Hi! I’m Kathryn Kellogg and all of my trash for two years fits in a 16 oz jar. I’m a writer and public speaker who blogs all about small, actionable tips we can implement to make the world a little greener. I spend my time educating the public on the dangers of trash and plastic pollution, and fighting to end food waste. Keep an eye out for my book, 101 Ways to go Zero Waste, publishing in April 2019!

You can follow my journey and get some tips for going plastic free here: www.goingzerowaste.com or on Instagram www.instagram.com/going.zero.waste

And read about me in the recent issue of National Geographic here: natgeo.com/planetorplastic

Proof: https://twitter.com/NatGeo/status/997446779154116609

Looks like an hour is here! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. :)

Comments: 174 • Responses: 26  • Date: 

NanoRabbit25 karma

What's an easy change that most people can make to reduce waste?

nationalgeographic47 karma

I recommend that everyone start with The Big Four.

  1. Say no to straws
  2. BYO Bottle for water
  3. BYO Bags to the store
  4. Don't use take-away coffee cups.

Tons of tips and tricks in this post for actually remembering! https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/looking-to-reduce-your-waste-start-with-the-big-four?rq=big%20four

mamavia1821 karma

Hi Kathryn! I found your AMA from Instagram - thanks for being an inspiration to make zero-waste changes in my life!

What changes in your hygiene/beauty routine did you make to reduce waste?

What are some of the more difficult changes you’ve had to make in your life to be zero waste?

nationalgeographic17 karma

Thank you! Oh man I have a ton of posts about this on the blog. What haven't I changed!? LOL. Fist thing, I really started minimizing the amount of products I had. It's crazy how we can just accumulate products. Now, I have a one out, one in policy. So, I have to finish a product before I can buy a new one. I shop a lot at Credo Beauty because their products are all clean and most of them have amazing packaging in glass, steel, and aluminum. I use brush with bamboo for my toothbrush. I make my toothpowder and deodorant. Head to here for zero waste bathroom and here for zero waste beauty.

moskowizzle15 karma

What do you do with plastic used for packaging when you order something online? I feel like that alone, for me, would fill up multiple jars just from just the last month.

nationalgeographic17 karma

I avoid shopping online, but I realize that is not a privilege that everyone has! I can only do this because I have great stores in my area. But, I wrote a whole post on shipping and zero waste with ideas to upcycle and reuse your packaging to keep it in the waste stream as long as possible before it becomes trash. https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/can-you-shop-online-and-be-zero-waste?rq=shipping

SalubrityHill12 karma

Do you buy anything packaged?

nationalgeographic18 karma

Yep! I am not zero recycling. Zero waste is about recycling less, not more, but I haven't completely eliminated it. I still buy things like medication, flour, hot sauce, wine, etc. in packaging. For an in depth look, I wrote a whole blog post about it! https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/zero-waste-exceptions-what-i-still-buy-in-a-package?rq=what%20i%20still%20buy%20in%20packaging

PeterBernsteinSucks10 karma

Do you flush your poop? or do you compost it?

nationalgeographic15 karma

I flush it. We're renting so I don't know if the landlord would be cool with me installing a composting toilet.

DanTheLighthouseMan8 karma

Hi Kathryn! Love what you do. I’m also on the road to minimise my waste, but I always face resistance from my family/close friends. They always mention the same words of “inconvenience”, “you won’t make a difference”, etc.

What’re the ways to help the people close to you understand what you’re doing, & bring them along on the journey?

nationalgeographic15 karma

I wrote a lengthy post on this, this week called How to Deal with Judgmental Friends and Family. The second part of the question is you don't bring them along. You can only control your action. You cannot talk someone into doing something. You just have to be your authentic self living your values. If they are interested, they will join you. It can take a lot of time. My husband wasn't super on board when I started. I didn't nag him. I didn't lecture him. I just did my thing. Before I knew it he was making changes just because it made sense! (And, we were saving a lot of money which always helps. ;)

scootmccute38 karma

What are some things that you had to change that you originally didn't realize would be affected by going zero waste?

nationalgeographic12 karma

One of the most interesting things has been watching the evolution. When I started I was very, very focused on just trash, but then it slowly morphed and bled over into other areas. Once I had a handle on simple every day swaps and had adjusted my routine, I found other ways I could be more environmentally conscious that had nothing to do with trash. Walking, carpool, plant-based, buying local, and looking at the overall emissions produced by my decisions. Then I was able to go even further into more activism areas like getting involved with local government, helping the community, organizing clean-ups etc. It's just been really neat to watch how I've grown through a simple decision to make less trash.

nazzarenalab7 karma

I produce about one trashcan a year (perhaps 10kg or so), plus recycling. A jar seems to me a really difficult objective! but 10kg, compared to the average American ~750kg, is already a game changer, and everyone can do it. How can we lobby for legislative incentives to minimize undifferentiated trash?

nationalgeographic7 karma

That's awesome! You should definitely check out Californian Against Waste. Even if you're not in California, they do some amazing work that you can look at to try and mimic in your own state or city. https://www.cawrecycles.org/

calligraleesi6 karma

Just glanced your site/bio & it looks like you live with an adorable dog. What's your approach to picking up dog poop on long walks? The default for most people (if they pick it up at all) seems to be plastic baggies.

nationalgeographic7 karma

It's a tough one! My husband and I compost our dogs poop in the backyard, but I know that's not a solution for everyone. For more info check out my post Zero Waste Dog.

mattreyu6 karma

What was the hardest product to minimize waste on?

nationalgeographic7 karma

I get asked this a lot, and I'm not really sure. There was nothing, for me, that stands out.

mamavia185 karma

What do you do for toilet paper? None of the stores around me carry paper-wrapped TP :(

nationalgeographic12 karma

I have a bidet attachment and it's AMAZING!! Cut TP usage down by 60%+ I go through less than a roll a month, but when I do buy it, I buy Who Gives A Crap.

relevantpotatoes5 karma

Has going Zero Waste impacted your politics as well? How so?

nationalgeographic3 karma

Not really, I've always been very active in local government. I've canvassed for Senators, congressmen, worked on elections in a voluntary capacity. But, since writing the blog, I was brave enough to apply for a position on the Beautification Commission on my town to organize cleanups and work on the litter problem at a local level! :)

edgewater155 karma

Hi Kathryn, I've been following your content for a little while and enjoy it! Congrats on the Nat Geo feature.

When you started living this lifestyle, did you also start blogging/using social media at the same time? I'm considering starting an Instagram account or blog about living green in my area (Orlando, FL) as I haven't found anyone who does yet and I'd like to be a local resource. Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting? Should I just live my life and live by example, or are there other benefits to sharing your experience online?

nationalgeographic7 karma

I had been reducing my waste for about three months before I started I blogging. At the time, there weren't many people writing about it. It was still a really new concept, and I live far away from my family so I wanted to have a place I could sort of give life updates. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I'd be working with National Geographic. LOL.

If you want to start a blog, DO IT!! Especially as a local resource. I think blogging is an amazing way to connect with people and help others in your local community. I am for it. My advice is to pick a schedule and stick with it! Make it like homework. Don't invest too much upfront. Make sure that you're really enjoying writing consistently. Once you've done it for a month or two, then look into having your site designed. Plug into a network like the Zero Waste Bloggers Network, and get to know others and collaborate together. I met my BFF from the zero waste bloggers network three years ago! She was in my wedding!

tellMyBossHesWrong4 karma

What do you drive?

And how many children do you have?

nationalgeographic6 karma

I don't drive often, I rely mostly on public transportation and walking. I have a Honda. I think the waste created by upgrading to a new vehicle isn't the best solution since I use it so little! I don't have any kids.

TheHeyTeam4 karma

What frustrating inconveniences do you deal with as a result of your commitment to reducing your waste as much as possible?

Do you take your own container with you if you go out to restaurants, so you don't take home paper or plastic waste?

What impact has this had on your social or dating life?

nationalgeographic10 karma

I do bring my own container to the restaurant! Thankfully, my husband brings one too. We're SO cool. ;) But, really confidence is everything. Act like it's normal. If you don't make a big deal out of it, no one else will.

BurgerPleaseYT4 karma

Have you done aTedTalk? Do you travel international? Also if I may ask, what's your favorite burger joint?

nationalgeographic7 karma

I have not done a TedTalk, but I'd like to! I lived in Austria back in 2012 studying and performing opera. Hmmm... there's a place in town called Sardine Can where I can sub a veggie pattie on any of their burgers and it's my fav.

relativelyaswin4 karma

What's the best replacement for plastic? Something which is almost as reliable as plastic is.

nationalgeographic6 karma

In what scenario? It greatly varies.

relativelyaswin3 karma

You mentioned in another comment... BYO bags to the shop... We are still using plastic there right? Do you think there's a good replacement for plastic bags? I'm trying to understand a way to eradicate the use of plastic entirely. Is it possible?

nationalgeographic11 karma

I mean you can eliminate most of it. Plastic in itself isn't evil or bad it's how we use it. We use a material that lasts forever for products that we only use for minutes. As far as disposable plastic bags go, canvas bags are great. Even a reusable, durable plastic bag like a chico bag or bagpodz will still last years. It's way better than a single use disposable bag.

calligraleesi4 karma

Regarding Kleenex -- What's your strategy when you have a cold? Do you have an arsenal of hankies handy? I like the idea of them, but I blow my nose so much when sick or upset/crying that I feel like I would run out of hankies in a big hurry!

nationalgeographic10 karma

I love my cloth hankies!! I could never give them up. They're so much cozier on your nose. :) I got a whole bunch of hankies from my grandmother and then picked a huge lot up at an estate sale for a quarter. Also, if you have old jersey T shirts they make great hankies! You can easily come up with a HUGE pile. If I have a cold, I put them in a large bowl and pour boiling water from the kettle over them to kill any bad bacteria before throwing in the wash.

Lexcah_agaetra3 karma

How much has this changed your everyday lifestyle?

nationalgeographic11 karma

Really not as much as you'd thing. I try to explain to people, I'm a normal human. I wake up and wash my face, brush my teeth, eat breakfast, go to work etc. Just like most people. The only difference is that I've built habits that don't produce a lot of trash.

jrodgers33 karma

I love the idea and see the need- but how do I even start?

nationalgeographic8 karma

I recommend that everyone start with The Big Four! and check out my tab all for beginners there's some great posts even a 31 day video challenge to really jumpstart your trash minimization!

Whatsthedealwithit111 karma

Is toilet paper included in the equation?

If so, my following question should be pretty obvious.

nationalgeographic5 karma

I have a bidet attachment and it's AMAZING!! Cut TP usage down by 60%+ I go through less than a roll a month, but when I do buy it, I buy Who Gives A Crap.

soulflowy-1 karma

Are you vegan? Did you know you cut your carbon footprint in half by going vegan?

nationalgeographic11 karma

I eat a plant based diet.

grumpymuppett-1 karma

Will you do this until you die? Is it sustainable?

nationalgeographic7 karma

Will I continue to keep collecting my trash in a jar until I die? No, I won't. Will I continue to live zero waste and try to reduce my impact on the planet? Absolutely! Zero waste isn't all or nothing. You don't have to be perfect, there's no membership guidelines. Just do the best you can. Pick one thing to start with! Once you get that habit built, pick something else. Before you know it, you've done A LOT of things!

grumpymuppett-7 karma

"Zero waste" does indeed inply an "all or nothing" attitude. Hence 'zero'...just sayin'

nationalgeographic15 karma

Here's an extensive post on what zero waste means. It's an industrial term that refers to a circular economy and was first coined by a scientist. It's never meant all or nothing. https://www.goingzerowaste.com/blog/what-is-zero-waste-what-is-the-circular-economy?rq=what%20is%20zero%20waste

allwordsaremadeup-3 karma

Two questions: One: personal responsibility is a neoliberal lie. You can't solve big problems by a small part of the population changing their behavior. And insisting on personal responsibility is harmful because that energy should be spent on universal top down approaches. What do you think?

Two: All the plastic on the oceans comes from the third world. Insisting on improving trash management in the West is harmful because that energy should be spent creating much bigger gains in the developping world. Thoughts on that?

nationalgeographic4 karma

Individuals must act so businesses and policy can react. I'm very upfront about this being one piece of the puzzle, but in order for things to change there has to be people demanding change. I'm not so disillusioned to think that a few people eliminating their trash down to a pint sized jar is going to save the world. But, it can encourage others to reduce their waste and look at the world a little different and be able to use their voices to demand change from businesses and politicians. We're already seeing it happen.

Do you really think CA would have passed a bag ban if it weren't for other people fighting in their communities for bag bans? It starts local first, and my goal is to encourage as many people as I can. Think global, act local. ;)

As far as your second point. There's so much to unpack. A lot of these countries have been flooded with products from the west which is one part of the problem. Changing the demand in the west will hopefully also change the products over there too. Also, most 1st world countries US, Canada, Japan, Australia, etc. ship all of their "recyclables" over to Asia to be processed.

It's a multi-tiered problem. We have to implement waste management. We have to change products. We have to move away from a linear economy. The list goes on. We have a lot to change, but it all starts with a small group of people demanding change.