Zero waste Iiving in Iowa City

August 24, 2020

Zero waste Iiving in Iowa City

Jorden Levine is a student at the University of Iowa where they manage Zerowaste.IowaCity social media pages, a guide to living zero/low waste living in Iowa City. 

Tell us about your zero waste journey. How did you get started? 
I began my zero waste journey after taking a summer class called Contemporary Environmental Issues. After realizing the damage I was doing to the environment, I decided to start living more sustainably. 

What motivates you to live more sustainably? 
Preserving wildlife is one of the biggest factors for me. When I found out that there is a patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean that is double the size of Texas, I was motivated to ditch single-use plastics all together. As I did more research, I found out that everything I buy has some sort of impact on the environment and that it is important for me to learn as much as I can about the products I use. Everything from animal testing to microplastics in my clothing matters when it comes to living sustainably.  

For anyone looking to shop and live more sustainably what would you recommend? 
Above all, I would recommend thrifting. We already have enough things on this planet that aren't being used, so buying things new is usually unnecessary. However, for products that cannot be found at thrift stores- such as cleaning supplies, cosmetics, ect- I would recommend shopping at a refill station or buying plastic free options such as unpackaged bar soap or bar shampoos. 

Where do you shop locally? 
There are so many amazing small business and thrift stores all over Iowa City. Another great option is Facebook marketplace! I don't do a lot of shopping that isn't from thrift stores, but for groceries I look for stores with bulk sections or buy from farmers. I love using the spice refill stations at New Pioneer Food-Co Op and Bread Garden. If the product is sustainable and a one-time buy, I get it wherever I can find it, but I tend to check local stores before going to bigger corporate stores whenever possible. 

Where do you shop online? 
If I have exhausted all of the local options and need to order online, I do a few things. I like buying second hand clothing directly from a seller on websites such as Depop. Here, you can request minimal packaging.

Another option is Amazon warehouse, which allows me to buy returned or used items. When I buy online, I make sure to research how the item is packaged, and that influences where I buy it from. There are a lot of websites that look eco-friendly, but end up using a lot of plastic in their packaging or unethical practices for their products, so it's important to always look into this. Additionally, if politics influence what you buy, the app Goods Unite Us allows you to search businesses and find out which political party they donate to. 

Tell us about your zero waste Iowa City IG page, how and why did you start it? 
When I first found out about the critical condition of our environment, it was all I could talk about. I spent a lot of time searching for ways to be more sustainable around Iowa City. On the day I made the account, I had just bought some unpackaged soaps from The Makers Loft. I was so excited about this find that I wanted to tell everyone. I decided to make the instagram so that I could compile all of my findings in Iowa City into one place, and if anyone was interested, they could follow it. On my very first day of having the account, I made a post about the soaps, and went from there. Now I am hosting my first ever cleanup event in Iowa City, and I am ecstatic that even a handful of people want to join me!

Finish this sentence, in the next five years I will be...?
In the next five years I will be continuing to practice sustainable living somewhere in the world that values zero-waste living as much as I do. As a future teacher, I want to help my students also learn ways to help the environment and provide them with an eco-friendly classroom. I also hope that I will be able to continue organizing city cleanups wherever I end up. 

What's your favorite vegan dish and/or recipe?   
My favorite vegan dish in Iowa City is the fried tofu pad thai from Thai Flavors. (Ask for it without egg!) Their small business is lovely and the food is always prepared so quickly!


Last question, how do you practice self-care? 
I love beauty so anything skincare or cosmetics-related is a way I practice self-care. I also enjoy gardening, meditation, creating music, and making art. 

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