Sitting in a noisy but comfortable booth at Baton Rouge’s newest hotspot, District Donuts, I watch as Anne Fugler politely asks the cashier to put her fresh coffee into her orange, reusable coffee cup. As she turns and walks toward my table, I am immediately self-conscious of the Diet Coke can I have sitting next to me. What was I thinking? But once Anne and I start talking, all my anxieties fall to the background.
Anne Fugler is not on a mission to shame those who do not adhere to her “zero waste” lifestyle. Rather, she is committed to motivating others in the Baton Rouge community to become aware of the implications of their everyday choices and to take steps toward a more eco-friendly lifestyle.
“When I saw this girl putting all her trash into a jar for a year, I was really into it, but I thought, this is impossible,” explains Fugler. “About a year later, I watched the video again and I started looking through my trash, thinking of ways I could reduce the number of things I was throwing away.”
Now nearly five months deep in her quest to live trash-free, Fugler says her husband Blake, as well as her cats, are starting to not only adjust to, but also enjoy their new lifestyle.
“It was really when I brought home some worms to do worm composting that Blake was like, ‘Oh, we’re in deep now,’” says Fugler. “I think he thought it was more funny than anything at first, but he really enjoys it now, especially because it encourages a healthy diet, something I definitely didn’t have before.”
A former fast-food addict, Fugler says going zero waste has improved not only her health, but also her confidence.
“Before, whenever I would bring my reusable cups or bags, I would be shy about it. But now I am more confident than ever and I don’t care how people look at me,” she says.
This newfound self-assurance continues to motivate Fugler to share her journey with others in Baton Rouge in hopes of creating a network of individuals determined to reform the way Capital City residents see waste, as well as waste-free living.
“I think the common misconception is that this lifestyle is expensive,” explains Fugler. Despite shopping at places like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, Fugler says her weekly grocery bill has been reduced to a mere fraction of what she used to spend on frozen pizzas and other pre-packaged items. While she tries to buy unpackaged whenever she can, those items that cannot be found without plastic or wax coatings she either makes, like she does with toothpaste (hint: coconut oil and baking soda do the trick), or recycles into her artwork.
“When I first started this, I was just doing it to show other people my journey. But eventually, I started having ideas of what I wanted to do,” she says. And what she wants to do is create a strong presence in the community that has the power to make enact real changes within local businesses.
“Having grocery stores charge for bags and having local restaurants not serve in Styrofoam—these are simple ways that businesses can make a difference.”
Fugler suggests others take a look around and get to know their trash.
“Think about how often you take out the trash every week. Every month. Every year. Then think about every single person and every business in your country and how often they take out the trash,” writes Fugler on her blog, Zero Waste Baton Rouge. “Our earth is not going to be able to hold all of our trash at this rate. Our waste is our responsibility, and having someone take it away from you doesn’t mean it’s being properly disposed of.”