Recently, TreeEra has been fascinated and inspired with the ‘Zero Waste’ movement. Seeing that some people can fit their entire year’s worth of waste into a single mason jar is crazy… and seriously awesome. So, how the heck does one even start their zero waste journey? TreeEra was lucky enough to catch up with Celia from @golitterless and founder of @zerowastechicago — not only does she mention the hardest part about going zero waste, but she provides some helpful tips for those of us looking to join the movement.

Celia turned to a tied up napkin when she found herself at the Farmer’s Market with no bags handy — apple carrier, check! Photo: @golitterless.

Was there an significant moment in your life that made you want to go zero waste?

I first learned about zero waste in college, but back then I was living in a dorm, eating at the dining courts, and just generally not feeling like I have the agency to make certain choices about how I was living. When I graduated, though, suddenly I was faced with making all these new decisions: whether to compost, how to grocery shop, whether to own a trash can. And I knew I wanted those decisions to be made with zero waste in mind.


What are your top three tips for someone interested in living the zero-waste life?

First — compost if you can! Separating food scraps from your regular garbage will automatically decrease how much trash you make, and you might find that your trash doesn’t smell anymore and you rarely have to take it out. It’s motivating! The next place I think folks can make a big difference is at the grocery. Choose to purchase reusable cloth produce bags if you can, or if that’s not an option for you consider forgoing plastic produce bags for things that don’t need them — for example, avocados and grapefruits. Finally, if you’re able to, wean yourself off cardboard coffee cups. They’re lined with plastic, so they aren’t recyclable like many people think they are, and they’re a huge source of waste. Instead, you can purchase a reusable coffee mug and commit to bringing it with you, or simply frequenting coffee shops that offer reusable mugs is another option, too.


Some of Celia’s favourite zero-waste gear! Photo: @golitterless


What is the hardest part about living zero waste?

Learning to let myself off the hook sometimes and knowing that “zero” isn’t always possible to attain. I struggle with feeling guilty when I can’t be zero waste — like, I love soba noodles, but I can’t find them package-free near me. For a long time, I just went without them, but I realized I’m much happier when they’re an option in my kitchen. Getting to the point where I accept that without feeling bad about it has taken a long time.


Photo: @golitterless


What’s the most rewarding part about living zero waste?

The zero waste community, both online and in Chicago, is so wonderful. I’ve met so many wonderful friends through our shared interest. We cheer each other on, meet for coffee, swap tips on where to shop, give each other compost to take care of… it’s the best.


Thank you, Celia, for sharing your tips and insights on what it means to “Go Litterless” — such an important and impactful movement towards a sustainable lifestyle.