Zero Waste Home
By Claire Black Slotton
A Zero Waste Home is all about filling life with experiences versus stuff.
The new book, Zero Waste Home, by Bea Johnson, is the very personal story of one affluent woman’s quest for less. At the age of 32 she and her family were settled in their 3,000 square foot home in Pleasant Hill, happily driving their SUVs from activity to shopping mall to home again. But something wasn’t quite right.
They opted to move to Mill Valley where they could walk and cycle more and stored their stuff while they waited for the right house to come along. While they lived with less, they found that life was better. They felt happier and lighter and had more time to spend with their kids.
The rest was a cascade of insights. As they learned to live with less, they caught a wave of releasing everything that did not enhance their lives. They rode that wave to the shore, arriving at a place where they had reduced far beyond what most of their middle class counterparts could have imagined.
In the Zero Waste Home, Bea Johnson describes how she, her husband and her two boys accumulate just one quart of garbage per year. This is the pragmatic, direct telling of the process they went through to simplify their lives. Bea became obsessed with garbage – and more importantly, with doing away with it. She sold off much of the furniture from the 3,000 square foot house to squeeze into a 1500 square foot home. She gutted her kitchen, keeping only the essential items. She reduced her closet (and those of her family members) to just enough – in fact, they have so little clothing that when they go for vacation, they simply pack all their clothes into a carry-on size suitcase.
In order to cease having so many products in her home, she started making everything from scratch; their meals, cosmetics, and household cleaners to name a few.
Johnson says that the mantra “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” is great, but first, REFUSE. Don’t let stuff into your home. In order to cease having so many products in her home, she started making everything from scratch; their meals, cosmetics, and household cleaners to name a few. She buys from the bulk section of her local health food store, bringing her own containers with her so that she doesn’t have to accept any garbage along with the products she needs. She went so far in her crusade that at one point she collected moss from the surrounding forest to replace toilet paper. At some point, however, she decided that didn’t work for her family’s lifestyle.
To further refuse to allow garbage into your home, contact DMAchoice.org to cut off most bulk mail and OptOutPrescreen.org to stop credit card and insurance offers. Also, YellowPagesOptOut.com is a great way to stop receiving the phone book.
This book is full of practical descriptions of how one family confronted their over-consumption head on and the wonderful results they achieved by doing just that. They find that by not purchasing disposables and by not owning excess items, they spend less, have much more time for each other, and are truly experiencing life’s joys in a deeper way. All the while, Bea feels great about spending her money in stores that support her values by selling bulk items and items packaged in less.
While Zero Waste Home has practical tips and descriptions of how Bea Johnson carries out her zero waste mission, this won’t be the answer for everyone. In fact, there is something in this book for everyone to hate; environmentalists will marvel that Bea is still talking about putting her towels in the dryer, animal rights lovers will be saddened to know that she and her family eat meat and she encourages the use of leather shoes; Many may scoff at her rich-girl attitude that assumes everyone has an iPod and a computer connection.
Take what you like and leave the rest. Don’t let the annoyance get in the way of loving this book. She has done a beautiful job of chronicling her very personal path to simplicity. It is pragmatic and balanced. She makes it clear over and over again that she has done what works for her and her family, that these are her opinions. What she has offered is a great support to anyone who would like to simplify their lives reap the rewards that come with that simplicity.
In addition to all the other benefits, your carbon footprint will magically be reduced as well. And, that’s what we’re all about at Cool Davis.
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Cool Davis is a coalition of residents, the City of Davis, and community organizations working to empower our community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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