BY CALLEE ACKLAND
Plastic Free July is in the books and we’re halfway through August. We learned a lot over the month about our waste and consumption, and we’re working hard to carry these habits forward. We know minimizing our impact is more than just reducing our plastic waste. We caught up with our friend Callee of @ahippieinavan for some inspiration. Callee has been living a zero-waste lifestyle for 8 months. Here she shares what inspired her to completely change her lifestyle, how she transitioned her business to be plastic-free, and what it’s like to be a zero-waste vegan in a van.
I always considered myself to be pretty eco-friendly. I mean, I recycled, I used reusable grocery bags, and I even have solar panels on my van. But it wasn’t until I watched the documentary A Plastic Ocean that I truly realized what a massive crisis Mother Earth is experiencing right now.
That was 8 months ago, and since then, my life has done a complete 180. I remember sitting in bed, googling “Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch” and “how to use less plastic”, and just being in utter shock as to why this wasn’t being talked about more! I spent the following week researching and ordering eco-friendly packaging for my vegan and cruelty-free beauty business, Bestowed Essentials. I was already using some sustainable options, but I still had a few things in plastic containers, and there were other items, like shipping tape, that I’d never even given a second thought to before.
In less than two months, I transitioned my packaging and shipping materials to be 100% plastic-free, made instead with recycled, recyclable and/or compostable alternatives. There’s still some plastic behind-the-scenes, of course, but most of my vendors have been great about reducing or entirely eliminating the plastic they send me. What I can’t avoid, I do my best to reuse, then recycle – with decent success so far. In the month of July, I and my business combined sent only 5 lbs of trash to the landfill!
Living in a van, my life and shopping habits were already pretty minimalist, but there was, and still is, room for improvement. For example, the first time I tried to go grocery shopping without buying anything in plastic was a major fail, as many vegan food options come in plastic packaging. It’s still a struggle as I travel throughout the United States, as different regions have different options, and some have absolutely no vegan OR zero waste options at all. I try to stay prepared by stocking up when I find a store with bulk bins, and planning ahead to find the next store before I run out, but of course it doesn’t always work out perfectly, and I still end up purchasing and throwing away trash. I’ve learned to not be hard on myself for things out of my control. I do the best that I can, whenever I can, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters.
As I’ve made my personal and professional transition to ‘zero waste’ this year, I turned to Instagram for support and advice. There, I discovered an incredible community of like-minded people who motivate me every day, and as I documented my journey, I found myself being seen as a role model for others just starting out. I recently launched a website, podcast and FB group to help people learn more about the zero waste movement, as well as beginning to consult with other small businesses to help them audit and reduce the waste they create.
I never expected when I clicked play on that Netflix documentary that my life would change so drastically as a result of it, but I am incredibly grateful that it did. I finally found my passion, the reason I’m here on this planet – to help save it. I want to inspire and encourage as many people as possible to make ethical + eco-friendly lifestyle choices because I truly believe that every small step makes a big difference!
Callee Ackland is a nomadic entrepreneur + passionate eco-activist who travels the United States in a self-converted 2014 Ram Promaster van. She is a zero waste consultant, host of the Hippie Haven Podcast + FB Group, and the creator of Bestowed Essentials, her line of ethical + eco-friendly beauty products. You can connect with her at www.ahippieinavan.com or on instagram @ahippieinavan.