Tips & Tricks from Protea Zero Waste founder Lori Mallini
New year, new you? What better way to kick off 2021 than committing to decreasing your carbon footprint and your waste. We reached out to Lori Mallini, founder of Protea Zero Waste in Kailua, Oahu, and expert in zero waste lifestyles, for tips and tricks on ditching the waste and starting the year on the right, carbon neutral foot. She makes the transition effortless with her zero waste products for home and body.
Rogue Wave: Tell us about your background - what got you started on zero waste?
Lori Mallini: I am from Houston, Texas, the petrochemical epicenter of the US, where the beginning stages of plastic production occur. I lived within miles of communities severely and constantly impacted by the effects of this production. I think this triggered something in me as a little girl. I always loved nature and knew we should do more to protect it. I moved to Hawaii in 2016 and got a BA in Environmental Studies and stayed active with non-profits, mainly Sierra Club of Hawaii where I focused on legislation regarding waste, recycling and plastic reduction. I think that’s really where my passion for waste reduction began.
"I realized it's also equally important to make changes at the community level...and that's exactly what I wanted to do."
RW: When did you decide it was time to open your very own zero waste shop?
LM: When I was working on bills regarding plastic and waste, I realized as much as I see the importance for changes up top, it’s also equally if not more important to make changes at the community level and I realized that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Being in Hawaii and seeing the effects that our plastic addiction has on our beaches and wildlife, made me want to take action. So a refill shop was perfect for that!
RW: How does your store, Protea Zero Waste, help people take that first step into reducing their waste? What do you tell people who come to your shop and are learning about these options for the first time?
LM: I truly believe everyone wants to produce less trash but unfortunately our system is set up so that we consume, consume and just keep producing more trash. So by giving people a place where they can conveniently take action and reduce their waste is key to starting change! At Protea Zero Waste Store people can switch to lower waste lifestyle and home items as well as refill bottles with natural beauty and cleaning products, making it so there is no need to buy any more single use containers.
People coming into the shop the first time I always tell them to start small - don't overwhelm yourself and make tons of changes that are unrealistic to keep up all at once. Every little change counts so start small and build up! I also tell people who don't know where to start, to evaluate their life first and see where they are producing the most waste, that’s a good place to start!
RW: As you’ve launched this business, what have you seen so far that people assume is the hardest thing about going zero waste or just reducing their overall waste?
LM: I think before a refill store came around, people felt they didn’t have many options in the typical consumer market to make these changes they want to regarding waste reduction. Zero waste seemed too inconvenient and unrealistic for the average person to even start to tackle.
RW: What are your must-haves for starting the transition to a zero waste lifestyle?
LM: A refill store, HA! Just kidding, but it helps! I always tell people to look around their house first and see what items they may already have that they can use instead of going out and buying the prettier, newer version. Unpaper towels are always a great start, I know American’s addiction to paper towels is serious. Shampoo, conditioner, and lotion bars are a great way to reduce plastic containers even if you don’t have a refill store nearby! I would say a fun, simple starter kit for your home would be produce bags, unpaper towels, wooden dish brush, dishwashing block, bowl cover and/or beeswax wrap, and dryer balls.
"Everything is reusable so it's an investment that should last you and save you money overtime."
RW: What do you think the biggest misconceptions are about choosing reusables and zero waste products?
LM: I think people think it’s unrealistic price wise. I always tell people, start small. Everything is reusable so it's an investment that should last you and save you money overtime. Look to see what you already have first. Consume less - maybe wash your clothes less often, wash your hair every other day instead of every day, use less product in general. I find this is a mindset about consuming less overall. Paying more attention to what and how much you consume. Minimising in areas that are appropriate for your life.
I also think people assume zero waste products don't work as well especially when it comes to refillable beauty and cleaning products. I know the importance of having a product that actually works well - if it doesn't, you aren't going to use it. The great thing about all the products at Protea is they are plant-based and REALLY work well. We don’t believe you need to cut quality to be a safer and healthier product. Customers love that they can come to Protea knowing all the products have very high quality and that's not something they will have to sacrifice by switching to zero-waste options.
RW: What’s your favorite zero waste, sustainable body care product?
LM: I use all of our body and facial care products every day so that’s a hard one. But, I love having refillable deodorant that really works. Definitely a favorite in the store.
RW: What are the easiest swaps to make for zero waste newbies?
LM: Reusable kitchen sponge, stasher bags, utensil set for on the go, shampoo and soap bars!
"Always remember that every change counts - there is no change too small!"
RW: Give us some tips on going zero waste; what are some things we should know, and what are some things we should steer clear of?
LM: Well first and foremost, always remember that every change counts - there is no change too small! Zero waste is the ultimate goal and it's really about a lifestyle change that happens over time. It's a journey we are all on! So don't beat yourself up for not being perfect, nobody is!
RW: What are some tips for people who might not have a store like yours near them?
LM: Open one, ha! But for real, I'm just an average person who wanted to refill and decided to open a store, you can do it too! The more refill stores the better! Aside from that small but large undertaking, you can incorporate other waste reduction techniques. Do a trash audit on your own home and see where you are producing the most trash and then start figuring out ways to cut back in those areas. We have a Zero Waste How-To Guide on our website that is a great resource - and its a free downloadable e-book!
RW: What do you say to people who are thinking about making the move toward a zero waste lifestyle but worry it will be too radical a transition? Is there a way to ease into a more sustainable lifestyle?
LM: One step at a time! Don't overwhelm yourself. We have a blog series on our website where we highlight one item a month to switch - and I genuinely believe a month is a good amount of time to make one solid switch in your life. Check that out for tips and tricks!
Cheers to your zero waste 2021!
Visit Protea Zero Waste's website or visit the store in Kailua, Hawaii!