Killin Waste: Attempting a Waste-Free World Tour with Killin H8

Over three months ago I bought my last packaged grocery item, I swore off new plastic objects, and I started transitioning into a Zero Waste lifestyle. I thought I had a pretty good handle on things: I was buying bulk, shopping at the farmers' market, always carrying my own containers, and sourcing non-food items second hand. In general, I was taming my desires and living a much simpler life that involved zero trash. 

This is why I was very confident that when I would go on tour with my band Killin H8 to Germany, Romania, and Tel-Aviv, I would be able to maintain my zero waste life-style. The results of my first week on tour involved many more pitfalls and disappointments than I had expected. Despite the hardships that I will describe in detail here, there were also some wonderful achievements. 

DAY ZERO - THE NIGHT BEFORE

My travel "Mess Kit" involved: a water jar, dry food container, a stainless steel (wet) food container, my metal travel mug, two cloth napkins, and my utensil bag. 

My travel "Mess Kit" involved: a water jar, dry food container, a stainless steel (wet) food container, my metal travel mug, two cloth napkins, and my utensil bag. 

Thinking about how much garbage is sold to people during their travel experiences will send any trash conscious person into a frenzy. Every packaged meal, every duty free candy, plastic wrapped magazine, all the plastic cups and pretzel bags, the endless napkins, the plastic wrapped headphones and blankets… the list goes on. This would be my first time traveling with zero waste intentions and I wanted to be as ready as possible.

The day of the flight I went and bought some fresh granola, veggies, and fruit in bulk, and packed it all up for our journey across the atlantic. Nate and I bought some sandwiches to eat on the way to the airport, had them wrapped in our napkins, and I was feeling really happy - thinking to myself, I can do this.

Very quickly I ran into the first pitfall.

- LAUNDRY

Immediately after we finished our sandwiches, the napkins were dirty. We hadn’t even gotten to the airport and I already realized that without my home base I would be carrying around a dirty napkin until I found a moment to wash it. This didn’t immediately become a problem, as I use dirty napkins over and over all the time. But after a couple of days it became clear that this was something I had overlooked. By the fourth day in Germany I could no longer use my napkin to grab food on the go, it was too smelly and needed to go in my laundry bag. 

At the airport I enjoyed my fresh snacks and stuck with my commitment to abstain from buying anything. Just for fun I looked around to see if there was anything I could buy… I did find some bananas, I also found these plastic wrapped apples. haha. 

The second pitfall I actually foresaw in new york, but thought I would find a solution. 

- COMPOST

Even if you’re buying fruits and veggies in bulk, you have to account for your organic waste. I was so excited to get bulk cherries from the Chinatown market, but had no idea what to do with all the stems and pits. I ended up making a little compost baggie from an old ziploc I had at home and decided I was going to find a compost dump in Germany. Slowly but surely my plastic bag full of compost started to rot and get smelly. Uncomfortable as it was, I kept it on me. My trash, my responsibility. Soon other pieces of trash found their way into this baggie. It was unavoidable, the floodgates had been opened. 

How could I have avoided this? more planning perhaps. Either to have made sure that any snack I was buying I could consume entirely, or have known exactly what my compost disposal plan was. We didn’t have time between shows and traveling to go find a compost station, this is something I could try to make more a priority next time.

Not having the ability to compost threw me off the zero waste wagon a little bit. Soon I was getting lazy about paper recycling and just started accumulating unwanted objects in my smelly little bag. 

DAY 1-6: GERMANY

We landed in Berlin and immediately I felt that being zero waste was going to be way harder than I thought. Not because there’s a ton of trash in Germany, actually it seemed to me that plastic bags were not as normalized here and that people generally lived somewhat simpler, less consumer based lifestyles.

Fairly quickly we bought our first sandwich sans napkin… boom! trash. luckily it was just paper and aluminum. Then I got a drink with a straw in it. At the Berlin Music Video Awards I avoided all drinks in plastic cups. When they offered us a shot of Jaegermeister I tried to get it poured into my cup, but a disposable shot glass was used as a measurement tool.

Also they gave us a plastic holder for our names, I took a ceremonial picture with it and vowed to return it to them so they could reuse it in later festivals.

Proud to be a nominee, not proud of how I dealt with this plastic

Proud to be a nominee, not proud of how I dealt with this plastic

Things felt like they were falling apart. 

I had no bulk food stores around and relied entirely on restaurants and fast food. Slowly but surely I was accumulating trash. I tired to store it all in my little baggy, hoping that I would could take care of it responsibly once I found home-base in Tel-Aviv. I felt defeated and disappointed in myself. But, after some painful introspection, I had an important realization: despite the circumstances, and the unexpected mistakes, I was doing my best. Looking at the whole week from a more compromising and optimistic perspective, one would see that my efforts actually resulted in relatively minimal waste acquisition, and responsible disposal of what I did acquire. 

Looking for more responsible places to dispose of boarding passes and other unavoidable paper travel trash

Looking for more responsible places to dispose of boarding passes and other unavoidable paper travel trash

Here are the MVP’s of my trip:

1. Travel Mug
2. Water Jar

Because of these two items, Sir Kn8 and I avoided the acquisition of at least 20 coffee cups and plastic water bottles. We also avoid plastic bags and packaged food by habit. Suddenly I realized how important the “refuse” element of zero waste is. Since we were already conditioned to avoid bags and packaging, we didn’t even need a tool for that. Just by *not* getting packaged stuff we naturally create less waste.

Moreover, the travel mug brought smiles to people’s faces, as it traveled with us from city to city. Getting used up and refilled over and over, it started to gain personality, it’s own story. 

Eventually it didn’t make sense to hold on to my smelly garbage baggie, and we didn’t have space to take it with us so I threw it away. All the trash we made in one week was just a small sandwich sized ziplock bag and it consisted of only paper, aluminum and organic waste. 

There were two episodes in the week in which I completely let go of my zero waste intentions. The first was at a train station near Hamburg. We had been traveling for 10 hours, I needed something sugary and cold to sooth an ache in my mouth. I bought an icicle with a plastic wrapper.

The second time was in Romania, also after 2 sleepless nights and weird travel schedules. I woke up from a fitful nap and ended up buying a fried dough pastry that came in a little plastic bag. I’m saving the bag as a souvenir. It reminds me that zero waste is just as much about my emotional state of mind as it is about saving the environment. The connection between plastic and sugar is also becoming more apparent to me. 

COMING UP — I will have a home base, and I will have compost and a world of bulk options. In the next leg of this tour we will be documenting my journey living zero waste in Tel-Aviv. I will be focusing more on personal interactions and conversations. Bringing zero waste to Tel-Aviv is going to be interesting and I’m eager to see what comes of it. 

Until next time,

Hila the Killa

Killin H8 - Small World Tour
Killin Waste <3 

VIDEO: East Village Bulk Buy

I'm proud to present the first ZWR video in honor of Earth Day 2017!
 

Watch me and socially-conscious rapper/performance artist Hila Perry go on an epic BULK BUY in the East Village of NYC, dishing some hard facts & serious knowledge about how to reduce your impact as a consumer in the age of plastic disposables and over-packaged everything.

Featuring 4th Street Food Co-op, Porto Rico Importing Company, and Flower Power Herbs and Roots, Inc.

Music by Killin H8!

Produced by: Hila Perry, Reni Lane, & Pan

Zero Waste Essentials: The Mess Kit

Going zero waste can be overwhelming. It's hard to know where to start and there is so much conflicting information about sustainable practices.

One thing everyone can agree on is that single-use disposables like plastic water bottles and plastic bags are no good. And it happens to be an easy place to begin.

I’ve found it’s helpful to group a few zero waste alternatives together to get into the habit of bringing them all at once - to do this, you need to assemble a MESS KIT.

 

WHAT'S A MESS KIT?

Jack Kerouac's backpack contents: mess kit, typewriter, toiletries, & books

Jack Kerouac's backpack contents: mess kit, typewriter, toiletries, & books

Wikipedia says "A mess kit is a collection of silverware and cookware used during camping and backpacking, as well as extended military campaigns."

I guess zero waste is a little like going camping every day - it’s adventurous and you’re literally an eco-trailblazer. Humans have gotten by without disposables for a long time - and with style to boot! Going back to those roots feels empowering and badass.

Here’s what you need to assemble your very own zero waste MESS KIT:

KEY ITEMS

  • mason jar / canteen / flask
  • cloth napkin / handkerchief
  • cloth bag (to hold everything and store purchases)
  • spork / utensils

EXTRA ITEMS

  • stainless steel straw
  • tiffin (WTF is a tiffin?)
  • more cloth bags (depending on how many you need for shopping)
  • hot sauce, salt, pepper, etc

Throw your items into a cloth bag and you're ready to go!

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PRO TIPS

- Pick stuff you really like, that matches your outfit...whatever you have to do to get psyched about bringing a few extra items with you.

- Keep your mess kit easily accessible - preferably where you can see it before heading out. I hang mine on a hook by the door.

- Check out second-hand shops for vintage versions of the above items. I've found so many unique canteens at Goodwill and Salvation Army.

- Have a few options depending on the occasion as well as backups. Some music venues don't like glass jars so on gig nights I bring a canteen or a pop-up stainless steel cup instead.

- There are tons of products that are foldable, pop-up, and have other space-saving capabilities if you're not into the bulkiness of vintage items. Though it is greener to buy second hand, bringing a reusable is preferable to not doing anything, so find what works for you.

- Many seasonings come in little paper packets, and there isn't always a zero-waste alternative (I ask the server if she has sugar in a shaker as opposed to a packet). So bring your own! Hot sauce, sugar, salt and pepper and good backups to have if you're sensitive to seasoning.

- Use your tiffin or unused mason jar/cup to hold any compostable items (like a banana peel) so you can add them to your compost when you return home.

Though I may not be camping, with my mess kit in tow I am waging a war on plastic and trash. What does your ideal mess kit look like? Share in the comments below and let me know what tips you found useful. 

Evolution Of My Toiletries Bag

hen I first went zero waste, I already didn’t use a lot of beauty products. I loved that I could throw my bare bones toiletries bag in my guitar case whenever I hit the road. 

But over the past two years my personal care regimen underwent the biggest zero waste evolution of all, with lessons that reverberated far beyond the medicine cabinet. ere are some tips & tricks for greening your toiletries along with photos of my bag in various stages along the way.

STAGE ONE - STARTING OFF

 Where I started, early 2014. Photo by Megan Tepper.

 Where I started, early 2014. Photo by Megan Tepper.

Documenting my toiletries bag a month into my initial zero waste awakening was pretty shocking. All the plastic, travel-sized products I loved for their space saving capabilities were convenient, but ultimately not sustainable.

My first steps (which happened before this picture was taken) were to purchase a vintage soap container with package-free bar soap (1), make homemade toothpaste (2 - here's a recipe) and switch to a diva cup (3). I already had a wooden, biodegradable comb (4).

Tips for starting the toiletries transition:

  • Make a commitment to REFUSE free cosmetics and samples. Accepting them breeds demand for more. While we’re on the topic, be sure to get your five R’s in order: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse (& Repair), Recycle, and Rot.
  • USE up old products first instead of throwing them out. The point is not to buy all new, “green” marketed products right away. In the time it takes to use up the old stuff you can try out various homemade recipes or research package-free replacements.
  • If you truly don’t use something anymore, post it on craigslist or GIFT it to someone who would use it. I called my sister to see if she would appreciate a very strange care package of tampons, concealer, eyeliner, and lint rollers. She said yes!
  • RECYCLE plastic containers once you’ve used up the product. Check out earth911.com for recycling centers and for recycling guides. Places like Home Depot and Whole Foods accept more unusual types of plastic.
  • RESEARCH DIY recipes & zero waste alternatives. I started researching homemade beauty recipes for the things I’d eventually need to replace, looking for simple, multifunctional recipes with ingredients I already had. For the complicated stuff I was too lazy to make myself I looked for package and plastic free alternatives I could buy from a local source. Check out TIFT’s Zero Waste Alternatives: The Ultimate List and Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Recipes for ideas.
  • BORROW from your kitchen. Coconut oil is a great moisturizer and you can make many products using stuff in your pantry like cacao powder, baking soda, and cornstarch.
 

STAGE TWO: TESTING THE WATERS

A few months later, I had the opportunity to put my toiletries kit to the test during a shoot in upstate New York where I was in charge of my own makeup!

Later that summer, shooting a fashion film in Keane Valley, NY. Photos by me. 

Later that summer, shooting a fashion film in Keane Valley, NY. Photos by me. 

Tips for keeping the transition going:

  • REUSE old glass and metal containers by up-cycling them to hold your new concoctions. Give them a nice scrubbing with hot water and castile soap and stow them in your medicine cabinet for later. I did this with a bunch of old Burt’s Bee’s containers and mashed up old lipsticks in them, combined with Shea butter, vitamin E, and coconut oil to make these vibrant lip/blush duos (1).
  • After some research I replaced my old foundation/concealer with RMS Beauty "uncover" (2) and became obsessed with this brand. All their products are organic, packaged in recyclable metal and glass, and available for me to purchase locally. What's not to like?
  • I continued to REDUCE by using bulk and multitasking ingredients, while also tweaking things to work for my body. I started using coconut oil for body lotion, shaving cream, and conditioner but found it a bit much for my face. Switching to jojoba oil (3 - pictured here in an up-cycled glass vial) made a big difference.
  • I followed up my RESEARCH by taking a stab at DIY hair powder (4) and hand sanitizer (5). I was pretty pleased with both!
  • After RECYCLING my old, worn out travel toothbrush, I invested in a pack of Brush With Bamboo toothbrushes (6) so I could give a few to my friends and family.
  • As you can see here I was still dutifully using up my old sunscreen, in a plastic tube!

 

STAGE THREE - GOING DEEPER

The next time I documented my personal care products was during a move to a new apartment. By now I was getting the hang of things and swapped even more products for zero waste alternatives.

Advanced toiletry tips:

  • I continued to embrace BULK in a variety of ways: I found a place where I could buy essential oils and refill the bottles. I also starting purchasing recycled, unbleached toilet paper and bulk castile soap. 
  • I started to REUSE handkerchiefs (1) and cloth napkins instead of kleenex and wet wipes. To get the effect of a wet wipe I spray homemade hand sanitizer (2) on a napkin - it works just as well. I also SWAPPED disposable panty liners for reusable cloth versions.
  • I made DIY Mascara (3), lip & nail balm (4), and roll-on deodorant (5). I also tried TIFT’s body butter recipe and loved it!
  • UPKEEP of what you already own is important, so I learned how to sharpen my tweezers (6). I also decided to REFUSE getting manicures (already a rare indulgence) and thus purchased a stainless steel nail file (8) so I could do it myself.
  • I REPLACED my plastic body scrubber with a loofah (6 - bought package free from a street vendor). These compostable alternatives can be up-cycled for house cleaning once they’ve passed their prime in the shower.
  • I could now ROT my loofah along with my hair and toenail clippings by adding them to my compost. How do I do that in the city you may ask? Check out TIFT’s great video on How To Compost Anywhere.

 

STAGE FOUR - ROUGHIN’ IT

My most recent challenge was to pack a slimmed-down version of my travel kit for a week in Los Angeles where I wanted my bags to be as light as possible. Here is what I brought!

Tips for the uber-minimal travel kit:

  • I went OLD SCHOOL with the purchase of my first safety razor. They’re relatively easy to find second hand and the blades are super cheap and recyclable (save them in an old metal can until you have enough to take to the recycling center).
  • I brought my nail & lip balm, my new and improved DIY roll on deodorant (I plan on sharing the recipe in another post) and bought UNPACKAGED soap from the Topanga Canyon farmer’s market (soap container not pictured).
  • Buy LOCAL olive oil at your destination to use for moisturizer, shaving cream, and conditioner. Then leave the remainder as a hostess gift.
  • Tea tree oil did double duty as insect repellant and zit treatment and I brought my biodegradable bamboo toothbrush and wooden hairbrush.

I’m pretty proud of what I’ve accomplished in two years. For the future I’d like to find a more sustainable solution for FLOSS (something compostable that doesn’t come in a plastic box) and figure out how to reduce my MEDICINAL waste (pills, bandaids, and the like).

Which of these tips did you find helpful? Is there something in your current toiletries kit you're inspired to swap out for a zero waste alternative? Please leave a comment below and follow ZWR on Instagram for more zero waste toiletry tips!