Zero-waste living, made easy | Ashley Merz, founder of Source Zero

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For many, a zero waste lifestyle sounds nearly impossible to achieve. Ashley Merz, founder of Source Zero in San Jose, is changing that narrative by selling sustainable, long-lasting products that can bring people closer to zero-waste living.

A country girl at heart now living in the Santa Cruz Mountains on a fully off-grid and solar-powered home, Ashley Merz always had a strong relationship to nature, a desire to protect the environment, and a curiosity around the resources needed to create her daily-used products.

Naturally, when she started learning about the unnatural chemicals being used in her shampoos and conditioners, rather than falling victim to existing products, she decided to do something about it.

“I wanted to stop putting chemicals on my body, so I spent a few years creating a body care line.” She worked festivals, shared her products with mission-aligned communities, but working in that industry made her reflect more broadly on consumerism.

While creating all-natural products was an important step in the right direction, over-consumption seemed to be the greater looming problem in society.

She eventually launched her zero waste store with products ranging from bamboo cutlery, stainless steel cups, reusable sanitary pads, and a fully stocked soap and household refill bar.

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Before working full-time on her store though, she side-hustled to make ends meet.

“I thought about my hobbies, and realized that I loved making food, so I cooked for people while they were at work. It helped pay the bills, build up my confidence and capital over time.”

She set up shop in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Carmel before landing a dream opportunity to host her shop at San Jose’s MOMENT pop-up shop.

“San Jose is really the perfect crowd for these products. People are friendly, curious, and eager to make changes when they find out it’s completely doable.”


As of today, the zero waste shop has been on the road to events all over northern California and has gone as far as Las Vegas and Colorado.

Other than promoting the use of reusable items, what truly makes Ashley’s business stand out is her desire to empower fellow small businesses, even if it means at times losing out on some profit margins.

“I am constantly searching for local women businesses at events, craft fairs, and shows. I still need to pay rent and breakeven at a minimum, so each collaboration I make is a calculated decision. overall, I find it critical for us as consumers to support the creation of ethical, local, reusable products. We need to be kind and thoughtful of our waste. This is our one planet. There’s no planet B.”

Check out Source Zero in San Jose, CA.

Follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

ashley merz’ advice for aspiring Entrepreneurs

  • Figure out what you love. For example, I love sourcing products, doing marketing, and making the shop look pretty. But I hate the accounting and bookkeeping. So know your strengths and what drains and energizes you. Once you figure out what you love,

  • Delegate! Don’t try to do it all by yourself. I like things done my way, but it’s critical to delegate. Honestly without these women that I’ve hired, I would burn out. It’s important to find people you can trust, who are intelligent and mission-aligned.

  • Don’t quit your regular job right away. You will most likely find yourself being broke and disheartened. Find side jobs. If you want to make your dream happen, keep your job to give yourself flexibility to work on your entrepreneurial venture.

Ashley Merz’ easy zero-waste tips

  • Buy a bamboo fork and straw.

  • Refill your shampoo.

  • Compost!

  • Great alternatives to paper towels are reusable towels or old cut-up t-shirts as hand towels.

  • Bring your own bags to the grocery store.

  • Save your bread bags, and use them as produce bags.

  • Don’t throw away your ziplock. Wash them and use them for years.



Marushka Hirshon is a Tahitian-American nonprofit founder, community organizer and writer. She graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. in Science, Technology and Society with a focus in Environment and Sustainability. Follow