Zero Waste Home US ORIGINAL

Bea Johnson knows a thing or two about vinegar.

She uses it as a window cleaner, laundry freshener, drain opener, weed killer, insect repellant, and stain remover. She even used it instead of conditioner until her husband got a tad tired of her smelling like vinaigrette.

You see, Bea is one of the leading proponents of the Zero Waste movement.

The Queen Bea of Zero Waste, you might say.

bea johnson

bea johnson

When her inspiring story started in 2006, she was living the American suburban dream in a 3,000-square-foot home filled with trinkets and trivia, driving (a big SUV) everywhere yet getting nowhere, consuming a lot…yet not quite fulfilled.

Now she lives in a small cottage with just the basics, gets around town on two wheels instead of four, has time for simple pleasures with her family, and has never been happier. Her story unfolds like a fable, as a Sleeping Beauty gradually wakes up to the toll the American Dream takes on our relationships, ourselves and our planet.

On Bea’s blog  and in her new book, Zero Waste Home, she chronicles her trials and tribulations of reducing waste and simplifying her life. She talks about her almost obsessive efforts to eliminate waste, and eventually finding her way back to reasonable and sustainable solutions for her family.

Her blog and book are amazing collections of all the things that worked for her, and we learn so much about creative solutions for the home, office, garden, personal care, even while traveling. Here we can find ideas for fresh and timeless home decor, creative alternatives to traditional products, the best places to buy bulk (there’s even an app for that), and the art of refusing freebies and other un-necessities.

Bea does an amazing job of keeping Zero Waste approachable. Notice I didn’t say ‘attainable’. Because she is the first to point out that Zero Waste is not an absolute – “shit happens” and to make waste is to be human. The great thing is this book passionately reminds us that we get to decide how much each of us makes.

Bea’s lifestyle might seem rash to some readers (charred almonds for eyeliner!) but not extreme enough to others (yes, folks, she does use toilet paper, albeit the recycled, unbleached kind). But there are hundreds of simple and creative tips in this book that anyone can use – the harried mom, the hardcore environmentalist, and everyone in between.

Try a few of Bea’s tips this week. You might discover for yourself that ‘less’ is truly ‘more’….

What is Zero Waste?  A philosophy based on a set of practices aimed at avoiding as much waste as possible. In the manufacturing world it inspires cradle-to-cradle design, in the home it engages the consumer to act responsibly.” { (c) Zero Waste Home}

Why you should consider it.

  • Less garbage in landfills.
  • Fewer toxins in the air, soil and water.
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Less time spent cleaning and curating your material stuff.
  • More time spent with friends, family and experiencing stuff.

A random sampling of Bea’s Zero Waste tips:

  • Welcome alternatives to disposables. Swap paper towels for reusable rags, swap sandwich baggies for kitchen towels or stainless containers, drop garbage liners all together (wet waste is mostly compostable anyway).
  • Buy in bulk or at the counter, bring reusable bags (for dry goods), jars (for wet items such as meat, deli, cheese, peanut butter) and bottles (for liquids: oil, soy sauce, shampoo).
  • Refill your bottles with bulk shampoo and conditioner, or use a shampoo bar. Instead of hairspray, switch to lemon water in a spray bottle. To go longer between washes, substitute dry shampoo for cornstarch (in bulk).
  • Use 100% recycled and unbleached toilet paper individually wrapped in paper,
  • Do laundry once a week using a bulk laundry detergent, full loads, and cold water cycles as much as possible. Savon de Marseille, dishwasher detergent, lemon or vinegar work great on stains.
  • Use bulk liquid castille soap as a dish/hand cleaner, baking soda as a scrubber (in a stainless Parmesan dispenser) with a compostable cleaning brush (a wooden one with natural hair). Purchase dishwasher detergent in bulk.
  • Use refillable pens, piston fountain pens, mechanical pencils, refillable white board markers and donate extra office material (paper, pencils) to your public school’s art program.
  • Start your personal junk mail war, cancel your phone directories, and sign up for electronic bills and statements.
  • Only shop for clothes a couple times a year to avoid compulsive buys.
  • Buy second-hand clothing.
  • Find creative ways to decorate your table with few napkin folding tricks, discarded leaves/branches from the yard, or just seasonal fruit.
  • Hostess gift: Bring a jar of a homemade consumable, or your favorite bulk item wrapped in Furoshiki.
  • Give the gift of an experience as a birthday present.


What are your tips for Going Zero?