Building a business on zero waste
Christine is a DO School alumni and an online influencer inspiring people to live simply and sustainably through her website https://simplybychristine.com/- She’s a key figure in the zero waste movement and her education and career in packaging led her to share her perspective on her blog and recent book, Sustainable Home.
This topic is clearly something that resonates with you. Tell us about what do you do and why?
I am a sustainable lifestyle blogger and author, sharing tips for slow, simple and sustainable living.
I was inspired to start blogging after studying packaging engineering, and learning that the United States makes up 5% of the world’s population, yet generates about 40% of the world’s waste — a large percentage of that waste comes from packaging.
I felt compelled to change the way people viewed packaging and wanted to challenge the status quo of our consumption habits.
You strike me as someone who has a clear sense of your purpose. What do you see as your purpose in life?
Thank you! One of my main priorities is to make sure that my life has a positive, loving impact on those around me. A few years ago, I didn’t know what that would practically translate to, but after I became more involved with my packaging studies and witnessed the large amount of waste people around me produced (including myself), the more compelled I was to figure out the environmental impacts of our trash. I quickly realized that we were producing too much trash and that this was having an impact not only on our planet’s resources but also on our own bodies.
You have quite a big following online. What about your message do you think your followers are most attracted to?
There has been plenty of awareness recently regarding global warming, waste generation, and the importance of environmental sustainability.
What people want to see are the simple ways they can live more sustainably so they can be part of the solution!
What’s your business model and how do you choose who to partner with?
As a content creator and freelancer, I obtain revenue through advertising, business sponsorships, book sales, and consulting services which I offer my viewers. When I look for brands to produce sponsored content for, I look at the brands I’ve used already and trust or make sure that the brands have a product or service I would also like to use and can fully endorse. I typically look for brands that have sustainability and ethical business practices as well to align with my personal values, as my blog is focused on sustainable living.
What is working really well for you and why do you think that is?
Social media has been a huge tool to help me spread awareness. When I initially started, I underestimated the power of platforms such as Instagram or YouTube to get the word out. Three years later, and these platforms have transformed how I create content for my followers and has also made the process much more creative and fun!
What opportunities do you have that other larger organizations and brands don’t have?
The ability to be completely frank, honest, and personal. When you’re an individual, sharing your life online through a blog or social media, you can offer honest opinions about different experiences, products, or lifestyles. For example, there are recurring videos with titles such as ‘I lived like X for one year’ or ‘I tried X for 30 days,’ which allow viewers to get a glimpse of what it would be like to try out something new, whether it’s living zero waste or going plastic-free. Of course, each person is responsible for creating a realistic picture of what their experience was like, but these days, viewers are looking for more honest and unfiltered content, and there appears to be a rise in creators that are quite candid and real.
What major challenges have you faced and how did you deal with those?
As a sustainable lifestyle blogger, it can be difficult to gain traction and increase revenue for your blog when your viewers don’t purchase many goods, or when many brands that approach you do not align with your values of sustainable and ethical business practices.
I’ve turned down brand after brand as soon as I realized their product or service didn’t align with my blog.
I’ve been encouraged to keep pressing on with creating genuine content, regardless of whether or not I can make revenue through advertising or brand partnerships, and trust that in time and with authenticity the growth will come. I’ve also learned to not put all my effort into one bucket (blogging and social media), so I’ve also expanded with other services and part-time work such as wedding planning and interior design.
What major trends do you see in retail (including online shopping) that makes you excited about the future?
The growth of the plastic-free and zero waste movement. When I started to live a zero waste lifestyle three years ago, many individuals resorted to DIY options. Today, there are so many small brands and businesses jumping in to offer alternatives!
Can you please explain the zero waste movement for those who don’t know what it is?
Zero waste living is all about reducing your waste production in order to minimize the amount of trash that is left on our planet. Bea Johnson founded the zero waste movement on her blog, Zero Waste Home, and created the term ‘5R’s’ which expands on the traditional 3R’s, reduce, reuse and recycle. The 5R’s of zero waste living are:
- Refuse the things you don’t need.
- Reduce your belongings to the essentials.
- Reuse what you can.
- Recycle if you are unable to reuse.
- Rot (or compost) any of your organic waste.
Johnson recommends doing the 5R’s in that order, as refusing things from the start is one of the most important ways to reduce our waste.
What impact do you want to have with your work?
Because of my background in packaging and manufacturing, I hope that my viewers will feel as encouraged as I do to better their own lives and the planet they live on.
I’d love to see a growing movement of conscious, eco-minded individuals looking to make a difference in their own lives and their communities in the next few years.
How do you measure your impact? Or how do you know you are successful? Can you give some concrete examples?
I track how much growth is occurring on my social media, my engagement rate, as well as how much revenue I am able to generate year by year. As long as I am generating sufficient revenue from my work to fund my personal expenses and save, I would consider myself successful financially, but when it boils down to it, I consider myself successful when I am able to change behaviors for the better. For example, I love getting miscellaneous messages from my followers telling me about how they purchased my book and were inspired to make some small changes in their life to reduce their plastic waste, or seeing people tag me in their photos with some of the new things they’ve tried to live more sustainably.
Do you have any advice for people working in retail to help them lead with purpose?
Seek to provide products that are meaningful, practical, and have a positive impact on the planet. Find a real problem that your products can be a solution for, and find a responsive group of consumers that can help you start your movement.