Trading Waste For Abundance with Stevie Van Horn
“I love the trees in Greenpoint!” says Stevie Han Horn, 28, who moved to Brooklyn from Colorado in 2012. “Part of it makes me feel as though I’m in a small town. There are a few roads in Greenpoint that make me feel so smitten because the trees funnel the street making it extra dreamy.”
Nature lover? Sure. But when I learned that Stevie lived “trash free”, that seemed a little too hippy dippy for me. Yes, even by my standards! At first I didn’t believe her, like, is it even possible to live trash free? What does that even mean?
So I asked her!
GP: What do you mean you live “Trash Free”? Is that a real thing?
Stevie Van Horn: “Trash” is anything that is discarded and refused, that is without a purpose or something that is no longer needed and cannot be reused, recycled, or composted. “Trash free” means not buying anything that has to be thrown away. All things we throw away can be easily replaced by something more sustainable, and in turn, healthier for you and the environment.
For example: buying more local and organic produce, simple DIY make up products, non-chemical household items… So yes it is 100% possible! I will say there is a big misconception involving trash.
I used to throw away food scrap among many other things but it is so important to compost all food that will not be eaten since food cannot breathe in a landfill and will quickly produce the dangerous greenhouse gas methane. The trash free lifestyle isn’t all about trash. It is educating oneself on all purchases because we as consumers have the choice and ability to further our planet into sustainable practices.
GP: Cool, cool. Maybe that’s easier if you eat in a lot, but I like to go out too. Is it possible to eat out and not be a total consumer trash producer/monster?
Stevie: Yes! Well, sort of… It is pretty wonderful that there are some great options for eco friendly foods around Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Take a stroll and you are bound to find a eco-conscious restaurant striving for quality taste as well as quality sourced ingredients.
Selamat Pagi is so ridiculously delicious. Their dishes are Bali inspired. They use only local grass fed, sustainable and organic me ants, seafood and poultry. They serve organic eggs and produce and source locally where possible. Menu changes with what is in season.
I have only been to Five Leaves for brunch but it’s amazing. All their ingredients are the best quality locally sourced when possible and organic.
Dinner at Achilles Heel is mind-blowing. They source their ingredients locally and organic. Menu changes with what is in season.
GP: What are some reasonable – cough(easy)cough – everyday changes I can make?
Stevie: Oh! There are plenty of great, basic Earth hacks to get you started to a more sustainable, minimal, trash-less/plastic-less life… This can help allow the earth to breathe a bit better and make your world a lot cleaner.
Cloth produce multi-faceted bags can be taken anywhere at anytime. I avoid everything that involves trash and plastics so I take all my shopping to the farmers market for produce or the bulk sections of grocery stores for sustainably sourced bulk items (rice, nuts, dried fruits, flours, etc). I also use my cloth bags for my produce storage until I get home as opposed to the plastic ones they offer at the stores.
And bring a mason jar! I bring this around everywhere. It is good for juices, smoothies, coffees, teas, and I bring it on grocery hauls for bulk peanut butters, oils, syrups etc… You can avoid trash and plastic so easily just by bringing one of these jars around with you.
It’s also surprisingly easy to make your own toothpaste and buy a bamboo toothbrush and ditch the fancy soaps in the fancy plastic bottle. If you have coconut oil, baking soda, and essential oil you are 100% successfully there in making your own toothpaste. Adding bentonite clay for lifting plaque is a plus. My teeth have never been more white and the big thing here is avoiding the pesky plastic tube it comes in that can not even be recycled and will live longer than your children’s children. There are also nasty microbeads in tons of pastes that make this a hazard once released from the sewers and into the waterways now making their way into the food chain where little creatures suffocate on them. Plastic toothbrushes also live forever so buying a bamboo one is a great alternative since the bamboo can be composted. In regards to the soaps, I used to have soap for every part of my body and now I have one single one that I bought in bulk that I use for my face, body, hands, and even scalp. I have saved tons of money and avoided tons of plastic.
Another thing you can do is downsize your meat and cheese intake. I was a huge meat and dairy lover until I read the actual energy it took to get me my bacon cheeseburger and chicken and eggs. This daily practice is hands down one of the worst gas emissions, exhausting almost every resource on the planet from burning down forests for cattle grazing and releasing black carbon to the mind-blowing amount of methane a million cows produce from their burps, farts, and poops! So if you want to make a substantial impact, even taking out meat and cheese for a day or two a week is incredible. Let’s face it, if you sub your meat and dairy for some greens a couple times a week, your body will probably thank you too.
GP: Are there any, I dunno… local, accessible ways I can lower my footprint?
The Greenpoint/McCarren Park Greenmarket has a farmers’ market every Saturday from 8am-3pm, including textile recycling and compost drop off from 8am-2pm.
McGolrick Park Farmers Market is typically every Sunday from 10am to 4pm, including textile recycling and compost drop off from 10am-3pm.
GP: My roommate composts, does that count?
Stevie: Not really?