I just know you’ve been hankering for an interview to read. Luckily, Jen CleanBin at The Clean Bin Project obliged. If you haven’t heard about Jen, Grant, and Rhyannon’s quest to live without producing waste for an entire year, then you are missing out! I’ve been following along with them for most of the project, and now that they’ve finished up their year without waste, I’m looking forward to the documentary they’re making. What I especially love is that the whole thing snowballed after starting with the idea that they didn’t need to buy any more Stuff. Now with that teaser in mind, here’s Jen on the subject of living simply:
1. What is your definition of simple living?
Hmmm, that term always makes me think of living in a streamlined, clutter-free apartment (which is the opposite of where I live). In truth, I think it’s about being happy without the encumbrance of excessive material possessions.
2. How do you and Grant practice simple living while simultaneously creating as little waste as possible? Was this more or less challenging during the year the project took place?
I would not describe my lifestyle as simple living – we always seem to have a ton of things going on, a bunch of ‘to do’ lists piling up, and a basement full of “stuff” – but our project did teach us to find satisfaction from things beyond material goods. Striving for zero waste surprisingly did make our lives simpler. We simply didn’t buy any “stuff.” It didn’t reduce our quality of life, and I’d even say that having specific rules made it easier. I didn’t have to think about whether a shirt was fair trade, organic, locally made, etc – I just couldn’t buy it, period.
3. Have you seen an impact on your local community, the places you frequent, and the people you see regularly because they know you don’t like trash?
Definitely. Lots of our friends have been inspired to change their habits and are now doing things like using reusable lunch containers or bags. I often have people approach me wanting to share stories about how they are reducing their waste. On the other hand, sometimes I feel that a wave of guilt goes through the room when we show up at someone else’s house. We’ve had numerous friends apologize out of the blue for the waste they’re creating as if we’re the “garbage judges”- that’s not our intent at all.
4. Can you tell us a little about your upcoming documentary and what you hope to achieve when it comes out?
I’m really excited that I can finally say our documentary is almost done! We will be having our first showing at the end of May in Vancouver. Then we’ll be cycling across Canada, showing it in different communities and hopefully sparking engaged discussion about garbage and consumption. In the States, we’ll eventually be entering film festivals and hosting community screenings. Our film is a semi-comedic look at living zero waste. We don’t want people to feel hopeless and paralyzed thinking about large scale environmental issues; we want them to feel inspired to take personal action. If our film inspired just one person to reduce their waste, I’d consider it a success.
5. The Clean Bin Project looks intimidating! What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out on trying to produce less garbage?
Just pick one thing and be really dedicated to it. Maybe it’s saying no to plastic bags or giving up take out coffee cups. It doesn’t have to be big. Once it becomes habit, you can move on to the next thing.
6. What books and/or blogs would you recommend to Simple Savvy readers?
A lot of people think our project was too easy because we don’t have kids. I like to read My Zero Waste because they show that it is possible with children. Beth at Fake Plastic Fish and Taina at Plastic Manners are the best resources on how to how to live without plastic. Books that changed the way I think include Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Barbara Kingsolver); The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollen); and Made to Stick (Chip and Dan Heath). I’m also a sucker for realistic fiction, but that’s another story.
Thanks, Jen! What great answers — I love that even though you’re not purposely trying to live a simple life, it worked out that way in the end for you two. Readers, if you’re interested in more about the project, be sure to check out The Clean Bin Project Blog, the documentary, and facebook page!