Zero Waste Home: Extreme or Extremely Doable?

In an effort to go green in 2017, we ask how extreme is too extreme?

Running an environmental company does make you really conscious about the environment. But I don’t consider myself on the extreme end of the scale by any means.

Yes, I’m the one who gives out if something ends up in the wrong bin at home. Yes, I’m the one who washes out the plastic recycling so it’s doesn’t contaminate the load. And yes, I have on occasion been known to fish a half mouldy orange out of the Obeo bag, that my husband had thrown out in haste, cut off the rotten bit and eat the rest.
But I don’t think that’s extreme…is it?

After listening to Bea Johnson and her Zero Waste Life, I had my answer. I am definitely not extreme. The author claims that her family created only 1 jam jar of waste in a whole year so needless to say I was a bit skeptical about her before going to the talk on Monday night.

Zero Waste Home Waste Jar

    Photo credit Cristovão@Exposed-Image


But anyone that claims to have more time, money and happiness because of their way of life, I’m all ears! I had read a couple of articles about her previous to this and thought to myself, “This woman must have so much time on her hands to be able to live this way. There’s no way this lifestyle is practical for normal working people.”

Well she put my doubts to bed very quickly!

Zero Waste Home

    photo credit: Zona Foto/Coleman-Rayner via Zero Waste Home


Her method lies in the simple mantra of:

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (and only in that order!)

  • 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.

Some of the simple things she recommends I already do such as using reusable shopping bags, using up leftovers, composting my food waste, drinking tap water instead of bottled, donating old clothes.

So far so good.

Then it gets a little more difficult…bringing glass jars shopping to put all your produce in such as meat, fish and grains, finding shops that sell in bulk to save on packaging waste, only buying second-hand clothes, swapping tissues for handkerchiefs, using homemade cosmetics such as cocoa powder as blusher. These are still do-able but might take a while to get into the swing of things!

Zero Waste Home

    photo credit: Zona Foto/Coleman-Rayner via Zero Waste Home


And now onto the more extreme…using baking soda as deodorant, using homemade toothpaste, using strands of silk material instead of tooth floss, only owning 15 pieces of clothing, getting rid of all your books and photo albums. I don’t think I’ll be signing up to that part just yet.

It was a lot to take in. She literally overhauled her life in every area. Her house is now a minimalist mecca of white, light-filled space. That was the part that convinced me the most!

Zero Waste

    photo credit: Zona Foto/Coleman-Rayner via Zero Waste Home


Comparing the pictures of her house to my own left me wondering why on earth do I have so much stuff in my house? Why is my garage filled with old furniture and paint cans? Why is under my sink bursting with different types of anti-bacterial cleaners?

I began to wonder if I could also feel the sense of calm she spoke about if I stopped accumulating all this junk. I left the talk feeling very inspired but also questioning my everyday behaviors. It’s not often someone brings your whole lifestyle into question! But the best part about her approach is that she confesses she is not trying to force her waste free life onto anyone else.

She simply wants to inspire people to ‘live simply and take a stance against needless waste’. She encouraged the audience to try and incorporate some small changes into their lives that they feel are personally achievable.

And that’s something I think we can all do.

To find out more about the Zero Waste movement you can read Bea Johnson’s blog Zero Waste Home where you’ll find some great tips on reducing waste.

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