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Ask an Eco-Activist: Living Waste-Free

Kimberly Pymm, a white woman wearing a cream hat and shirt, sits at a table filled with bottles, jars, and other waste-free products. She is leaning on the table and smiling.

by Peter Frank ('22)

Kimberly Pymm (MEd '19) owns Cultivate Market, a consciously curated market and zero-waste fillery that offers sustainable solutions to the community. Through Cultivate Market, Kimberly sources products from small-batch artisans, local farmers, and creatives to bring alternatives to single-use plastics and toxic products. She became passionate about sustainable living during the ’80s, when she learned about the hole in the earth’s ozone layer due to human-produced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in our personal care products.

“I was in elementary school then, and I was dumbfounded,” Kimberly says. “Why is this stuff even being produced—and why are people buying it?” After making this discovery, Kimberly tested her influence in third grade by writing a letter to a coffee shop asking them to stop using Styrofoam cups. She received a letter back from the owner thanking her and saying he would switch from Styrofoam to paper cups—as well as give a discount to his customers who brought in their own mugs.

“It was then I realized I could make a difference, one small act at a time,” Kimberly says. This realization fostered Cultivate Markets. Frustrated by the lack of options available—as well as a lack of alternatives—Kimberly found it difficult to live true to her values of being environmentally responsible amidst the growing crisis of global warming. She decided to build a business for good with the environment as the focus, “So,” she says, “as a community we can have accessible options to live better and healthier while being environmentally proactive.”

We talked to Kimberly to learn more about Cultivate Market and get her tips for how someone can live waste-free.

What it Means to Live Waste-Free

How can Cultivate Market help people be more environmentally friendly?

“At Cultivate Market, you have options towards a healthier, eco-friendly lifestyle. It’s here you can bring your own container and refill on soaps, shampoos, lotions, and natural cleaners from our refill bar. We also offer plastic-free brushes, loofahs, toothbrushes, dental floss, and even gum! Everything we carry is plastic-free, compostable, and made with the environment in mind.”

Kimberly, a woman wearing a ruffled white shirt, stands at a table in front of shelves full of waste-free products.What is waste-free living in your words?

“It’s about saving money, simplifying your life, being realistic about threats to the environment through our daily habits, and getting healthier both physically and mentally. It’s letting go of what you thought you knew, being open to being better, and enacting small changes that make a big difference collectively.”
How can we incorporate waste-free living into everyday life?

“Grow awareness by learning about climate change and waste-free living as a solution. Simplify your life by embracing the concept of less to live more. These concepts help people start their journey to being eco-activists in their own life.”

Environmental Impact

How has COVID-19 affected waste-free living?

“In some ways, COVID-19 has been good for the environment: it has forced many companies to allow their employees the over-due option to work from home, which has improved air quality. But in many other ways it has exacerbated the plastic problem to mind-boggling levels. Billions of small plastic hand sanitizer bottles, masks, plastic bags, and packaging have been dumped in landfills, oceans, and rivers. This plastic won’t break down for hundreds of years and will eventually become microplastics.”

How does living waste-free impact the environment?

“Zero-waste living impacts our environment in numerous ways, including reducing greenhouse emissions and allowing us to conserve resources more effectively—not to mention minimizing pollution in our oceans, streams, rivers, and land, thus saving wildlife. This way of living also protects human health by reducing toxicity in our waterways and foods. It promotes social equity and builds community by supporting the local circular economy. Lastly, it helps support environmental justice groups that hold companies liable for the environmental degradation they cause from their products.”

A Guide for Living Waste-Free

Is living waste-free truly possible?

“Waste-free living is truly rewarding and empowering and, in some aspects, it may seem impossible, overwhelming, or downright crazy. In some ways it’s all these things. Zero-waste living isn’t about going absolutely ZERO trash; it’s about living healthier. It’s about adding value to your life by simplifying in an otherwise chaotic world. For me, it’s about challenging myself to use as little waste as possible with zero waste as the ultimate goal, but knowing in an instant-gratification and convenience culture, having no impact on our environment is difficult. Remember it’s better that many do it imperfectly than for few to do it perfectly.”

A top-down view of many waste-free products, including bags, a set of utensils, and some cleaning products, sit on a light tan background.What advice do you have for people looking to start being waste-free?

“Assess your mess: do a plastic inventory and take note of the amount of plastic you use in your day and how much you throw ‘away.’

“Use it: use up what you have on hand and donate, compost, or recycle it.

“Switch to sustainable alternatives: start small by replacing what you use most often (toothbrush, Ziploc bags, plastic grocery bags, hand or body soap, etc.) with eco-friendly alternatives.”

What advice do you have for people not burning out while being environmentally conscious if it feels like a lost effort?

“I need to remind myself why this matters—why it’s important even when sometimes it’s not convenient or popular. When I get questioned or push back, I remember in my core this is what I believe makes the biggest impact. I remind myself it’s about progress over perfection. Even if I can only do it 50 percent one day, it still makes a difference. Remember YOU matter. YOU make a difference in what you buy and do. You have the ability to influence others who are watching how you live your life. Be a courageous example and let your positive influence propel you.”

Utilizing Passion to Instill Change

What lessons have you learned from your business experience as well as living this lifestyle?

“I’ve learned how much of zero-waste living is raising awareness. It’s about being endlessly curious and learning as much as I can so I can offer solutions to problems in the lives of my customers and community. I spend 99 percent of my day explaining why this lifestyle matters and how our purchasing power makes impact. I think if I didn’t have a love for learning and the environment this would be hard to do and grow. My customers see the passion I have and the impact they can make, and they are excited to be a part of a community of kind, generous, informed, and proactive individuals who are making a difference from their daily habits. Cultivate Market offers a path towards a healthier planet and happier community.”

Visit Cultivate Market's website to learn more about sustainable living and to shop for eco-friendly products.



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