Influence is the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something.
My parents have always been a major influence in life. Among the many values they taught me was stewardship, grounded in our Christian faith.
Take care of what you’re given.
As I’ve grown up, other influences have come and gone. I’ve had personal relationships with some of them, like the high school teachers and college professors that encouraged and supported me; others have influenced me without even knowing it, like the Water Brothers or many people I follow in the zero-waste community.
Many of the greatest influencers in my life aren’t rich or famous – they don’t have Instagram followings or sponsors or their own TV show – but that does not make them any less important, inspirational, intelligent etc. etc. etc.
My first eco-influencer in this series is someone I know personally. Her name is Lilianne and she’s my younger sister’s best friend. She’s been around the house for years, often at family dinners or to pick my sister up for a bouldering session.
She’s an inspirational, active person that’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes, which includes living a sustainable lifestyle.
Among her hobbies are rock-climbing, hiking, camping, cycling, travelling and hugging trees. With a “hippie soul”, she’s passionate, fun, a little bit weird and the type of person you want to know.
I think you’re really going to like what she has to say.
When and why did you start trying to live more sustainably/eco-friendly?
I have been really interested in the topic of environmental sustainability and being eco-friendly since I was young. My parents always taught us to be conscious of the waste we produce and to not waste unnecessarily.
I changed schools when I was in Grade 4 and my teacher at the time was really into living a “green” life and that really inspired me to do my part. I got really into composting and recycling and all the typical things that are associated with being “green”. In high school whenever I had the chance to write about a topic of my choice, I would always write about environmental sustainability and climate change. This really opened my eyes to just how serious some of these environmental problems were. So, towards the end of my high school career and into my first year of university I made a huge effort to be more conscious and more sustainable for our planet. Now I try and create as little waste as I can, and don’t get me wrong I still produce a waste but I’m learning new things every day! I try and not use any single-use plastic or plastic in general because even if it is recyclable a lot of it never makes it into the recycling and even if it does the process of recycling plastic is a long one.
What are some of the ways you reduce waste and live greener?
For me my goal is to create as little waste as possible, but more specifically to really avoid the use of single-use plastic. So, for me a few of the ways that I try and reduce my waste and live greener is by shopping in bulk, bringing my own coffee mug and straw, not using take away containers and bringing my own shopping bag and produce bags. Shopping in bulk is such an awesome way to reduce your waste. You can buy so many things in bulk other than food. Things like soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion etc. I bring my own mason jars for loose items and produce bags for other bigger items like fruits and veggies. Most places that offer bulk items will let you fill your own jar or container. All you have to do is ask the cashier to weigh out the jar, write the tare weight on the top of the jar, fill your jar with your item of choice and write the skew number on your phone (don’t use those plastic tags!). Another way that I try and avoid waste is whenever I go out to eat I ask for my food on real plate and then take the leftovers in my own container. Takeaway containers are such a waste.
Starting can be the hardest thing so pick one thing in your life that creates waste and change it. Then go from there.
What advice would you give to people trying to live a sustainable lifestyle?
My biggest piece of advice would be to just start and stick with it! Starting can be the hardest thing so pick one thing in your life that creates waste and change it. Then go from there. Sustainability is a learning curve so if you mess up, learn from it and then don’t make that mistake again.
Another tip is, don’t be afraid to ask for something you want. For example, if you’re out somewhere to eat, don’t be afraid to ask for no straw or for your food to not be wrapped. If you ask nicely most people will be more than happy to do it.
Don’t be afraid of what anyone else thinks because ultimately that is what creates change. Leading by example is way more effective than anything else. You can talk as much as you want but people are going to get annoyed fast so show them how you live your life and they will be intrigued and ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask for something you want.
Do you have any major eco-influencers or favourite organizations?
One of my favorite influencers is “zero waste guru” Lauren Singer. She is someone who really inspired me to try and live as close to zero-waste as possible. There was a video about how she kept all of her trash from two years in a mason jar and that really got me thinking about how much trash I actually produce. Package Free Shop in New York is one of her companies that is dedicated to being an environmentally sustainable business. They sell products to people to help them live a more zero-waste lifestyle and none of their products are packaged in plastic. I really admire people who are changing the game and that is exactly what she is doing.
I heard you stood up for proper recycling and sustainability at your place of work. Can you tell me more about that?
I work in a coffee shop that produces a lot of waste. Like a lot of waste. I noticed the amount of waste that we produced the first day I started the job.
On my first day, I saw an overly stuffed recycling bin which excited me. Even though I would rather not create any waste at all, I was glad that they were actively trying to recycle. I go to take the trash and recycling out at the end of my first shift and I was horrified to see that it all went into one big dumpster. None of the recycling got recycled, it was all just for show. I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing. I started small, approaching co-workers, supervisors and even my boss asking what they thought about the waste but most people didn’t really care so I had to try and reach people higher up. I started with the manager of the West End who did not really give me a productive answer so one day the manager who was responsible for all the stores in Ontario came in and I flat out told her what I thought. In retrospect, I probably sounded crazy because I barely even knew who she was and in the first minute of meeting her I was criticizing the company that she was responsible for and that I was employed by. In the end, it did work out and I got to be part of a conference call about a few issues that the company was having. It was on the call that I got the opportunity to tell the higher-up people what I thought. I mean it’s not going to be an instant change, but we’re slowly getting there. We are making an effort to reduce our waste by not using single-use liner in our pastry case and offering ceramic mugs and dishes to customers who are going to sit in the café. Even though these changes are small they will add up and hopefully in the future we can create more change.
What’s your least favorite thing to hear or get asked about your eco lifestyle?
It’s too hard so why bother trying? This is something that people say all of the time and ask me why I try so hard and go out of my way to try and live a more sustainable lifestyle. There is a large misconception that living a sustainable or zero-waste lifestyle is hard, but it really isn’t.
My favorite thing to do is to show these people that living a sustainable lifestyle is so easy and worth it. You can know statistics about waste and understand the current problems that our environment faces, but if you don’t create any change what is that knowledge worth?
You can know statistics about waste and understand the current problems that our environment faces, but if you don’t create any change what is that knowledge worth?
What’s your favorite reusable product?
There are so many! One product that I really love and have been using for years is a reusable coffee cup. I love going out to get a coffee, but I don’t love the waste that goes along with it. Yes, you can recycle many of the parts of a coffee cup, but not all those things end up in the recycling, so I just prefer to not create that waste. You will always catch me with a coffee mug and a reusable straw in my bag.
One of my other favorite products that I use multiple times a day is my set of bamboo utensils. These utensils are so awesome! They come in a handy carrying case so I just throw them in my bag and then I don’t have to use single-use plastic utensils when I am out. When you feel like you want new utensils these ones are fully recyclable and sustainable.
And one last honorable mention is my reusable water bottle. My HydroFlask is one of the best investments I ever made and it comes everywhere with me!
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed learning from Lilianne as much as I did.