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.

  1. Refuse what you do not need
  2. Reduce – your needs
  3. Reuse – what you already have
  4. Recycle – what remains
  5. 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.

Final thoughts

Ultimately, it’s about doing the best you can and finding the motivation to keep going. Kind of like veganism!

2 Responses to “Review: Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for spreading this massage! I did not watch your video yet, but I love the idea of 5 “Rs”. I also did not read the book, but I implemented the same “Rs” in to my life after watching Plastic Planet, Tapped, Plastic Caw documentaries. I also started to dumpster dive (R -recover?) grow my food ( R- ?, note: our food is also grows with large amount of plastic) and I started plastic-free business (R-? my English not so good, I need dictionary).
    I am making plastic-free vegan essentials (organic cotton/hemp nut milk bags, tofu/nut cheese cloth, hemp/burlap scrubbies, organic make up removal pads). I am working on a FREE dairy alternatives eBook (will be ready in a few weeks) and I post my recipes on my website
    If you have R for “growing own food” and for “plastic-free business”, please let me know.
    Thanks again,

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Lena! It was interesting visiting my grandparents house last week and seeing how they’ve lived their entire lives. They’re probably the most plastic free people I know, and they don’t even know it! They compost everything, reuse all plastic that comes into their home (maybe not the healthiest, but they reuse plastic containers until they start to wear out, and then they either donate or recycle them). They also grew nearly all of their food until my grandfather became sick last summer. I actually think I might do a video on their lifestyle and how much things have changed. They live on an island, and so plastic waste is extremely evident there, and my grandmother was just sick to find out about the plastic in the ocean. And so happy to find out that many of the practices they’ve embraced their entire lives are very helpful!

      I’m looking forward to doing a video and blog post on your products – such a wonderful alternative! I like the “R” for recover, as well! It could refer to dumpster diving or even thrift shops (a pricier way to recover, but recovering nonetheless). I will try to think of more Rs!
      Have a lovely weekend,

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