currently only buying my clothing from consignment shops (a challenge I’m still going strong with). But sometimes you just need a product that doesn’t come in a zero waste container and as much as I care about living my life in a more mindful, less wasteful way I simple cannot prioritize it over taking care of my needs and mental health.
Looking towards the future, I’ll be mostly focusing on my “sustainable” shopping challenge but I have a few exciting “Gretchen Tries Stuff” challenges already lined up for 2019, including a Julie & Julia-style cooking challenge—I’ll announce the specifics closer to it’s launch but I’m very excited. You can still expect to see more zero waste posts in the future (if that’s one of the things you like about my blog, don’t worry it is not going anywhere).
Do you have any questions about zero waste living? Or maybe tips or storied from your own zero waste journey? A specific zero waste living challenge you’d like me to try? Share them in the comment section below.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.