By Bryn Wambaugh
Alison Dietrich is a youtuber, small business owner, and a MONQ aromatherapy pen ambassador living in Shillington, PA. Alison is a part-time student at HACC (Harrisburg Area Community College) and a full-time employee at Bella Jule’s dress boutique in Reading, PA.
I asked Alison questions about her zero-waste life to get more of an understanding of how actual people implement the lifestyle. I had a very interesting conversation with her and she provided insight that I have not received from watching zero-waste youtube videos. Listed below are the questions I asked her and her answers paraphrased.
- What inspired you to go zero-waste? When I was at an aquarium I was shocked when I heard about sea turtles in rehab after being strangled by a plastic bag. I knew we were creating plastic waste, but I never thought of what happened to the plastic after it was used. After that day I started doing my own research into zero-waste.
- What does a normal day look like being zero-waste? To start the day I use tooth powder instead of toothpaste, compostable dental floss, and a French press to make my coffee instead of a keurig. Most of the day is not the zero-waste things that I have, but it’s about refusing things that have plastic. It’s a lot of judgement from other people and trying to educate people about why I do what I do.
- How do you handle freebies? Especially if you’re given them before you can say no. Look for opportunities to do something productive with the waste or up-cycle it. Other times you just have to accept it- not everything is gonna be a win. No one’s perfect.
- How do you deal with judgement? I’m judging you for judging me caring about the environment. You get looks from people when you ask for no straw, but they usually do it because you’re the customer and they don’t want bad reviews. Sometimes they don’t do it and just bring a million straws to the table even though there’s only two people and you just have to deal with that. As far as people close to me, I know it embarasses my boyfriend sometimes. When we’re out with other people and I ask for no straw I can see his face turn red, but it’s not a real problem.
- What’s the most rewarding thing about being zero-waste? Personally it’s about educating people why zero-waste is necessary. Helping people who have no idea where to start is a big part of that. Concerning my own journey– being able to see how much I’ve changed for the better, and how much I’ve prevented from going into the landfill is inspiring.
I had interesting conversation with Alison after I asked the initial questions in which she gave me comments about the zero-waste community, how she lives zero-waste in Pennsylvania, and how she views working at Bella Jules. The notes for this conversation are paraphrased below:
I think people in the zero-waste community give others the wrong idea. Sometimes you have to use plastics for your own health. Like condoms aren’t biodegradable, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. And band-aids are plastic, but if I’m bleeding and someone offers me a band-aid I’m not going to turn them down. I put the environment in front of a lot of things, but at the end of the day it’s what’s best for you. Most of the time those two priorities line up, but when they don’t you have to accept it. Zero-waste videos about “What’s in my bag” are also misconstruing and impractical. It’s just not feasible to carry around mason jars with you all the time. I carry around objects that are multipurpose. I have my reusable napkin I can also use as a hankerchief, my straws, my utensils, and a water bottle. I’m not going to carry around everything I own that’s zero-waste that’s just impractical. As far as my own food, I do grow my own food in the summer, but in the winter I have to go to the grocery store. I will bring my own produce bags so I can get produce without packaging, and sometimes I’ll go to the farmers’ market. I think another thing most zero-waste people don’t understand is you’re not going to convince someone not to buy something. For example, I work in the prom section of Bella Jule’s and you’re not going to convince a girl not to go to prom or get a new dress. I understand it– I wouldn’t do it, but I understand the appeal and I understand that it’s important for people to have a good time. Overall at any job it’s hard to be zero-waste, but I’m definitely glad that I work at Bella Jule’s now. I used to work at a grocery store and that was horrible since I was always giving out plastic bags so this is definitely a step-up.