The Simply Green: Introduction & Purpose

“mad intensities don’t just happen she said –

they consume you in a moment,

but they grow from lifetimes ago.”

—Terri St. Cloud

The purpose of this blog is to document our slow transition to a zero-waste life.

I (Ashley) have always been interested in the environment. When I was little, I was always reading about animals and playing outside. I loved exploring the woods behind our suburban home, often stumbling across deer and foxes as I looked for trees to climb. I remember being very concerned about habitat destruction and endangered species, but it never occurred to me that anything about my life was contributing to this problem. But whatever, I was eight (no regrets!).

When I got to high school, my habits changed. I was still interested in reading and the outdoors, but I also loved playing sports, singing, hanging out with friends. I was older, I knew more about the impact my life had on the environment, but I didn’t necessarily have a lot of agency in my life. Looking back now, I could have made some changes. But it takes a really exceptional teenager to change her whole family’s attitude towards consumption. I wasn’t exceptional – and honestly, I don’t really regret that either.

By the time I got to college, I was used to this “double life.” One where I could care so deeply about the environment without doing a thing for it. I went on like this: bringing plastic water bottles to my environmental ethics class, packing my lunch in ziplocks for a visit to the local incinerator. I graduated, moved, and got my first job. Now I was drinking from more disposable Starbucks cups than ever and burning through two tanks of gas on my weekly commute.

Whenever I did try to initiate something environmentally friendly, it felt like a HUGE sacrifice. Because that’s what I thought being eco-conscious meant: sacrifice and suffering. I couldn’t fathom how to go about limiting my impact without also limiting the things I cared about.

Thankfully, I discovered Bea Johnson’s blog, The Zero Waste Home. I was intrigued by her mission: to limit her home’s waste to as close to zero as possible. Bea acknowledged that she would never be able to actually reduce her waste to zero, but she and her family limit their trash to one little jar a year. Woah.

What really attracted me to this mission was that it didn’t seem like a lot of work. After the waste-reducing systems were in place, it seemed…simple. And beautiful. And frugal. And clean. And time-saving. And just, well, right.

If you know me, you know that it takes me a very long time to make a decision on anything. But when I finally decide, it’s like a switch flips and I’m consumed (see the Terry St. Cloud poem, above). A switch flipped, and I decided to move closer to my church. Another, and I decided to go to graduate school. And then, the biggest game-changer of all – I fell in love.

Mr. TSG and I got married in May, 2014. He has been my partner in everything. When I had another “switch flip” a few weeks after we got married and was ready to commit to going zero-waste, he was on board, 100%.

There are several great blogs demonstrating that this kind of a lifestyle is possible. The Zero Waste Home, Trash is for Tossers, The No Trash Project, and The Zero Waste Chef have all been hugely motivating for us in the TSG household. So you may be wondering, “With so many other great resources, what does this blog add?” I think The Simply Green adds three elements to the zero-waste community:

  1. Another voice. The zero-waste movement is growing, but it’s certainly not mainstream. Most people just don’t think it’s possible to live without paper towels, packaged food, or tampons. The more people live and blog about this lifestyle, the more others will see that you don’t have to be rich and you don’t have to deprive yourself to live more conscientiously.
  2. A different locality. The TSG’s are currently located in Athens, Georgia. Athens is a great town – lots of great food and music, a great university (go Dawgs!), and some awesome zero waste resources. But it’s no NYC or San Francisco, so we’ve had to find some different solutions to going zero-waste.
  3. A documented transition. At The Simply Green, you won’t just see the end product. You’ll see the journey: the small changes that progressively add up to a big difference in the impact our lives have on the planet.

What to expect from this blog:

  • Transparency: I’m into clothes and makeup. I’m a little vain about my hair. I drive to work, and we fly at least once a year. Not all the things we try work for us. Some of our zero-waste “solutions” still produce a little trash.
  • A little bit of science: What can I say, I’m a scientist. I’ll occasionally reference papers and give my opinion. When I start publishing some of my own, I’ll probably point you all towards them too 🙂
  • A little bit of religion: I’ll try to keep this to a minimum, because I want this blog to be a safe and welcoming place for all readers. But I also believe in living a fully integrated life, which means that I’ll occasionally reference how a simply green concept relates with my spirituality.
  • A lot of first person singular. Mr. TSG are a team, all the way. To function more efficiently, we divide responsibilities (with some wiggle room, of course). There are some changes that I champion because they fall under my realm of responsibility, and for those, I’ll just be saying “I.”

Happy reading!