Hi! Katelin here, co-founder of PAREdown. I’m ecstatic that you have found me!
Most people would say I am a hippy at heart and, while that might be true, I would like to add that I am “hippy-chic.” YES, it reeeally is a thing. I enjoy cooking, in part because I love to eat! I frequently overindulge on chocolate, and I can “geek out” on the subject of sustainability until the cows come home. I have persuaded my husband, Kevin, and our two amazing children, to let go of much of what we once deemed necessary, and to embrace a life of voluntary simplicity centered around our philosophy of Zero Waste.
So what is our philosophy of Zero Waste? In short, it is keeping the goal of sending nothing to landfill in mind when making all consumer choices. You can read more about how our family achieves Zero Waste Here.
Nearly four years have passed since our journey began. At the onset, we anticipated this lifestyle change would be very challenging. And, in the beginning, it was. You see, I like to dive right into the deep end of things, so the learning curve for our family was intense. But with every change, swap, and discovery we were able to reduce the amount of trash we were sending to landfill. This was immensely motivating. Within 15 months we reduced our weekly trash from a large black garbage bag to practically nothing. We had expectations of Zero Waste enriching our lives but we did not think it would happen so fast nor did we imagine it would be so easy to let go of our previous life and all that filled it. To date, the greatest unexpected benefit of Zero Waste has been how we experience Gratitude.
I do not miss shopping at the mall or family outings that involved venturing out to some far off destination to do what we could have done at a local park. I do not miss visiting home stores or receiving my monthly home and garden magazine. This surprised me. We have made new routines that produce different memories, ones that I believe will hold greater value. Our weekends are often spent quietly, enjoying farmers markets, gardening, visiting neighbourhood parks, biking to get ice cream or socializing with family and friends. All of this was expected. What we did not expect was the level of serenity we experience. There is no more organizing our day around a “mandatory” trip to Costco. We no longer buy into the notion that family time requires a destination and packing up the car. We have let all that go and, with it, a lot of stress and anxiety I didn’t realize was there until it was gone. I am happier and calmer, and the whole family benefits from the uncomplicated life we have created. We have built stronger relationships with our neighbours and community, and I am reminded of my childhood.
You remember the ’80s, don’t you? We were tossed out of the house after breakfast or lunch and not seen until the next meal. It was a time when nature and an imagination was all a child needed to be happy. I literally cannot recall a single memory of myself playing inside with store-bought plastic toys. My mother ran a home daycare that enabled her to stay at home with my two brothers and me. Her attitude towards raising us was wholesome. She baked bread and snacks, and we were the only family on the block eating tofu. We almost never ordered take-out, and — to my dismay — mom bought in wholeheartedly to hand-me-downs as being good enough.
Growing up on the west coast of Canada, surrounded by water, mountains, and forests I was aware of the planet’s fragility. However, somewhere along the way I got lost, caught up by the “wheel of consumerism.” I bought into the ideology that I needed to earn more money to buy more stuff that, I thought, would make me look better and feel happier. The notion that everything is connected escaped me during that period.
When I met my future husband, a charming Quebecker with a French accent, I was studying Commerce. I had plans to use my degree and my background in the hospitality industry to work as an event manager in Vancouver. But shortly after meeting Kevin I knew my plans would change. You see, he works for the Royal Canadian Air Force and my career aspirations would not pair well with moving every 24 months. Thankfully, the areas of my degree that I did not initially think would prove particularly useful have turned out to be the most important aspects of my education. Sustainability is a core value of Royal Roads University in Victoria where I attended, and, as such, it is woven into every course. Public speaking, group work, and presentations are also key components of RRU’s approach to learning. I didn’t see the advantages at the time, but I am so grateful for these experiences now.
Within three days of finishing my final exams, I was on a plane to join Kevin on the east coast of Canada where he was posted. While searching for a career that could endure frequent moves, I worked in medical administration. I didn’t mind the work, but I learned it wasn’t for me either… not long-term anyway. I was forever the “newbie,” starting at the bottom to only receive recognition of my abilities shortly before being posted elsewhere. Then there is the issue of compensation — let’s just say the only reason I was able to work in this field was because we were in a dual income situation.
By the end of my second maternity leave, something shifted. I was having a hard time reconciling working in a field that did not fulfill me and required that I spend the majority of my earnings on childcare, work clothes, and transportation. I wanted family time during evenings and on weekends to be a priority. I wanted to sit down to dinner together nightly, and I wanted weekends free to live and relax. I no longer wanted to be a part of the rat race to nowhere. But, most of all, I wanted to be an example to my children. My heart and conscience were screaming at me to make a difference, but I didn’t know how. Whatever it was that I was supposed to be doing was banging on the door of a back closet in my mind, but it couldn’t get out.
I was stuck.
Then one day in January 2014 I watched a clip of a family living Zero Waste. What a simple yet genius concept! This family was saving 40% of their budget (we currently save 13%, but that number is about to increase as we have sold our car in favour of going car-free), they were living a conscious lifestyle, and, most of all, they seemed connected, healthy, and happy. Watching that clip was a pivotal moment in my life, and I have not looked back since.
Now, I am going to let you in on a little secret….
Living Zero Waste is SO MUCH EASIER than you might think!
I find this true of most achievements in life. Once you have accomplished your goal and looked back at your journey, it almost never seems as arduous as you first anticipated. I am not saying it is going to be easy, because it won’t be. What I am saying is that your efforts will be rewarded many times over and benefits will far outweigh the costs. Living a life where your actions are in harmony with your values is incredibly fulfilling.
I never did return to medical administration. (Crowd roars with applause!) Do I spend all my time around the house doing Zero Waste activities such as cooking, baking, DIY making, etcetera? The answer is no. But during the first year, it was a little nutty – you can read about that Here. Daily, I was making butter, baking bread, muffins, and cookies, and learning the Zero Waste ropes. Today, I have realized I can find most everything I need unpackaged. And the things I cannot find unpackaged I will either do without or, if it is necessary, I will make it myself.
I work, but I no longer work in the traditional sense. I work on PAREdown. I work to spread awareness of sustainable living and the benefits of the Zero Waste lifestyle. I make less money than I did when I worked in medical administration. BUT, we are further ahead financially (head-scratcher, right?), AND my work is fulfilling, I am an example to my children, and we have created a life we are proud to live out loud.
What more could I ask for?
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