Zero Waste

**Update: As promised, here's our TV story on the Johnsons.**


My world was recently rocked. In light of what's happening to peaceful Egyptians, let me re-phrase that.

My very tame, sheltered, God Bless the U.S.A. world was recently rocked.

I met Bea (pronounced BAY-Uh) Johnson, the woman who writes the Zero Waste Home Blog. She and her husband and two sons live in Mill Valley in a 1400 square foot home, half the size of their previous expansive suburban place.

When they downsized several years ago, they also began to live with less. Much less. Goodbye kayak. No more overstuffed couch. Bea's closet contains 7 shirts, 6 pairs of shoes, three pairs of pants, one pair of shorts, two skirts, three dresses, 2 hats, and one bra. ONE. It is a convertible bra, she pointed out.

They just realized that they were happy, and they didn't have a bunch of clutter and they didn't miss the extra crap they had. 

Then they went further. Way, way further.

Bea started whittling down the waste her family produces. Down to an incredibly tiny amount. Like an amount that would put The Good Doctor's belly button lint to shame. She uses the term "zero waste" or ZW to describe it; it's akin to nil landfill and it's a common term in manufacturing. It's all about eliminating waste, being more efficient, and saving bucks.

This was the amount of trash they produced over a 6 month period. People, they are not effing around.

It's fascinating and it starts with the R that gets so little street cred. We hear all about the reducing and reusing and recycling. But Bea says we should all do a lot more REFUSING. Refuse to buy things that come with packaging that will either go into the trash or the recycling (recycling feels good but it's like running an extra mile to burn off the Oreo you shouldn't have eaten after you brushed your teeth). It seems like a lot but break it down and it's not that insurmountable.

And who doesn't want to refuse junk mail?

ZW also means buying a lot of stuff from the bulk bins, and religiously carrying your mesh bags and cloth sacks and meat jars to the store so you can put stuff directly into the containers you plan to use at home.

ZW also means not going to stores like Costco, one of my favorite places, because all the cardboard and shrinkwrap and plastic is unavoidable. Waaahhh. I love my Costco. But I'm realizing, all the wasteful spoons and sporks and plates and cups that come with just the samples are enough to give Bea a heart attack.

ZW also means not bringing home crap that's going to clutter up your space. Like party favors. And knick knacks. And another pair of boots. Sorry Good Doctor, but I ordered those before I made this ZW resolution.

The next phase of ZW living involves a lot of rotting AKA composting. So much stuff that we toss in the trash is actually compostable. Leftovers, bones, pizza boxes and all food wrappers, paper bags, newspapers, toenail clippings, hair and lint that you sweep off the floor, and of course all the fruits, vegetables, peels, cores, pits, and stems that come with them.

The time and money argument is addressed in several posts on Bea's blog. I really appreciate that she gives such practical and straightforward tips on how she does stuff.

Does it seem a little OCD? It does. But in a good way. Not in a washing your hands until they bleed kind of way.  

I love this idea for ZW gifts.

Bea is also very good at chronicling the ups and downs of this lifestyle. And I realize that she's quite unafraid to take action, stay on top of things, and speak up. I would never have been inspired to do things differently had I not spotted this Sunset article about Bea and her family. Love my Sunset. It was so eye-opening and such a different way to do things. Some simple, some sort of extreme, but all very interesting and worth considering.

Sometimes people just need to see that they can do things less wastefully. Like bringing a mug to work for their daily coffee fix instead of using a plastic lid, paper cup, stir stick, AND cardboard sleeve EVERY DAY. Alex Bozovic. I'm talking to you. Dude! The cup isn't even hot enough to justify the cardboard sleeve. I held it. I know. Come on Alex Bozovic. I've even offered a spot at my desk to store your mug, and your spoon for stirring. I will even wash your mug personally for a week Alex Bozovic. If that's not enough for you Alex Bozovic, then declare yourself an Earth enemy right here and now. Alex Bozovic.

Great tips here for ZW pet ownership but I'm not sure yet that I can do a long walk and just use newspaper to carry the poop of three dogs while pushing a stroller. Baby steps.

My story airs next week on Bea and her family, which includes the cutest, friendliest little ZW dog who sleeps in a clear, round swinging chair that hangs from the ceiling. Tofu and Romeo could use some serious etiquette lessons from Zizou. I'll post a link here when it's up. You have to see the ZW lifestyle in action to fully appreciate it. Plus Bea is so hip and she has a French accent. Must see TV.

I learned so many life changing things from Bea and her blog. Two that come to mind instantly: I need to compost the husband's belly button lint. And I can't live with just one bra. No matter how convertible it is. But I can start whittling things down. And I will.