Malverne couple Nicole and Matt Lentini hope their journey to reach zero waste encourages others to go green. The couple — always environment advocates — started reducing their waste three years ago.
“It was difficult,” Matt said, recalling when they started. “The way society is built makes it easy to have things in a disposable way. But after three years, it’s almost second nature.”
Nicole, who works as a professional organizer, said that their zero-waste journey has been a slow, steady process. She said she was influenced by bloggers, and made a deep connection to the trend. “It forces you to evaluate not only how you use things, but how can you more creatively use things,” she said. “That’s what really stuck out to me, as I’m a crafty person.” She added that she isn’t the only creative one: Her husband is a design manager at Fisher-Price.
The Lentinis said that their backgrounds helped them repurpose and reuse items. Their table is made from old bowling alley paneling, their shoe rack from old skateboards, and old T-shirts are turned into tissues. Nicole often posts pictures of their ideas on reducing trash on her Instagram account. She often shares her everyday habits — for instance, in a post last year she showcased Fairway Market’s bulk foods section, where nothing is prepackaged. When a conversation began in the comments, she told users about other stores with this convenience.
“It’s really wonderful [to hear] the effects I have on other people,” she said. “I get thank-yous from people who are inspired by how we live and who ask for tips on how they can reduce more, too.” Nicole also said that she hopes her efforts create a domino effect, since small initial efforts often have large impacts.
“The key is not to fixate on zero. It will never be zero,” she said. Instead, she encourages people to start small by saying no to plastic.
Nicole volunteers at Crossroads Farm at Grossman’s, where she holds programs on recycling. She recently led a cleanup at the farm, where she helped organize all the trash it collected by separating it into recyclable and non-recyclable items, explaining to the crowd how each was recycled.
“I think it’s just incredible what she does,” said Ray Pisacane, a farm hand who majored in environmental studies at Adelphi University. “I appreciate how she uses her platform and programs to help minimize people’s waste.” He added that waste impacts the environment by poses threats to ecosystems and animals.
Pisacane said that learning from Nicole has been an exciting experience. “She’s really setting an example for the community,” Pisacane said. “It’s really hard to live zero waste, even just for a day, [but] I’d love to hear more tips from her.”
Nicole added that the benefits of zero-waste living extend to other aspects of her life. She might pay more for reusable items, she explained, but, in the long run, she is saving money. She also buys only what she needs, which has led to better spending habits.
“Living this way forces you to have awareness of how [the] world functions and how the world connects,” she said.
“Everyone has different needs,” her husband said, “but one or two things can make a big difference when many people are doing it.”