Hello Everyone! I’m Cindy Villaseñor! A garden educator, environmentalist, and lover of the outdoors. Now I wasn’t always like this, I actually didn’t grow up camping, going hiking, or tending to a garden. It all started when I took an environmental science class at my community college in 2013.

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My environmental science professor was really honest with us and didn’t sugar coat anything. She took me and a small group from our class on a camping field trip, which was actually my first time going camping. I even attempted cowboy camping with my classmates in Death Valley National Park, which didn’t play out too well when a dust storm and a sprinkle of rain rolled in. Most of us ran into the van and slept pretty uncomfortably! Haha.

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While the camping trip was an educational one; learning about Owens Valley, the environmental damage caused by diverting water away from the land and drought, she took us hiking to some very beautiful places that I had never seen. I was in awe and grateful for the opportunity.  After that class was over, I became more interested in environmental related issues and going camping. That following summer after the spring course, I became vegan for environmental reasons and the following year, I planned my very own camping trip to Yosemite!

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As the years passed by, I continued to learn more while pursuing a major in geography and a minor in sustainability at CSUN. I decided on that field of study after taking that environmental science class. I planned several camping trips, learned about compost, learned about growing organic food, and eventually became a garden teacher. Along those years I also started to live a low waste lifestyle. While that wasn’t the focus in the beginning of this journey, it has now become the lifestyle my husband and I try to live as best as we can. That lifestyle became such a big part of what I share online, that I started to inspire others, and that eventually led to the name change on Instagram to Cero Waste Cindy after one of my friends kept calling me that in person.

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Camping and visiting places like Yosemite and Zion became a big part of our lives too, so making them low waste has been very important. One of the main reasons why I strive for low waste camping trips is the fact that we are visiting these beautiful places and all, so how can one possibly make so much trash while visiting them? We may be responsible by packing out all of our trash and putting it in the trash can. But where does this trash end up? It ends up somewhere else in the environment, someone’s backyard (usually in a Community of Color), somewhere in the desert or in the ocean.

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Here are some tips I would like to share with you all. They can be used for daily life and not just camping. Food seems to be the real focus here because the packaging it comes in seems to be the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to trash all over the world, not just camping.

1.     First and foremost, taking all reusables instead of single-use items! Water bottles, plates, cups, eating utensils, napkins, cleaning/drying towels, and anything else used during camping.

2.     Ice for coolers: a whole lot of ice typically comes in plastic bags, so we prepare some ahead of time. We fill up big bowls with water, freeze and we end up with big blocks of ice that take longer to melt. In the past, we have also asked at coffee shops or gas stations if we can get a fill of ice from their machines in a reusable bag or container.

3.     Look for package free fruits and veggies at your local market or visit a farmer’s market, and prepare meals around what’s available to you package free.

4.     Prepare some meals, snacks and energy bites ahead of time, put in reusable containers, heat at camp!

5.     Take extra containers for any leftovers, or food scraps to compost at home.

6.     Fill up reusable growlers at your local brewery for beer, and kombucha instead of individual bottles.

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Hope all these tips help! A quick little reminder, that it’s ok if you can’t do all of the things I mentioned. Try your best! Many people don’t have access to certain things where they live but there is always a way to practice cero waste!

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Cindy is featured wearing the Kaha GORE-TEX