When Krystina Jarvis moved to Tacoma at the end of 2018, she knew she wanted to start a zero-waste store in the city. Three years ago, the conservation specialist at Ohio’s Columbus Zoo discovered the concept of zero waste for the first time, and it shifted the way she thought about environmentalism.
“I realized that I had considered myself an environmentalist my entire life and never considered my trash,” she admitted. “For conservation, I always thought you had to do field research to participate. I hadn’t thought about how anybody can practice sustainability in their own lives from wherever they live.”
That’s what the idea of zero waste is about: Eliminating or significantly reducing the waste we each create on an individual level. This includes recycling — much of which ends up in the landfill — and entails making intentional shifts in routine, like always having a reusable coffee mug, water bottle, and shopping bags on-hand.
Jarvis’s introduction to the concept was an empowering one, spurring her to start a YouTube channel and blog educating people about zero waste and documenting her own experience building more eco-friendly routines.
A few months after packing up her life and moving across the country to settle in Tacoma, Jarvis opened A Drop in the Ocean, the city’s first zero waste shop.
“I was shocked that Tacoma didn’t already have a store dedicated to zero waste,” Jarvis said. “Even up until October 2018, there weren’t any zero waste shops in Seattle.”
A Drop in the Ocean is a pop-up shop — with intention to become a brick and mortar in the next couple of years — that participates regularly in the South Sound’s vibrant market scene and sets up temporary shop at popular businesses around Tacoma. Locals have easy access to myriad products that assist with a zero-waste lifestyle: Safety razors that eliminate waste from plastic razors and razor heads; bulk shampoo and conditioner that can be dispensed directly into a customer’s own jar; bamboo utensil sets that can be kept in any bag to avoid single-use utensils; and much more.
Jarvis emphasized, though, that zero waste is as much about what you don’t buy as it is what you do.
“The number one misconception is that zero waste is expensive,” Jarvis said. “The six R’s of zero waste are: rethink, refuse, reuse, reduce, recycle, rot. Most of that doesn’t cost you anything — it actually saves you money.”
Rethinking shows up in small daily habits like asking for a “for-here” coffee mug; refusing looks like remembering to ask for “no straw” when ordering a drink at a restaurant. It’s small shifts like these ones that make as much of a difference as buying a locally made bar of shampoo, which is more expensive per ounce than most bottled brands.
“It’s about building these small habits into your lifestyle,” Jarvis said. “Once you start making changes, it becomes less inconvenient. You stop buying so much. And you save a lot of things from ending up in a landfill, where they’ll never break down.”
Right now, keeping up these habits feels challenging: Everything is uncertain, shops are temporarily closing, and keeping an eco-friendly lifestyle is not the first thing on most of our minds. For now, though, Jarvis is pivoting her business model by offering free delivery to peoples’ front doors with the code LOCALDELIVERY atadropintheoceanshop.comso that people still have access to green products without stress.
“I will be simply knocking on customers’ doors, leaving the product on their doorstep, and walking away, even if they are home, to avoid excess contact,” Jarvis said. “No need to run to the store for home and personal care essentials we all need.”