From Trashy to Glassy: My Vegan & Zero Waste Story

Low Waste Vegan Zero Waste

This is the story I don’t tell people. I debated not writing this at all, because it’s hard to look back on a version of yourself that you don’t like. Much less share it with the world on your dream business’ website. 

I’m sharing this story with you now to show that no one is perfect. Especially not me. We are all perfectly imperfect. We are all just on the struggle bus called life trying to have as much fun as we can while we are here. When this journey of mine began, I was at a not-so-fun point in life. Grad school was hard. And expensive. I escaped reality every chance I could. 

It all started after a long day of work and school. I open the 2-liter bottle of diet soda, pour it into my favorite cup, and mix it with vodka. I heavily debate about going to buy a pack of cigarettes. I had only quit smoking a few weeks before. 

This was my routine. I drank every night. I had an arbitrary limit of three heavy-handed drinks a night. I smoked a couple of cigarettes throughout the day, usually in the car. Going through a pack every few days. 

When I drank, all bets were off. I drank for many reasons. Childhood trauma, insomnia, and social anxiety all played a role in my drinking. I drank because it gave me an excuse to not be my best self.  

On top of it all, I didn’t realize other habits in my life that were causing damage to me were causing just as much damage to the planet. I lived in Austin and was going to grad school in San Marcos. They are only 30 miles apart, but Austin traffic is no joke. I was spending hours in the car every week going back and forth to classes and work.

I wasn’t eating well. I ate a lot of single-serve microwave meals at home. I ate fast food three or four times a week. Usually, on my way to or from school. I was a student and a teaching assistant, so countless hours were spent at the university. One semester, I lived off of vending machine peanut butter crackers. It was a lot of plastic waste. 

It was on one of those nights with my favorite cup in hand and my endless longing to put off doing homework that I decided to watch a documentary. I tell myself it is educational and therefore better than other TV. I also convince myself that I will just watch it until I finish folding the laundry.

I remember taking a long drink and thinking,  “Oh this should be good. I can hate-watch this for sure.” The doc was called “Cowspiracy.”

You need a little back story here: I grew up in the Texas panhandle in a town called Tulia. When I was 14, my mom married a cattle rancher from the area. Farmers and ranchers are some of the loveliest and hardest working people I know. Coming from this area and knowing the ins and outs of the industry at its roots, makes it hard for me to have an all or nothing stance on beef production, farming, and agriculture. You should know, with any polarizing issue, I come at it with a loving and logical perspective. 

Can we do better in the ag industry? Of course. All things can have improvements. Do I think we need to cold turkey stop raising cattle for food? Nope. It’s a delicate balance that will take time to improve. 

I just comes down to thinking we can do better as a whole in lots of areas. 

I’m going to take a moment here to say the majority of my favorite people still consume meat. I don’t judge them for it. I love them, and in return they love me. They also make me some bomb vegan food when I come to visit, so who is really winning here?  

I am also highly intolerant to beef and any other bovine product, but this didn’t happen until I was 18 years old. (I’ll write another blog on that later). So, when I watched the “Cowspiracy” documentary I had already cut beef and bovine products from my diet, but I wasn’t living a low waste or vegan lifestyle yet. 

I assumed this documentary was some city person trying to tell the world what the ranch life is like. I was very wrong. It was a well thought out and scientifically backed piece of work that told the compelling story of how our food is connected to climate change and pollution.

It showed me the areas that needed improvement in our world. 

I decided after watching that documentary that I was going to a plant-based diet. It wasn’t much of a change for me, honestly. At that point, I was only eating chicken, eggs, and (rarely) fish. I ate through the products I had in the fridge and pantry that weren’t vegan, but made a conscious decision to buy different products when I went to the store. My partner at the time was already a vegetarian so that wasn’t an issue. 

It wasn’t a picture-perfect transition. Or a transition that I let affect my relationships with the people I love. It was a transition that I wanted to make for myself. 

I’ve been vegan for 3 years and I still sometimes find hidden animal products in my food. This journey isn’t about being perfect. It is about working to be better than you were yesterday.

Now onto my low waste journey. Replay the beginning of this blog, just a few days later. Drink in hand, I turn on a documentary to avoid the work I need to do for grad school. This time, I put on “A Plastic Ocean”. I was immediately shocked. That shock turned to anger very quickly. At myself, at plastic producers, at everything. 

How did I not know this pollution was killing our environment? I look at my plastic coke bottle, plastic vodka jug, everywhere I look I now see plastic. It’s overwhelming and horrifying. I stopped myself. Took a breath.  

I realized that you can only do better once you know better. There’s no need for guilt. Only growth, empathy, and education will pull us out of this cycle we are in. 

At first, I was militant. I couldn’t believe how much plastic was everywhere and I was not going to bring more into my house. I was soooo fun to be around, lemme tell you. Eventually, I evened out. I learned to do what I could to reduce my waste – within reason. 

I start working my way through all of the products in plastic containers and replacing them as needed. Along the way, I continue learning and growing. This was not a pretty process. The detox from antiperspirant is real (another blog on that later).

Fast forward a few years later. I was surrounded by all of my eco-friendly products that were a gloriously boring shade of beige. I genuinely missed bright, colorful, fun, and funky possessions. My personality was still as colorful and funky as it had been, but my house had turned bleak. I needed color in my life without feeling bad about it. 

I couldn’t find more than a few products I wanted all in one spot. My eco-friendly friends felt the same. That is why I started The Wandering Turtle Shop.

For those who may be curious… I quit smoking 2 and a half years ago, I quit drinking 3 months ago, but the diet soda and I are still going strong. One vice at a time, y’all. Small consistent changes make a huge difference in the long run. (Update: I finished a full year of sobriety and now drink socially with friends. The diet soda vice is gonna be the one that gets me... I'm still working on that one.)

There’s no judgment here. We are all on different journeys. I love you and you’re doing great.

If you have questions about going low waste or just want to chat about easy ways you start making a difference, please, reach out! 

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