Feeling a little bummed about all that’s going on right now? Check out how Erica decided to consciously change her perspective and priorities to better align with her core self and create more positivity in her life.
I’m back with another edition of the Modern Parent Series, a collection of interviews with everyday parents who practice intentional living in a variety of ways. I love hearing from other parents who are taking life a bit more slowly, really digging into their priorities, and focusing on what matters most to them.
Today we’re hearing from Erica. With the birth of her new baby a couple of years ago and all the trials and tribulations of parenthood, Erica decided to step back and reassess the amount of “stuff” she allowed into her life. Read on to hear more about how she made some conscious choices to focus on her top priorities.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, where you live, etc…
Hello, my name is Erica Wells! I’m a dietitian, wife, toddler mom and the writer behind A Waste Not Kind Of Life. My family and I are from Richmond, Virginia. We love to camp, kayak, relax under the sun, jam out to live music and drink local beer. My primary interests include travel, marine conservation and sustainable agriculture!
You seem to have had a change of heart that sparked a renewed commitment to being more environmentally-conscious. Can you tell us more about this transition?
I’d been working on a blog with my sister-in-law, which began as a collaboration to bring reliable nutrition and fitness information to readers several years ago. Since it originally started out as her blog and she has an interest in fashion that was always a large component. It wasn’t long before I started getting involved in style posts too because it was a fun way to spend time with my sister-in-law. As someone who didn’t spend a lot of money on clothing, I enjoyed the idea of receiving free product from brands.
Since the majority of my posts utilized clothes I already had, it wasn’t much of a problem until 2016 during a wardrobe update following the birth of my daughter. I got carried away, found myself buying more than I needed, and justifying it for purposes of blog content. I became obsessed with current trends and eventually found myself wanting more and more.
At the same time, I had nearly abandoned my recycling habits in that new mom fog and was appalled at the amount of garbage we were creating. I always cared about ocean conservation. I had been an avid recycler, conscious of waste and was never big on buying stuff. Over time, I started to lose touch with my core self.
With the new year approaching, I planned to get my habits back on track to waste less and buy less. Then, I watched the documentary Minimalism and that sealed the deal on my intentions. For one year, I intended to take a major step back as a consumer and go on a “closet fast”. In 2017, I added nothing new to my closet except a pair of tennis shoes.
With a renewed focus on waste reduction, I learned more about the damaging effects of plastic and chemicals on our environment and our bodies. I saw the incredible amount of waste being created upstream and downstream from my consumption in a system filled with products destined for the landfill. I chose to pursue a zero waste lifestyle, something that never had crossed my mind previously. While environmental consciousness and minimalism have always been a part of me to some extent, I needed the right moment to come completely out in full force.
Can you share with us two or three of your favorite ways that you practice this lifestyle?
A minimalist mindset really helps me focus on what I need. I’m much less susceptible to impulse purchases. I know that once something comes into our home, I have to deal with it. Each purchase takes up space and contributes to the clutter that I’m still striving to eliminate.
I’ve also learned you can find more things secondhand. Some items are easier to find than others, but I’ve had great success with thrift stores, yard sales, Facebook groups, eBay, Craig’s list, thredUp, Freecycle and sometimes even just asking friends and family. Buying locally made or grown products and shopping for food seasonally and sustainably has become my favorite pastime. I love going to farmer’s markets and eating at restaurants that serves local products!
How does your family feel about this change? Do they participate or leave it up to you to manage it?
Our toddler participates in the process since she’s with me daily. She enjoys pushing the cart at the grocery store (even better when it’s tiny), going to the farmer’s market and picking out produce. She also likes to help me cook by cracking eggs and rolling out tortillas (totally hoping to sneak a nibble).
This year she helped me plant seeds in the garden. She helps me water plants and even scrubs out the compost bin! My husband has been very supportive of my goals but I’d say he predominately leaves it up to me to manage. He has shopped with containers for me before and tries to avoid waste when shopping. At the end of the day though, my zero waste goals are not necessarily his so I’m thankful he’s as involved and open to the changes we’ve made as he is.
Are there any particular products or resources that make living an eco-conscious lifestyle easier or more accessible for you?
The ideal resource is a store that supports this sort of movement. That being said, most mainstream stores do not. Even Whole Foods, who used to be very helpful in the avoidance of waste, has changed their policies against people bringing in their own containers for bulk goods. If someone isn’t so lucky as to have an environmentally conscious store in their town (they are rare to come by) there are still plenty of ways to minimize waste when shopping!
First, center your diet around fresh produce, choosing seasonal, locally grown if possible and unpackaged alternatives. For the rest, choose basic ingredients in larger quantities (such as flour or beans) that can be cooked into a delicious dish at home and avoid packaged products that come in individual serving sizes. Produce or bulk bags help to bring home loose veggies like mushrooms and green beans or even freshly bakery products such as bagels or bread!
You recently started gardening. Can you share more about that?
With the help of my husband, we started our first in home garden last summer. It was amazing to see how food gets its start and really feel like this was the piece I’d always been missing from my nutrition education.
Some things did better than others, but in the end, everything we planted grew enough that I got the feel for what to expect. For the veggies that didn’t do as well last year, I’m interested to see if a different layout and timing of planting will help them do better this time around. We only had one bed last year so everything else went into the ground along our fence line in individually dug out holes. Now we’re up to three beds, and I’ve grouped plants that work well together, so it’ll be cool to see how things pan out. Either way I’ll learn something!
Already this season I’ve experienced the fun that is cabbage worms. They have been devouring my kale plants. I also learned that digging a garden bed into clay soil when it’s too wet is a recipe for a rock hard bed.
What is your positivity challenge?
I started my positivity challenge in February as a way to change my mindset. Over time I felt like I’d become a sponge to all the negative influences in my life. Compounded with the startling new reality that is having a baby, my outlook was constantly in the dumps for no good reason.
When I set out on my journey to reduce physical waste, I was also on a mission to reduce wasted time in my life. This included time spent being worried, angered, or irritated. My goal was to force myself into letting things go for just 30 days but I found it’s a lot harder to just change a mindset like that. That being said, it was the extra kick I needed to get my focus back towards being more grateful, positive and optimistic.
Out of the positivity challenge, I started to be more kind to myself, giving myself greater forgiveness for my imperfections or not getting everything done on my to do list on a daily basis. It’s relieving to let yourself just be without forcing unfair expectations and cruel judgments onto yourself. It’s so true that you’re the person who talks to you the most, so make the words you use towards yourself kind.
It also reinforced that I may not be able to control a situation, but I can control how I react to it. Perception is everything. When constantly in a bad mood, everything bothered me. Everything was “going wrong.” But as my thoughts shifted towards being more positive, fewer things got under my skin. Focusing on what I am grateful for has been a tremendous help in maintaining positivity when I feel my mood drop as does finding the upside of things.