About the Women Taking Leaps series:
This blog - my life - would not be what it is today without the inspiring women in my life. Near and far, close friends and new acquaintances, incredible women have come into my life in my later years and opened a realm of possibilities for me, simply living by example. This blog series is the first of (hopefully) many to highlight the females that are forging onward, creating lives they love, and making a positive mark on this world.
To start this series, I am proud to introduce Manuela Baron, also known as The Girl Gone Green. Manuela hosts a thriving YouTube channel and Instagram community about conscious living through minimizing waste and being mindful of our impact on the environment.
Interview: Manuela Baron of Girl Gone Green
Taking the leap to live zero-waste
Share a bit about your life before transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle:
What can I say other than I was nowhere near a tree hugger. As a kid, I actually asked my mom to buy me plastic water bottles because other kids had them. I had more clothing items than any one person ever needs. Seriously, who needs 33 skirts? I never once thought about the impact of my consumer choices. That being said, I was passionate about social issues and that translated once I got interested in zero waste. I started reading about minimalism a few months before I stumbled into Zero Waste, so that helped me have a more open mindset.
Was there a growing pull or a single moment that moved you to act?
I was traveling a lot, and I kept noticing one common theme throughout all my travels: litter. Everywhere I went I encountered a ton of trash. Whether it was in Berlin, Morocco or Myanmar; there was trash in all corners of the world. I became fascinated with trash and what I saw in other places, and from that stemmed the idea to change my own trash habits. The big ah-ha moment was on a flight back to Paris (where I was living at the time). I kept getting served water in plastic cups. At the end of the flight, I handed the flight attendant a stack of plastic cups, and it was a big "omg moment." I, Manuela Baron, am part of the problem, so I decided to be part of the solution. Two years later and it has taken over my life in a good way.
How did those around you react when you told them what you were up to?
They thought it was a little strange but ultimately people saw the value in what I was doing, and now my friends and family are my biggest supporters. The cool thing is I got to start this new lifestyle in a new city with a whole group of new people, so that helped. People didn't know me before I was doing this I just kind of jumped into it so I was able to create the life and person I wanted to be. “This is me; I'm the girl gone green. I don't own a trashcan. No, I'm not a hoarder."
What’s been your greatest challenge (personal or otherwise) so far?
Getting disillusioned. When you're living such an extreme lifestyle with so much passion to change the world and to make such a big difference, a lot of the time when things don't go as planned; or when there are a lot of setbacks in the government, it's easy to get upset. There will be times when I visit a loved one and their trash can is full of recyclables, and it hurts. The disappointment I feel when I can’t impact the ones around me is tough, but I love trying to re-imagine how we currently live. I’m a very positive person and there is so much that still needs to change and we are the generation that has to do it. It's not a "later" thing...
I read an article once about a French forger that created new documents for people during the WWII. He was only 19 years old and saved hundreds of Jewish families from death. This story is an important reminder because he didn't wait for someone else to do something, he just did it. There is no one else. My impact may be small, but I like to believe it has a larger ripple in the end.
Acknowledge your greatest success since you began living a zero-waste lifestyle:
There have been so many amazing things that have come from Zero Waste. So many interesting individuals I've been able to meet and connect with. The biggest success I've had is being a part of this community and being a part of something that is trying to make a difference. There's an amazing feeling when you know you are impacting that one person. I love reading emails about people's journeys. They'll tell me all about what they did or how they got a recycling bin. Those little moments are the moments that add up to one big success.
What advice do you have for others who are considering decreasing or going full zero-waste?
Take it slow. Take it one step at a time. Just know you don't have to be zero waste. It's about moving towards a circular economy. It's better for you to learn how your actions have an impact than obsessing over trash. Focus on living consciously, and you'll reduce your trash.
If you could dispel one myth about the zero-waste lifestyle, it would be:
That it's expensive. Zero Waste is not expensive unless you want it to be expensive. A lot of the Zero Waste products and essentials that people add on their blogs aren't essentials. Most of the time you have these things in your home already. For example, you don't need a wooden toilet bowl cleaner because you most likely have a plastic one already - so why are you buying a new one? That's unsustainable. The idea that you have to go out and buy and replace all your items with glass or replace all your items with something else is ridiculous. Zero Waste has saved me a ton of money. I simply buy less stuff and waste less food and resources.
Get to know Manuela better:
YouTube: The Girl Gone Green
Thank you so much for joining us for the first of four in the Women Taking Leaps: Interviews & Inspiration series.
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