Kayla Simon, Zero Waste Instructor

Kayla Simon is a health educator, vegan and whiskey enthusiast. She has been living a low-waste lifestyle since 2013 while educating other Knoxvillians on various health topics. She lives in North Knoxville with her husband and four rescue cats.

As part of Ijams Nature Center’s 2019 Take Action! Big and Small Ways You Can Save the Planet, Kayla is presenting a three-part series on the zero waste movement, Zero Waste 101 (March 5), DIY Zero Waste Living: Body Products (March 10) and Low Impact Living in Knoxville (March 26).

Kayla’s journey to a more sustainable lifestyle didn’t happen overnight. During college, she took a speech class and ended up choosing plastic pollution as the topic for my argumentative speech. Her research led her to a two-part documentary by VICE on the “great pacific garbage patch.” She was horrified. The more she learned about plastic production and pollution the heavier the knot in her stomach became. Feeling a little overwhelmed, she gave her speech. Afterwards, a student asked her, “What can we do? Plastic is everywhere. How can we avoid it?” I answered honestly, “I have no idea.”

That was 2010. Three years later, she read an article by Lauren Singer, the woman behind Trash is for Tossers and founder of The Simply Co. She said she opened the article ready to laugh derisively at whatever crunchy hippie had written it. Instead, she was inspired. Lauren was a normal, professional young woman living in New York City. She just didn’t make any trash.

Knoxville may not have as many sustainable options as NYC, but it has enough for Kayla to produce about 80% less trash than when she started this journey over four years ago. What she has learned has helped her feel more in control of her impact on the environment. She says she’s healthier, spends less money and has more peace of mind.