Maddy Ebbert doesn’t remember anything specific happening that caused her to change her lifestyle to live more sustainably. “I don’t remember it being like ‘Oh my gosh I watched this documentary and everything changed,'” she says. “My mindset just kind of shifted towards the end of college.
Ebbert is a local artist and graphic designer and owns Maddy Ebbert Designs, which offers plant and Charlotte designed items for sale. You can find some of her items, which include art prints, Charlotte skyline glassware, tea towels, key chains, stickers and scrunchies at our retail collective Lokal, as well as online at her website. She recently announced she’ll be opening a retail store in South End alongside Good Earth Essentials called Mindful Goods CLT.
The first thing you’ll see if you do go to her website is a tagline that touts “Sustainably and locally made goods in Charlotte, NC.” Maddy is a champion for sustainability, low waste practices and supporting local businesses, and it’s something she lives personally and in how she does business.
You see, Maddy goes beyond recycling, carrying reusable bags and the other typical “sustainable” practices most of us try to do. She does everything from thrifting the majority of her clothing so that she doesn’t contribute to fast fashion (and yes, this includes the clothes she puts her signature Charlotte skyline design on and sells) to purchasing her shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotion from via bulk re-fill.
She reuses everything she possibly can, from boxes to planters to glass jars that candles come in to old wooden frames. She’s crafty and has figured out ways to upcycle items in ways that most of us would simply toss. She works with businesses in Charlotte to collect their old Amazon boxes and mail packaging to use for her own business shipping needs. And if she needs something, she searches for someone giving it away or selling it locally before turning to Ikea or Amazon.
She shares a lot of her low-waste lifestyle on her Instagram, @maddyebbert.art.design, which inspired us to reach out to her to get some tips for how we can do better as individuals and business owners when it comes to living more sustainably.
1. Start slow.
Maddy says the biggest mistake most folks make when it comes to living a low-waste lifestyle is that they believe it’s an all-or-nothing decision. It’s a mistake she made herself years ago when she first started making changes in her own life.
“The all or nothing mentality or just overwhelming,” she says. “You have to have a give and take. That’s my biggest thing is not to go head first and try to do everything at once: it’s very slow and involves switching habits out over time.”
Essentially, don’t throw out all your plastic containers and then buy all glass ones. Don’t toss out your plastic dish scrub brush in favor of a wooden, eco-friendly one. Instead, use these items until you can’t anymore, and then make the change. Many people complain that it can be more expensive to live an eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle, but by switching things out slowly as you use them up, you can help mitigate this issue.
2. Thrift, thrift, thrift.
You might not immediately think of thrifting or scouring Facebook Marketplace for items you want or need as a sustainable practice, but it’s one of the easiest things you can do to lessen the amount of junk in the world, and it’ll likely save you money, too.
Whether you’re an individual or someone with a business who might need odds and ends things for markets or furniture for your office, thrifting or purchasing through Facebook Marketplace can be a cheaper alternative, and you’ll likely get something more unique than you would from Ikea or Wayfair, helping your business stand out.
3. Shop local.
Whether you’re shopping for yourself or need something for your business, finding it locally means now shipping or packaging materials and less energy resources used in getting the items to you.
This can be a particularly helpful tactic for small business owners, like Maddy. “I know a lot of small businesses are willing to trade services,” she says. ” I do that all the time. Like I can’t afford to buy your stand because you’re a local woodworker, but I can help you with your product photography.”
4. Re-use what you can – especially packaging.
“My packaging is definitely not pretty, and I tell people that,” Maddy says. “There’s a lot of stores that I bet would be willing to set aside packaging for you as long as you come and pick it up. I encourage people to save my packaging for when they’re moving or whatever else.”
If you order from Maddy online, chances are it’s going to come in an old Amazon box or something like that with a note that says “My packaging isn’t cute, but my insides are.” She’s constantly collecting old boxes, padded envelopes and bubble wrap from her apartment’s recycling room and the stores she works at. This not only saves her money in paying for new shipping materials, but prolongs the life of items that will eventually end up in the dump.
You’re not going to becoming a low-waste, eco-friendly guru in a day, a week or even a month. It’s just not sustainable, Maddy says. But what can help make it sustainable is shifting your mindset in little ways and making small changes over time.
“I really go into stores and think, ‘Do I really need this?'” Maddy says. “Then the thought becomes, ‘Okay, can I thrift this? Can I borrow it from someone? Is there a way for me to buy it locally?'”
This thought process has helped Maddy consume less and be more mindful about her purchases, which has led to a lower waste lifestyle without even really trying.
“My headspace gets more clear when I don’t have as much stuff and I’m not as tied down to material things,” she says.
To learn more about Maddy and get tips from her on living sustainably, follow her on Instagram.