Interview with Gabi Prochaska


Zoetica is excited to launch this section of our blog called “Z-Life Stories” We are interested in the lives and waste reduction efforts of our customers and friends who are working to make changes in their own lives. Here is our first interview with Gabi Prochaska of Sustainable Crested Butte, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing sustainable practices to the Gunnison Valley of Colorado (where our company is based).

What are the hardest hurdles you have encountered trying to be plastic free?

The greatest obstacle in existing plastic-free seems to be packaging. I can choose not to use bags and bottles, but I can't choose how something is wrapped and packaged. A more principled person might only buy the cheese they can get at the deli wrapped in paper (but I would bet that even the wheel came to the deli in plastic). The packaging of clothes, food on planes, medicines are just a few examples of things that frustrate me in my attempt to reduce my use of plastic.

What is your current challenge you are working on?

I am trying very hard to support only companies who themselves are environmentally conscious -- better treatment of workers; less waste; better energy use; encouraging better consumer actions. It is so much cheaper and easier to consume unconsciously, but only by affecting the behavior of corporations will our individual actions really have an impact.

What moved you to start the non-profit organization Sustainable CB?

I didn't start Sustainable CB - Benjamin Swift did. It was started with his efforts to get Crested Butte to institute a plastic bag ban; while still in high school, he had seen a movie about plastic in the oceans, and decided that a town like crested butte should take action in protecting our planet. I was involved in encouraging the town to pass the ordinance and benjamin asked me if I would be part of starting a non-profit. With the efforts to reduce plastic bags came a realization that, although a plastic bag ban was important, there were so many other environmental issues which the town could and should work on. This momentum would be better continued through an organization with a broader mission.

How do you want to grow Sustainable CB?

Sustainable CB is still very much a nascent organization, with many people in town still not aware of its existence. Currently we have two strong initiatives- the 'boomerang bags' and 'waste-free-events'- both are helping people avoid adding single-use items to the land-fill. These are very labor intensive programs, and we always need more volunteers. Beyond those, we have been approached to (and have begun) exploring other waste issues -- energy, composting, plastic water bottles... I would love everyone in town to know what/who Sustainable CB is, have volunteered for one of its programs, made use of one of its programs, donated or become involved in expanding its programs. fostering a community-wide bias to action is our ultimate objective.

Why is it important we work as a culture to be plastic free?

As a culture, I think we should strive not only to be plastic-free, but really to be 'single-use free' - to consume with more consideration. Yes, plastics are bad-- they can't be truly recycled as glass, for example, can; they degrade with recycling, so even if every piece of plastic is 'recycled'- most can only be 'down-cycled.' The plastic remains in our environment, ending up disturbing the natural world. (I was recently sent an article on the micro-plastics in clothing fibers which are shed from all of the polyesters and nylons in clothes; something we don't often consider). Ultimately, though, it is not just plastics, but our overall unconscious consumption which i think we should change-- somewhere along the way our culture developed the idea that everything is disposable. That's what we should strive to change.

What is your daily system and your travel system?

The Wayfarer Kit

The Wayfarer Kit

I always travel with a shopping bag, coffee cup, water bottle, silverware and a takeaway container (not just to drive my husband crazy). I keep them in my backpack and in my car (I have lately found that I need to make sure that I have some in my bike as well :)) The Zoetica kits like the Wayfarer are great, because everything can be contained in one place. It makes it pretty easy to change habits and make sure that I never leave without my kit. I had often found on planes, flight attendants would be upset by my asking to have my own cup filled. This seems to be changing. On a recent transcontinental flight, I used my Zoetica Cortado Cup for juice, wine, coffee and tea throughout the flight; at the end of the trip, one of the flight attendants thanked me for not 'wasting all those' cups.

Elizabeth Smith