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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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Trashy Documentary Encourages Students to Take Small Steps to Lead a Sustainable Life

Daman Decker

Pollution and humanity’s impact on the planet have been issues in the public eye for decades now at this point. Within the past 100 years, we have been able to see the massive impact industrialization has had on our planet, especially our oceans. It seems as though it’s an existential threat that we cannot hope to affect on our own, but one woman decided to test how much she personally could do to help. 

Heather Gustafson decided to undertake a one-year journey where she did her best to limit her use of plastic and live in a way that did not impact the environment. In her crowd-funded efforts, she documented what it was like to live this environmentally focused lifestyle, and even though it was not easy, she was able to do it and produced the documentary “Trashy: A Zero Waste Film” to help raise awareness. 

In a modern world where almost all convenience items are packaged in plastic, sacrifices of convenience and comfort had to be made. While trying to achieve zero personal waste she learned to compost her scraps and find places where she could get food without generating the plastic associated with it. This involved her going to bulk sale stores and local farmer’s markets where she could get food without the unnecessary plastics involved in its packaging. She had to look harder for products that weren’t packed with plastic, a difficult task when looking for items such as toiletries. Despite the difficulties, she was able to do it through a lot of personal effort and sacrifice. She hopes that her documentary can help raise awareness and encourage people to reduce their personal impact on the environment in any way.  

As college students, we tend to live pretty wasteful lives. Living away from home and its conveniences tends to lead us to try and be frugal, which ends up being wasteful, but Gustafson has some advice on what we can do to at least strive towards a more sustainable lifestyle. 

“My biggest takeaway [from being zero waste] is don’t be perfect,” Gustafson said. “Maybe instead of just completely overhauling, find something that just kinda goes with how you live your life as is.” 

Gustafson stressed that attempting to completely commit to the zero waste lifestyle is just not achievable for most people. There are a lot of cost prohibitive factors that can limit the feasibility of such a drastic change. 

She said, “[she’s] definitely not perfect zero waste anymore. I like to say that I am low waste, which is a really big distinction because I don’t think anyone can be perfect zero waste.” 

Daman Decker

One area that she emphasizes when it comes to being zero waste is your eating habits.

“Mainly when you’re hungry you don’t really want to stop and think about what it’s coming in,” Gustafson said. 

She also notes that if you’re getting drinks of any kind, the best option to get them in would be cans, as they are more easily recycled then plastic bottles. 

“Stop before you purchase something and wait a couple weeks,” she said.

Preventing impulse buys can help a lot when reducing waste. Taking notes on a laptop and doing e-papers are also an easy way to reduce impact according to Gustafson.

“Trashy” was a really impactful film that almost works as a roadmap on how you can take steps to be more sustainable in your daily life. During the presentation Gustafson brought her container of all the plastic she used in a year, which illustrated how even when we are doing our best there is some unavoidable plastic. Even an audience member came up to show his bottle of plastic bits, one of over 50 bottles he had at home. Ultimately, we don’t have to do what Gustafson did, it’s impractical and a lot to ask of a person. But we can see what she did and take strategies from it and implement it on a small scale throughout our life. You can go to to learn more about what you can do to help in your own way.  

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