Where are you from? And how long have you lived on Oahu?
Lance is originally from Kansas, I am from California. We met on Hawai‘i island (The Big Island) in 2008 but did not become a couple until early 2012, and our low waste life has definitely been a journey together and has evolved over the years.
We moved to O‘ahu last December and were excited because there were already more low waste options here than we had on the Big Island. When we heard about Lori’s store opening we were beyond excited!
During the first COVID lockdown I was home constantly, and had the chance to reevaluate how much waste we were producing. I was shocked at how much there was, even for us who had both been trying to reduce our waste for a long time. At the time I was relying on ordering a lot of my ZW items through subscription services, which definitely seemed counterproductive because everything was flown in.
Lori’s shop has a lot of locally made products. Of course, we understand that things have to get here somehow, but we trust that the companies Lori works with are doing the best they can every step of the way to reduce their impacts. It feels good reducing our waste, and knowing we are supporting local businesses.
What is your passion in life?
I am a SCUBA diver, I went to school at U.H. Hilo and got my Bachelor’s of Science in Marine Science and minor in Biology. I love being in the ocean, but I am saddened by how much trash I find whenever I am on the beach or even when I am diving.
"Many beach days I will pick up more trash in a day than we produce in a week."
On the Big Island I didn’t see as much trash as I do here. I’d see things on occasion or if we went to beaches known for the currents brining trash in, but out here it’s in my face constantly. I find more pieces of plastic on the shores here than I do shells. Many beach days I will pick up more trash in a day than we produce in a week.
Other than spending time at the beach or diving, Lance and I also love to garden together. He loves growing food, and I have a passion for orchids. We’ve started gardens everywhere we have lived.
At our current home we planted a dry land taro patch, bananas, papayas, we even planted ulu and avocado trees. We are also growing basic things like lettuce, tomato, basil, bush beans, rosemary, and lavender. Eventually we want to be able to grow enough produce to stop relying so heavily on the grocery store for our everyday fruit and vegetable necessities.
We also love doing DIY projects, and repurposing old furniture. We have salvaged quite a few items from going to the transfer station and were able to repurpose them and give them a new life. We have two patio tables made from large spools, and a console table that was a hideous dresser with about 8 layers of old paint. Now it is a functional and beautiful fixture in our home.
What got you interested in zero waste?
I had been trying to reduce my waste since Highschool when I took AP biology as a junior, one of the seniors told me that recycling was a sham and hardly anything gets recycled. I remember being angry, because I recycled religiously. I knew it was the right thing to do. I didn’t care what he said, I was not just going to throw things away because they “won’t get recycled anyway”.
"I didn’t really know there was a term for what I was trying to do, I just knew I wanted to produce as little trash as I possibly could and not be part of the problem."
But in the back of my mind, I knew he was right. I started using a reusable bottle, bringing bags to grocery stores, etc. When I got into Marine Science I was horrified by what I saw first hand in the Northwest Hawaiian islands: albatross carcasses full of plastic on Midway Atoll, huge derelict fishing gear in the middle of the ocean, trash finding it’s way to even the most remote beaches and isolated coral reefs.
I didn’t really know there was a term for what I was trying to do, I just knew I wanted to produce as little trash as I possibly could and not be part of the problem. I didn’t want my toothbrushes, bottle caps, etc ending up anywhere they shouldn’t be!
A friend sent me the video about the lady who started the Package Free Shop. I was just amazed. I know one mason jar of trash is not realistic for everyone and that shouldn’t necessarily be what we are promoting, but after watching her video and sharing it with others I got excited that there are other people out there trying to do this, trying to produce less trash!
I am definitely not to the one mason jar of trash for even a week, but I am just trying to do my best and not get discouraged.
How do you practice zero waste in your daily life?
At work I am known as the one who always brings a lunch, her reusable bottle, and of course the one who always has a fork (or two) in her purse and a collapsible straw. I try to encourage others, without being judgmental.
At home we don’t use common household items, such as disposable plates, cutlery, paper towels, etc. When friends come over (pre COVID) they would sometimes comment on how ‘fancy’ we were by offering them real plates and cloth napkins, but honestly, it’s not fancy, it is even less expensive to run a household without buying disposable items constantly.
We are a bit different than many of our friends and family, in that we also rarely eat out or get takeout, this is in part due to the fact that Lance has celiac and trying to only eat at ocean friendly and celiac friendly establishments can be tricky. We make a lot of food at home, and try to make enough for multiple days.
I made my own beeswax wraps and use that and glass food storage containers for left overs. We did trash audits and saw that food packaging is still a the hardest for us so we started making our own of as many things as we can right now, including yogurt and soymilk.
Some things we want to work on are making gluten free bread, tortillas, etc. Bread and tortilla bags are my biggest source of waste right now but we are slowly reducing more, little by little!
We are definitely not perfect zero wasters, but we do the best we can. There are days when we get food that is packaged in plastic, but we try to avoid it as much as possible.
What is your favorite zero waste product?
I have so many favorites! It’s hard to choose! I really love my shampoo bars, refillable sunscreen, makeup remover, and laundry soap, all of which are products Lori carries at Protea Zero Waste.
Lance’s favorite is our composter. We have almost no food waste because we compost it all. We do eat local meat, but have hardly any waste from that because we try to buy only what we will use, and use it all. We also live with my brother so between all of us we definitely finish all of our leftovers! Any extra scraps from fruit, veggies, yard waste, cardboard packaging, etc goes into one of our two compost bins.
"The best products are the ones you already have, or can repurpose."
I think a lot of people get hung up on Zero Waste because it feels like it can be expensive, but the best products are the ones you already have, or can repurpose. We make soy milk and instead of buying a cheesecloth or strainer, I used an old delicates laundry bag I already had. The zipper on the bag was broken, but it was repurposed to become my soymilk strainer and it works perfectly!
I just want to encourage everyone that starting small is okay, get one thing that will help you go lower waste at a time. You don’t need to buy a giant set of stasher bags all at once. If that’s something you want, buy one every couple weeks. If you want a composter, start a pile and save for it. Or you can get pallets for free and put one together.
"Just start somewhere and make small changes, they will add up!"
Don’t be discouraged. Even join your local Buy Nothing group, we have gotten a lot of plants from neighbors for free, we got the taro we are growing from a woman on the Buy nothing group, and ti plants from multiple people. Just start somewhere and make small changes, they will add up!
Mahalo nui loa for featuring us, we are so grateful and hope our journey can inspire others!