Zero Waste Lifestyle & Book Review

You may have heard of Bea Johnson. She's been living nearly waste-free since 2008. According to her blog, all of her family's waste for the year 2015 fits snuggly into one pint size jar. This is a far cry from the two 35-liter plastic bags I toss out each week and she has a family of four + a dog. 

I'm sure I would have rolled my eyes and thought she was absolutely crazy had I not just finished reading Garbology by Edward Humes. In his book, he writes about the Great Pacific garbage patch and the Puente Hills Landfill, two places I had no idea existed. He also shares Bea Johson's story and in the context of polluted oceans and trash mountains, her lifestyle no longer seems so extreme. I read her book Zero Waste Home and I'm determined to do what I can to cut back.



In her book, she shares five easy steps for cutting household waste: "refuse what you do not need; reduce what you do need; reuse what you consume; recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse; and rot (compost) the rest." When followed in order very little waste gets generated. As she explains in her book, "The first and second Rs address the prevention of waste, the third R thoughtful consumption, the fourth and fifth Rs the processing of discards." 

1. Refuse

  • Single-use plastics such as plastic bags, bottles, and packages
  • Freebies such as samples and other promotional products

2. Reduce

  • Declutter and donate the things you no longer want or need
  • Decrease exposure to media that leads to consumption
  • Share, use the library, carpool, etc.

3. Reuse

  • Replace disposables with reusables
  • Buy used

4. Recycle

  • Find out what kinds of products can and cannot be recycled

5. Rot (Compost)

  • Food scraps, tea bags, coffee filters, etc.
  • Hair, nail clippings, natural fibers, etc.

Over the next couple months, I'm going to tackle the first two Rs: refuse and reduce. Eliminating single-use plastic packaging may not be possible now, but I can focus on reducing my consumption by opting for products in recyclable containers like glass. I can also eliminate my dependence on plastic produce bags simply by bringing an extra cloth bag to the store for my fruits and vegetables. As far as reducing my consumption, I'm going to try to use up what I already before buying anything new. 

If you want to find out more and learn what you can do, I highly recommend reading Edward Hume's and Bea Johnson's books back to back. Garbology will bring the trash problem front and center and Zero Waste Home will show you how to help. If decluttering is your first step, check out Marie Kondo's The Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up.