The Journey to a Low Waste Lifestyle with Cindy Villaseñor

Hello Everyone! I’m Cindy Villaseñor! A garden educator, environmentalist, and lover of the outdoors. Now I wasn’t always like this, I actually didn’t grow up camping, going hiking, or tending to a garden. It all started when I took an environmental science class at my community college in 2013.

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My environmental science professor was really honest with us and didn’t sugar coat anything. She took me and a small group from our class on a camping field trip, which was actually my first time going camping. I even attempted cowboy camping with my classmates in Death Valley National Park, which didn’t play out too well when a dust storm and a sprinkle of rain rolled in. Most of us ran into the van and slept pretty uncomfortably! Haha.

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While the camping trip was an educational one; learning about Owens Valley, the environmental damage caused by diverting water away from the land and drought, she took us hiking to some very beautiful places that I had never seen. I was in awe and grateful for the opportunity.  After that class was over, I became more interested in environmental related issues and going camping. That following summer after the spring course, I became vegan for environmental reasons and the following year, I planned my very own camping trip to Yosemite!

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As the years passed by, I continued to learn more while pursuing a major in geography and a minor in sustainability at CSUN. I decided on that field of study after taking that environmental science class. I planned several camping trips, learned about compost, learned about growing organic food, and eventually became a garden teacher. Along those years I also started to live a low waste lifestyle. While that wasn’t the focus in the beginning of this journey, it has now become the lifestyle my husband and I try to live as best as we can. That lifestyle became such a big part of what I share online, that I started to inspire others, and that eventually led to the name change on Instagram to Cero Waste Cindy after one of my friends kept calling me that in person.

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Camping and visiting places like Yosemite and Zion became a big part of our lives too, so making them low waste has been very important. One of the main reasons why I strive for low waste camping trips is the fact that we are visiting these beautiful places and all, so how can one possibly make so much trash while visiting them? We may be responsible by packing out all of our trash and putting it in the trash can. But where does this trash end up? It ends up somewhere else in the environment, someone’s backyard (usually in a Community of Color), somewhere in the desert or in the ocean.

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Here are some tips I would like to share with you all. They can be used for daily life and not just camping. Food seems to be the real focus here because the packaging it comes in seems to be the biggest piece of the puzzle when it comes to trash all over the world, not just camping.

1.     First and foremost, taking all reusables instead of single-use items! Water bottles, plates, cups, eating utensils, napkins, cleaning/drying towels, and anything else used during camping.

2.     Ice for coolers: a whole lot of ice typically comes in plastic bags, so we prepare some ahead of time. We fill up big bowls with water, freeze and we end up with big blocks of ice that take longer to melt. In the past, we have also asked at coffee shops or gas stations if we can get a fill of ice from their machines in a reusable bag or container.

3.     Look for package free fruits and veggies at your local market or visit a farmer’s market, and prepare meals around what’s available to you package free.

4.     Prepare some meals, snacks and energy bites ahead of time, put in reusable containers, heat at camp!

5.     Take extra containers for any leftovers, or food scraps to compost at home.

6.     Fill up reusable growlers at your local brewery for beer, and kombucha instead of individual bottles.

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Hope all these tips help! A quick little reminder, that it’s ok if you can’t do all of the things I mentioned. Try your best! Many people don’t have access to certain things where they live but there is always a way to practice cero waste!

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Cindy is featured wearing the Kaha GORE-TEX

Humans of HOKA: Benjamin Li

Benjamin Li is an oncology doctor who is always on his feet whether it’s in the office or on the road. Read more about his experience with running and how it helps him take care of himself.

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“You have to be able to take care of yourself before you can take care of others.” This is a mantra that has stuck with me throughout my medical training. How can you, as a doctor, provide the best service to your patients if you are not investing the effort to be the best version of yourself? The analogy is similar to the low-oxygen warnings we always saw on airplanes (back when travel was a thing): put an oxygen mask on yourself and then put masks on those in need around you. To me, running is my source of oxygen, of balance, and strength.

My decision to become a doctor was intertwined with my ability and passion for running. I began running in high school and fell in love with the vast world it opened up to me. Nature, places that no car or bike could take you. Hard work and reward, more satisfying than any amount of natural ability could offer. And camaraderie, the undefeatable bond of shared suffering and sweet victory. Running added dimensions to life that I hadn’t realized existed, and somehow filled me with ambition, purpose, and the conviction to follow my dreams.

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However, there are two sides to the coin, and with great joy also comes great sadness at time. As any runner can tell you, one of the hardest things to face is… not being able to run. It is much, much worse than the state of life before running existed, because having tasted the glory, now each day has an opportunity cost when a run is lost.

When someone is down, there is a special opportunity to help them back on their feet. In high school, I was lifted up by selfless and passionate physical therapists (one clinic offering free service for high schoolers before official open hours). Through my experiences, I learned how to treat and manage my over-use injuries, and to help others with similar ailments. Fast forward a few years, and I realized that, whether or not related to running, everyone experiences their own “injuries” in life.

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Medicine and running gives you an interesting perspective. You get a glimpse of some of the most personal emotions and raw truths in settings of adversity. Day after day, as a radiation oncology resident, I witness stories of cancer from different aspect of societies. Ranging from the happiness and gratitude of being alive and present for their grand-children to the despair of realizing that life will forever be different and that what once was a self-defining trait (e.g. always being available to help others) is now reversed (e.g. always needing help from others). To those moments where you come to peace with the uncertainties that lie ahead and revel in the certainties of love that exist around you. Everyone has their injuries, and it is incredibly rewarding to help people get back on their feet and able to feel good about the path forward.

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HOKA ONE ONE. Not only are their shoes awesome, but they really help me to be my best version of myself each day. Being able to run light, to run freely, and to run protected from the wear-and-tear of San Francisco down-hill roads, my Hoka support maintains running as a refuge. Whether I pop on my RINCONs for a fast workout to push my limits and humble myself, or wear my BONDI 7s into work for a chance to recover while standing all day on my feet, my shoe companions really do double duty. These times are easy to lose motivation, to lose connection, and to lose hope. But anchoring on what I know makes me happy, makes me the best version of myself, and lets me most fully share joy and positivity in my work… running is helping me take care of me so I can take care of others.

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Benjamin is featured wearing the Bondi 7

Breaking Barriers to Live Abundantly

Claude and Dr. Kim Walker know what it feels like to look for new ways to stick to an active lifestyle. The two began a healthier lifestyle in 2017 and lost a combined 140 lbs, but as health professionals they knew they needed an active lifestyle that was sustainable, and that’s where the outdoors came in. Outdoor recreation offered fun, variety, and an important connection to our world, but the community was lacking for people of color. So the two created Abundant Life Adventure Club, which offers a safe and inclusive community for people of color looking to live an active lifestyle while embracing all that outdoors has to offer. We sat down with Claude and Dr. Kim to learn more about the Abundant Life Adventure Club, the benefits of the outdoors, and more.

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Getting active outdoors and adding adventure to our lifestyle does good things for our health and wellness. We all deserve access to that. However, many Black people find it challenging to try outdoor activities. We know these challenges first-hand, so we created Abundant Life Adventure Club to help Black people live an active lifestyle through positive exposure to outdoor recreation with ease. We are on a mission to move wellness to outdoor spaces in authentic ways that provide exposure, access and support.

We provide our members with curated adventures led by certified guides for a variety of weekly outdoor experiences. We hike, bike, kayak, and more, primarily in Tennessee. Our members say that we’re a dope crew to be adventurous with that would make anyone’s active lifestyle better.

We haven’t always been “outdoor people.” Our exposure to outdoor recreation was once limited to only traditional sports in urban parks. That changed in 2017 when we were looking for new ways to stick with an active lifestyle. As health professionals, we knew in order to make our active lifestyles sustainable we needed to get active outside of the gym, find our tribe, and add some fun variety. Outdoor recreation was our solution and it transformed our lives. As a result of our lifestyle changes, we lost a combined 140 lbs.

We decided that we were not going to let inexperience stop us from trying new things any longer. Our first hike was a guided group hike offered by nearby state parks. We were quickly hooked. We hiked to connect deeper with each other and our teenage son. We hiked to cope with stressful times, demanding jobs, and personal losses. And of, course to help strengthen our bodies.

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After spending some time at various parks, we noticed a lack of diversity amongst park visitors. We saw the need to create a diverse community that connected people of color to the outdoors in meaningful ways. In 2018, we started inviting friends out for hikes and different outdoor adventures. Because we knew the challenges of trying new outdoor activities, we understood how to introduce other Black people to the outdoors in a way that would make them feel comfortable.

We had no idea that this would grow into a company that has led over 350 Black people on outdoor experiences in Tennessee and inspired thousands of others. We’re excited about our growing community and all the places we will go. We want outdoor adventure to be a new normal for our culture. We are now working for a cause that is so much bigger than ourselves.

Our mission is to help Black people live healthy and active lifestyles through participating in positive outdoor experiences. We love teaching others the therapeutic benefits of nature and helping members gain new perspectives. It makes our hearts smile when we help our members accomplish activities, they never thought would be possible.

Our members tell us that these experiences change their lives. It helps them disconnect from life’s demands in order to recharge. We’ve been able to help people find a community that they instantly connect with. We can unplug, have fun, and just be our authentic selves. We create a safe space to talk about our challenges, experiences, and unique perspectives that allow us to connect on a deeper level. We get to celebrate, inspire, and support one another. It’s refreshing to really feel seen, heard, and understood.

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We also incorporate mindfulness and meditation in many of our adventures to create a complete mind, body, and spirit experience. We stop for meditation in the most scenic part of the adventure we call “inspiration point.” We use mindfulness to allow ourselves to unplug and feel fully present while immersed in nature’s beauty. We want to let go of any stresses that might have been on our mind before the experience started. We want to leave each experience transformed, challenged, and restored.

One of our most memorable moments was last year we took our club on a waterfall hike to Burgess Falls. One of our members in her mid-40’s that was born and raised in Nashville had such an amazing and transformative experience. She said she lived in Nashville her whole life and didn’t know there were any waterfalls in Tennessee. We encouraged her to take in every
moment of this first-time experience. This was a Time to Fly moment.

We believe Time to Fly means freedom. It means you’re free to see opportunities and take them. It means you’re able to soar over adversity and barriers so that nothing is holding you back.

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Humans of HOKA: Lasondra Wilson

Hi! My name is Lasondra Wilson and I am the owner of Yellowcake Desserts, a small bakery in Northern California! I am a former preschool teacher of 13 years and I recently resigned to pursue my business full time. In addition to educating children and baking, I love to read, hike, and garden.

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Baking and cooking have always been a part of my life. When I was younger, I would help myself to things in the kitchen, trying to make food for myself such as toast and eggs. I have fond memories of cooking enchiladas with my grandfather, Mexican wedding cookies with my uncle and cakes with my mom. I made the transition from Southern California to the Bay area 11 years ago and I didn’t know a lot of people.

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In that first year I watched Food Network incessantly. I tried my hand at everything from homemade doughnuts (which were a fail) to homemade biscuits. The more I cooked and baked, the more I fell in love with baking from scratch. At the same time, I became obsessed with local and organic food products, as well as the story of dishes we hold dear; where does upside- down cake come from anyway? I researched company product lists, which led me to some of the best ingredients there are when it comes to food. I also researched recipes and food history, reading cookbooks of acclaimed chefs, bakers, and even chocolatiers. This became the foundation for how I create flavors and my desire to expand the idea of what dessert is. Sweets get a bad rap; and yes, they should be enjoyed in moderation. However, I learned that having the best ingredients, thoughtfully sourced and produced, contribute to the overall well-being of everyone, earth included. Creating unique flavors that honor the earth is an ode to the past and sets the stage for how we connect to each other in the future. Food sustained nations. It is still used to welcome people to communities and helps foster relationships as we break bread around a table.

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I love flavors that play up natural ingredients versus processed items like candy. That’s where flavors like lemon rosemary and earl grey cupcakes come from; they are flavors we can produce naturally. It’s not the only thing we do, but it is the heart of our creativity. My favorite thing about baking is that there are rules, and the rules can be broken. It’s my favorite way to be creative; playing with the boundaries of artistry within food, while remaining true to the essence of each dish and how it nourishes our mind, body and soul. Baking allows me the opportunity to explore, create and experiment. Having my own business allows me to set boundaries around how I create, work, and essentially, how I live. I have found many peaceful moments while baking dozens of cookies. In the same vein, baking dozens of cookies can be very stressful! Having my own business is challenging. I am still growing as a business owner. I am mastering time management, while looking for ways to creatively serve my customers. Baking is a challenge because it is not always perfect. Most times it’s not perfect. I have messed up dozens of brownies, cookies, and cakes. I have dropped cupcakes right at delivery, I have mixed up orders and I’ve forgotten ingredients. In all of that, there is a lesson that allows me to reflect and grow as a business owner.

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Teaching influenced me in two keyways. First, it made me more mindful of myself and those I interact with. Children simply react to a situation. Young children cannot explain in great detail the intricacies of their emotions and how they would like to move forward. Working with young children breeds patience and understanding as you work through the highs and lows with them. Children are a constant reminder that each situation is made up of many layers, and that everyone, even adults, may not be able to adequately express themselves. Patience, kindness and grace are needed as we interact with one another. Second, teaching has taught me the importance of relationship building. Some of the parents of my students are now my customers! I appreciate that we are familiar with one another and that I have had the chance to share special moments in their lives, such as birthdays. I feel so honored to be a part of their lives in this way; to be trusted with moments that are dear to them. It is humbling to know that they made a choice to patronize my business.

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As I transition from a teaching to full time business owner, my current goal is to promote good food. I want to promote desserts that use sustainable, ethically sourced ingredients as a way to uplift our communities through our engagement with food. My secondary goal is to continue to grow as a business owner; utilizing systems and processes to scale my business and become more efficient. It will be an adjustment to not have the set schedule of a teacher, but I know I will continue to grow as a business owner by continually evolving my ideas, processes and goals.

Lasondra is featured wearing the Bondi 7.

Humans of HOKA: Hannah Kim

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PC: @sarahchingphotography

Hi, I’m Hannah! I’m a mom of three and currently working on self-development through parkour (@parkour_mama).

I grew up in the pool constantly smelling like chlorine, and it wasn’t until a dejecting senior year in college swim that I discovered the joy of running. At first I joined treadmill runs with my girlfriends just to watch cute boys throw around weights, but I soon became enthralled with my solo afternoon jogs on their own merit. I could go left through the houses, right along the fields, take any twists or turns I felt in the moment. I wasn’t confined in a lane in a box of a pool. I’d pass by trees, happy smiles, and lonely faces – all things I’d miss speeding by on my bike. I loved it.

I left my college town of Davis and became a personal trainer at Equinox in San Francisco (I had a mild stalker there who is now my husband, but that’s another story). Working with a variety of clients and seeing them achieve their goals was like a drug. I worked with Ironman Triathletes, CEOs, a consultant who couldn’t swim a lap in the pool but had signed up for the Alcatraz Tri 2 months out, and a tech guy who had never been in a gym before. I was surrounded by like-minded trainers and got to utilize their specialties to constantly learn and push myself. Once, when I hopped off the treadmill after my lifetime longest run (7 miles), a trainer buddy invited me to his 14 mile run. Though I don’t advise jumping into a 21 miler, I enjoyed the long run and kept up with it.

My now-husband and I started running 7-20 miles every Saturday in the Marin Headlands and all around the city, followed by a trip to the farmers market and lazy afternoons of reading and TV. City running was tall cement buildings, restaurant fronts, the pretty waterfront – and still happy smiles and lonely faces. Those long jogs and lazy afternoons eventually turned into a 3 mile loop around the hilly reservoir in the suburbs. I’d push our twins girls in the double stroller and my husband would push our son in his stroller, and our once-lazy afternoons became chaotic with laughter and fighting between the kids. Today, my 7-year old girls are able to run the loop with me.

After those family reservoir runs, we’d go to Whole Foods and the cashier, Kamran, would always tell me about parkour. I ended up trying it and fell in love with the goal-setting and accomplishment that I hadn’t felt in years. My younger self would have shied away from a new sport, but being a mom, I didn’t care about being surrounded by experienced 20-somethings or being the clueless newbie. Once you’ve been on all fours butt-naked pushing your kids out in front of complete strangers, it’s hard to be self-conscious again.

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PC: @sarahchingphotography

Parkour was an escape from parenting that I got for a couple of hours each month (three kids 2 and under and you’ll want an escape – or wine, too, I promise), but now that my kids are older and I have more time, I’m cranking the gears to see where I can go. Through mental and physical work, calluses and injuries, I’m learning to allow my body to do what it’s capable of – and to fully trust it. When I can let it all go…it’s time to fly!

I still love running – the feeling of escaping it all while simultaneously breathing in more of it all. Because I have so many impact days, I want my long jogs to be less impact as much as possible. I love that the Hoka shoe gives me a feeling of lightness, cushion, and springiness. Something where I can go for miles and listen to a book or chill music and not worry about my joints and legs. So now I run, out of my lane, whichever way I want to go. Now it’s rolling hills and kids on their bikes.

And still, it’s the same. Happy smiles and lonely faces. But you know what? With COVID, there’s a better sense of community and connection when going for a run. A lot more eye contact, a lot more friendliness — and I see a lot more lonely faces turning into happy ones. I’m going to keep on running…and let myself fly.

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PC: @sarahchingphotography