Exploring Zero Waste in Puerto Vallarta!
For this week's blog post, Zöe and I interviewed Kat Pantle de Zepeda, co-owner of Zero Waste PV- a zero-waste store in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Kat is an excellent example of taking action in our own communities and trying to bring a conversation about sustainability to the forefront!
Read all about our interview below!
1. What motivated you to start your zero waste store in Puerto Vallarta?
Kat told us that she is originally from Seattle, but has lived in Puerto Vallarta since 2014. She didn't start her sustainability journey with the idea of a zero-waste store. Instead, she shared that she started off with veganism and then went from there. After moving to PV, Kat started looking around and realized that there were not many options for sustainability in that area. At this point, Kat and her husband were inspired to fill this niche, as she said that she wanted to create "something important to [her] that filled that niche and helped educate [her] community."
2. What is your favorite part about being a small business owner? What is your least favorite part?
Kat's favorite part of being a small business owner is engaging with clients. Even during the pandemic, the store has given her an opportunity to connect with people who want to be educated on the topic of sustainability. We talked about how, especially now, social media has been a great tool for engaging with others who share the same passions and interest in the sustainability/zero-waste movements. A point that Kat made that really stuck out to me was how there are many people attracted to her store despite a lack of action on sustainability by her city's leaders. Shockingly, Kat mentioned that Puerto Vallarta has no city-wide recycling program, which I definitely take for granted here in Minnesota. This point brings up the question of access to resources that promote a more sustainable lifestyle and reiterates the importance of connecting with like-minded people in each of our communities. Unsurprisingly, Kat's least favorite part of being a small business owner is engaging with nasty or rude clients.
3. What is the one thing you wish you would’ve known before starting your store?
Kat shared that she "wishes she would've been more aware of how limited resources were here." Some of the barriers she mentioned were corruption within government, lack of legislation, resources not used in the best way, and the prioritization of things other than the environment. Having known these points, Kat thinks that she could have been more prepared up front for some of the obstacles she faced. Another interesting story that she mentioned was about her work at a resort. Kat said that at the resort, trash receptacles are labeled either "trash," "recycling" or "compost," which is attractive for tourists. Despite these labels, Kat found out that all of the items put in each of the receptacles was thrown in the same place... meaning that this sorting was all for show. Examples like this highlight how people think they are making a sustainable choice, but really they are not. As consumers, we must be aware of ways that companies or places are greenwashed and try to do our best to avoid these traps.
4. What is your goal with your store? Has this goal changed since you started?
When asking Kat what her initial goal with her store was, she shared that it was to start a second store about 45 minutes from the one in Puerto Vallarta. Now, her goal is to build a franchise of these zero waste stores that would sell across Mexico. Another exciting goal of hers is to start a city-wide recycling program. We discussed the difficulties she will face in doing so, such as obtaining funding and building a community of supporters. Overall, we came to the conclusion that the best way to take action on topics like this are through grassroots organizing. We have discussed this topic in other blog posts but the example of Kat and her goals really highlight the importance of working together as a community.
5. How does it feel to be able to offer people a sustainable way of shopping? Why is it important to you to provide this?
The importance of offering people a sustainable way of shopping/living is becoming increasingly more urgent to Kat. She shared that she gets panicked when she sees single use plastics like water bottles, especially since she lives near the beach and has experienced first-hand the effects of unsustainable practices in her community. She emphasized how coral is dying, water is becoming polluted, and wildlife is being threatened more and more. She also is motivated by the fact that many people in Mexico lack the resources (educational and financial) to prioritize sustainability. The lack of education and widespread poverty experienced in many places in the country make it very important to spread awareness however possible. Lastly, Kat shared with us that she is expecting a baby this year. Since becoming pregnant, she is even more focused on improving our communities and environment for the sake of younger generations.
6. What is some advice you have for someone starting their own sustainability journey?
To preface this question... I always ask people I interview for a single piece of advice they have for people starting their sustainability journey. This question may seem simple but the differences in answers really highlight how every individual has unique advice to offer others, helping each individual take actionable and realistic steps that fit in their own life. In Kat's response, she said that the very first thing she advises is figuring out your values. After doing that, you can act on these values. For example, if you realize that you are not okay with animal agriculture, you may be motivated and inspired to go vegetarian, vegan, etc. Another good industry to tackle is fashion, and it's associated issues like "fast fashion." An important point that Kat mentioned was focusing on one industry at a time. Switching lifestyles or habits can be very intimidating, but breaking up your actions or changes makes it more accessible and less overwhelming.
7. What has been the hardest part about attracting more visitors to your store or page or getting people interested in sustainability?
Kat's answer to this question was one that we can all relate to: the pandemic. We have seen firsthand with our own website how people have forgotten about sustainability during quarantine/the pandemic. Although the pandemic makes many lifestyle changes more difficult, we can all do what we can and hold ourselves accountable. Some ways to continue practicing sustainability that stuck out in our conversation with Kat were: composting, starting your own herb garden, motivating friends and family, staying engaged, continuing to read/watch/listen, and be ok with imperfection! We know we can't always bring our reusable cups or reusable bags right now but we can still stay motivated to do what we can at this unique point in time.
8. Tell us more about your passions for sustainability and makeup! How do those two work together (if at all)?
As people lacking any makeup skills at all, Zöe and I were blown away by Kat's beautiful makeup looks. I was interested to see how she fit makeup into her veganism/sustainability and wanted to share her answers for any makeup lovers out there! Kat admitted that makeup is definitely a difficult area to be sustainable in. She emphasized reusing what you can and using everything up until it is completely gone. It really made me think about the multiple eyeshadow palettes I have purchased but NEVER finished. Kat also shared that she recently found zero-waste makeup ideas on Etsy and she even wore cacao powder bronzer during our interview (it looked amazing and I never would have known if she didn't tell us!). Makeup is a perfect example of how we can't all be perfectly sustainable but... each small action we take is important and something to be proud of.
Check out Kat's instagram's:
Photos of Kat and her store: