Q&A: Travis Tran (YC ’21) on Going Zero-Waste

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CA: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
TT: I’m a sophomore in Berkley College and planning on majoring in Environmental Studies, with a focus on environmental policy. I grew up in Worcester, MA and spent a lot of time around the woods and water.


CA: What is a zero-waste lifestyle, and how did you get inspired to start one yourself?
TT: Zero-waste means eliminating any waste that might go to the landfill, as well as reducing the amount of recycling needed as much as possible because that still requires a lot of energy and time to process. I was inspired by a woman named Lauren Singer who has a popular YouTube channel with videos on zero-waste alternatives and her lifestyle in general, and started myself in mid-July of this year.


CA: What has been the most difficult part about a zero-waste lifestyle for you?
TT: Personal care products can be difficult to replace. I make my own toothpaste using one of Lauren’s videos, but it’s too abrasive for the gums and I can only use it twice a week. The rest of the days I use regular toothpaste, which is difficult to recycle. There are a lot of free food events at Yale with single-use disposable items. For cases like those though, it’s not so hard to solvejust plan ahead your day to know when to bring tupperware and utensils.


CA: How has going zero-waste impacted your life in general?
TT: It’s made it more interesting, that’s for sure! Going zero-waste hasn’t affected any relationships I have with people, only that it seems interesting to everyone. I have a gallon-sized glass jar with trash in it since the beginning of the school year (August 25)a couple empty packages of Tide Pods, bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, a styrofoam platethat reminds me of how I can do better. I do eat a lot less processed food in general and stick to more fruits. For class, I take notes on my iPad or laptop so I don’t have to print out anything plus I haven’t bought any notebooks for this school year.


CA: What is the easiest thing people can do to move towards a zero-waste lifestyle?
TT: Get a reusable water bottle! I think students are pretty good about this already, but Yale still sells their branded water bottles that people buy from Durfee’s and other convenience stores on campus. Tote bags are also a great, easy way to eliminate the need for plastic bags when shopping.


CA: How do you see your zero-waste lifestyle moving forward?
TT: I am definitely going to continue with trying to reduce waste the best I can through this lifestyle. It may seem like the deductions in waste are insignificant compared to the over 7 billion people on this planet. But I think that it’s the effort that counts and is a significant way to practice my environmental values. And it inspires conversation like this one we’re having right now!