Stephen and Elana Smith are a local married couple in their late 20’s who started their own business, opening a zero waste store, in Tequesta, Florida one year ago. They opened their eco-friendly shop, One World Zero Waste on December 7th, 2018. Steven is a certified Barkan Method yoga instructor, and began his teaching journey in 2017. His wife, Elana is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and an Ayurveda practitioner. They take great pride in stocking their shelves with bulk foods and sustainable products such as re-usable paper towels, waterproof lining snack bags, bamboo straws and eating utensils. These products and more are offered by One World Zero Waste to be reused over time for years to come to help reduce our carbon footprint on the Earth. I recently sat down with the Jupiter couple to discuss the influence behind their unique entrepreneurial venture, and the impact they hope to impart on others to live a cleaner life for years to come, paving the way for a healthier environment for future generations.
Danny Miegel: Stephen, you and your wife, Elana have talked about how critical your honeymoon trip to India was to pave the way for the opening of One World Zero Waste. Prior to embarking on your trip to India, did you already have the idea for opening this store as your vision for starting a business or did you have a variety of different ideas in mind that were narrowed down to this particular eco-friendly venture following your unique experience traveling to this South Asian country?
One World Zero Waste: Before the trip to India, the whole business idea was kind of thrown around but nothing really stuck. After seeing the way trash was handled over in India, and how easily it was able to get out of control, with the lack of facilities that they have over there to take care of their waste, it was really eye-opening to come to the realization that if Indian people were to live the way that Americans live, it would be devastating to their landscape and to their home. Thinking of that, and how people lived, collecting trash, sorting trash, and doing the proper things with the trash so that it could be recycled or it could be taken care of a little bit better, like that is what individual people were doing on the ground, not big corporations doing it. That was just individuals. Imagine how much more(trash) there was that people couldn’t handle. Everything else was just burned on the side of the road. Here it’s really easy for people to forget that there is a problem with trash. You put it on the curb and that’s the last time you see it. It’s still there, and it’s getting buried and handled, but it’s still creating a lot of waste. So it was a big eye-opener that we still need to do our part here and remind people that we do create waste and we need to stop. We’re still causing major pollution, and seeing all that stuff definitely was more touching to us, and that kind of sprung on this idea, and this was something that we were a little bit more passionate about than all of the other business ideas that we threw around. The work that is involved in it seems to have a positive impact on more people.
DM: Dr. Gregory Norris, an industrial ecologist, developed New Earth, a non-profit organization that is a leader in creating a sustainable life-style pattern for people in this generation. One of his current projects is titled “Handprinter” which is designed for people to take constructive actions in their private and professional lives to offset their carbon footprint. How do you feel One World Zero Waste is laying an exemplary hand-print for others to follow?
OWZW: A lot of the products that are at our store are either made by us or some other local people that live in town, so we’re reducing the carbon footprint because of the stuff we make we don’t have to ship it here. We try to get as much of it as we can locally. We do ship some things and we choose different options like there’s an option to get a meeting drop spot, so that everybody from this area gets a shipment from this company at the same time. We make so much of it here locally and support other local businesses that just come to our door and drop it off, or we go to their place of business to pick up deliveries. So we try to cut back that way, and we compost here so if we have any food waste from our house we let people drop off stuff for free, just so that it is very easy, and there’s no excuse, it’s super easy to compost. We have the composting here in the back of the store and even our paper scraps get shredded and our cardboard boxes have been picked up from another composting facility and they are building up the ground with the cardboard to even their ground service instead of literally bringing in dirt. That’s some of the stuff we do to reduce our carbon footprint, and we try to educate people by taking any excuse we can to get to an event, and talk to people about reducing their waste. Even when we’re not visiting places with One Word Zero Waste, and we’re out and about in our own lives, we do this stuff in our regular living, so we get food, and we bring our own containers for our food and when we do that, we usually have a conversation about being prepared and we try to be inspirational to people in that way. On an individual level, the people coming in and bringing their compost to us, it just goes to show that it’s totally doable. A lot of people that are cooking at home, they have scraps of food that usually goes into their garbage, and then that garbage gets put in a plastic bag, and it’s in a landfill and never decomposes as in a compost. It forms a lot of toxic chemicals in the environment too, creating a lot of greenhouse gases from food breaking down.
DM: What would be the best piece of advice you would give a fellow entrepreneur that is looking to start an eco friendly-business?
OWZW: I feel like how we started with what we wanted in the store, was taking a look at our house. If there was something that we hadn’t switched already, what did we need to change? It could have been anything from making a switch from disposable razors to anything we thought would be helpful, and that’s how we got started and as we go we’re still adding things that we discover would be helpful. On the food side, we try to get things here in the store like pasta and spices that typically would be packaged. We thought about a lot that would be useful and beneficial to us that we would use and we would like because we are also consumers and so that draws people to our business who are more like-minded, and so those kind of customers tend to stick around because they like what we like and in turn we provide what they like. I would say to entrepreneurs, if they are passionate about being eco-friendly, find a concept that is not too broad and if you see a way that it might be possible then you should go for it. Don’t let fear be an inhibition to doing something that you think might be awesome.
DM: Stephen, being a certified Barkan Method yoga teacher for the last couple of years, how does teaching yoga coincide with the message you’re trying to deliver to the customers that walk through your door?
OWZW: Yoga in general is amazing. I love teaching yoga. It teaches you about connectivity within your body, to different parts of your body, to your breathing, to your blood, to your energy, to your heart, and to your brain. You’re balancing, you’re stable on the earth. You are connected to the earth, your body to the ground. Our concept is about preserving the place that we walk, and the place that we live, and spend our entire lives. So the connection between the philosophy I teach in yoga and Zero Waste is really just about connection. You are connected to where you live and we all live on the earth. So that’s basically what yoga showed me. There isn’t anything that’s not connected.
DM: Elana, having gone to culinary school, was there anything specific that you were taught there, in regards to vegan-style meal preparation, you believe has contributed directly to how you have laid out the presentation of your food products?
OWZW: I definitely got an awesome education on quality of food, and I did go for baking and pastry, but I applied that knowledge to cooking and learning to cook more vegan savory food. So I utilize our food a lot and that’s how we decided what we’re going to have with the healthiest options and good variety and I can cook a whole meal with just our own stuff, really. So it definitely helps with that and the workshops, and I love when people come in and they are not really sure what to do with the food, and then maybe I give them a recipe idea, and sometimes I’ll literally put all the spices and everything they need in with their rice, and they’re good to go.
DM: You practice Ayurveda. How has your knowledge of this unique form of alternative Indian medicine become instrumental in the integration of the bulk food products for your store?
OWZW: Ayurveda helped to lead me to the food inventory that we carry. This includes not only the rice/grains/nuts, but especially the specific spices, herbs, and teas that we carry. By carrying the specific food items that we do, I am able to help inspire people to adjust their diets to more properly fit their bodies along with share recipes for how to utilize the proper food for each individual. Sometimes I will go so far as to “pre-season” a bag of rice for someone with the herbs and spices that I recommend for complaints that they come in with. This is a continuing practice for me and the more that I learn along the way, the more helpful (hopefully) I can become to our clients who are looking for this type of structural diet change for their individual body types
DM: If you had to pick one product that you sell to customers that you believe combines the message of healthy-eating along with reducing their carbon footprint on the Earth, what do you think that item would be?
OWZW: The utensil bag. You literally use them to eat with. Plastic utensils are everywhere and so many people don’t think twice about taking them, and some places may give you a plastic fork, spoon and knife, which is a lot more plastic than just a plastic straw. So I feel like a lot of people don’t think as much about their plastic cutlery, and you use them so often, you can use them every single day. I can’t tell you how many people, especially those that work in schools and cafeterias that come into this store and they’ve made mention of cases of plastic utensils at their work. They get handed them and they don’t need them. For instance, what if you’re eating a burrito, something that you’re going to eat with your hands and they still end up giving you a plastic fork or spoon? These are completely unnecessary for you to consume the burrito, and you end up discarding those very utensils of plastic, turning them into wasteful products.
In addition to selling bulk foods and eco-friendly products at One World Zero Waste, Steven and Elana provide educational workshops to inform their customers on the specific steps they can take to make the transition to a whole food life-style, while reducing their carbon footprint with a progressive handprint on our Earth’s environment for generations to come.
For more information on the products sold at Steven and Elana’s unique business venture, visit their website at https://www.oneworld-zerowaste.com/