Scribd: How did you decide on the challenges you wanted to undertake?
Eve Schaub: The Year of No Sugar was a bolt of lightning for me. I had watched a video on sugar — The Bitter Truth with Dr. Robert Lustig — that I couldn't stop thinking about, and it became the genesis of my first book. I was captivated by his message, as I think so many people have been, that sugar was at the root of so many of our modern maladies. He correlated our excess sugar consumption with every major modern health epidemic, from metabolic syndrome and obesity to things that are less expected, like heart disease and liver disease. I immediately wanted to find out more, and I wanted to do something about it. What better way than to do a project where I convince my whole family to join me! I can't thank them enough for being such wonderful sports.
Scribd: It’s one thing to do a year-long experiment, but why document it?
ES: I'm a writer, and so that's how I experience the world and how I process things. It seemed like a very natural transition to just say, 'Well, of course, I'm going to want to tell everybody about what happens.’
Scribd: What prompted the Year of No Clutter?
ES: The second book was a long process. I've been obsessed with ’stuff' and clutter, and why we keep the things we do. When I realized I was at a breaking point with my own clutter, the idea became a reality.
Scribd: How do these experiments affect your family? You write about them, but what does behind the scenes really look like?
ES: There's been some tough moments. One thing that didn't happen intentionally is that these three books will encompass a full decade. I kind of love the nice, neat symmetry of that. We began with Year of No Sugar in 2011, when my daughters were ages six and 11. Now we're finishing this third book, and my oldest daughter is 21, and my younger daughter is 16. My children grow up through the course of these three books, and readers go along with our family and watch us evolve as well. I enjoy that aspect of the process.
Scribd: What was your writing process like for the first book, and how has it changed?
ES: In terms of writing procedure, I have done different things on different books and found out what works for me. The first book, I very purposely set out from day one to post regular installments on a blog to accumulate text. I was a little bit terrified that I would forget stuff, or I wouldn't have enough to draw from at the end of the year if I didn’t. Of course, it was quite the opposite. I had a ton of stories. That was a really good process. For the second book, I did not keep a blog, and I regret that in hindsight. I wanted to try it another way and decided I would just keep notes and not require myself to have regular installments. It turns out that I work well with regular installments. With regular life — kids, husbands, and houses — it's very easy to have time slip by. I realized that I work well under a schedule. So for the third book, I've returned to the model of keeping a blog. In 2020, we did a year of no garbage, where our whole family went zero-waste, which was not easy during COVID.
Scribd: That must have been tough. Were you tempted to quit?
ES: We thought about it when the reality of the pandemic hit, but then my husband and I decided we should keep going because life doesn't always cooperate with your plans. No matter what was going on with COVID, this is still our planet, and the problems are still the problems. It also gave us something to focus on, other than doom and gloom. We muddled our way through, but there were a lot of changes trying to be a zero-waste person. I expected to do all these things like return my containers to the store, but they didn’t want my containers.
Scribd: How did the no clutter and no garbage projects conflict?
ES: I absolutely struggled with the two! Being zero-waste means you're an instant clutter generator because if you can't throw it away — which is the typical go-to solution for everything — you have to find a place for it. That's the wonderful, terrible, wonderful thing about garbage: It's invisible because its whole job is to disappear. Our problem was that now we had to confront every single tiny little piece of plastic, down to every bottle cap. It made me ask if I was going backwards with my efforts to eliminate clutter. But while no clutter and creating no garbage seem like they're polar opposites, in some ways, they can also work hand-in-hand. Because you stop buying as much. I reduce my environmental footprint, and bring less clutter home, by buying less. I discovered throughout this process of both no clutter and no garbage to take a lot of joy in what I already have.
Scribd: Of all the challenges, which of the three was the hardest for you?
ES: I think that when you ask my daughters, they will say no sugar was toughest. Because for them, as kids, it presented dimensions that we were not encountering as grownups. The times that were hardest were when we were trying to deal with the world, which they had to do in school at lunch every day. When we were able to be at home and be with each other, it was fine.
For me, no garbage is the hardest thing of all because of all the information I uncovered. It made me realize how many lies were being told. For instance, before this, if somebody told me something would get recycled, I would trust that it really would be. But that isn’t the case. Only a couple types of plastics are actively recycled. Everything else, no matter if you put it in the recycling bin, is still going to landfills.
Scribd: If someone isn’t planning to go zero-waste but wants to cut back on their garbage, what advice would you give?
ES: People don't have to go from zero to 60. In fact, I'd advise against it because there’s a huge learning curve and the worst way to do any of these projects is to jump in with both feet. I’d suggest doing a garbage audit, which means looking at what you're throwing away and asking yourself, what could I do differently? If I'm throwing away a lot of food scraps, could I start a compost pile? If I use a lot of food wrapping foil or Saran Wrap, could I use reusable containers instead?
Scribd: What does it look like when each year ends? Have you gone back to sugar, clutter, and garbage?
ES: I definitely eat sugar and have clutter and produce garbage again, but I have changed. I am sort of addicted to this trial by fire, where you jump in and go, 'I'm gonna learn a whole bunch of stuff.' I love that. It’s always challenging when you're coming back out and trying to figure out where you’re going to land. I always know that I'm not going back to what I used to do, but I'm also not going to be as stringent as we were during each experiment.
Scribd: How do you balance writing memoirs versus maintaining family privacy?
ES: That's an excellent question, because it's definitely a big factor. I'm now in the process of finishing my third memoir, and at what point is that not OK with the other members of my family? Especially when we first began, and the kids were so young I don't think they understood what I was doing all the time. When you're six years old, I don't think you can understand what it means to be written about in a memoir. Even from the very beginning, I had a policy that everybody in the house has veto power, and for the most part, everybody's been totally cool with absolutely everything. So I'm very fortunate.
Scribd: What about you? Is it tempting to censor yourself?
ES: Yeah, I’ve had to call myself out many times. I realized that the best thing I can do is whenever I have an impulse to not write about something, that means I have to write about it because that's where the good stuff is.