Review: Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
Bea Johnson has been living a zero waste lifestyle since 2008, and her book “Zero Waste Home” has spawned a whole generation of zero wasters.
I actually read this book twice. The first time, I thought Johnson was a nut, to be honest. Many of her suggestions could have been taken right out of the “Tightwad Gazette”. I have to admit I rolled my eyes at the idea of composting hair and fingernail clippings (is that really so different from putting them in the landfill, honestly?). Eww.
But the second time, I approached it a bit differently. I decided to take her advice and consider implementing zero waste one step at a time, rather than diving head first. Because there are so many valuable suggestions in the book, it’s fairly easy to take what you want and “discard” the rest (sorry, Bea). But I found most of the suggestions very useful. Some are easier for me to use than others. My family of four lives in a condo half the size of Bea’s “small” home. And I consider it rather spacious. I guess it’s a matter of perspective.
The Five Rs
Firstly, Johnson has a “5 R” process that is meant to be followed in order.
- Refuse what you do not need
- Reduce – your needs
- Reuse – what you already have
- Recycle – what remains
- Rot – compost anything that cannot be disposed of through the other 4 “Rs”.
Of these five steps, the most important is the first: refuse
Why refusal is so important
In a capitalist economy, demand is everything. When we take things we do not need, we are sending a direct message to those who produce throwaway items that we want more of them.
The best way to stop this vicious cycle is to “just say no”.
I’ve personally been trying to implement some of the ideas from this book, and my own suggestion would be to say no BEFORE you are likely to be given something (at least at restaurants). For example, when waiters ask about drinks, I now mention “no straw” before I get the water.
Ultimately, it’s about doing the best you can and finding the motivation to keep going. Kind of like veganism!