book review: zero waste home

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson.

This was the first book I purchased for the Kindle I got for Christmas, and it has truly sparked a change in my life. Upon finishing it (or perhaps even before I finished it), I was off and running on implementing so many of Johnson’s tips, not to mention stalking Pinterest and Instagram for further inspiration for the zero waste lifestyle.

Bea Johnson is the author famous for reducing the trash her family of four generates to a yearly quart jar. I’ve stumbled upon mentions and articles by and about her over the years, and I always thought it was impressive, but never considered it would be doable for me. But I’d been meaning to read the book anyway, thinking it would give me a few more ideas on how to minimize our possessions and be more environmentally friendly (no quart jar goals). This book makes it seem possible! And not only that, it makes clear not only how important it is to reduce our consumption, but how many problems it can solve.

Think about this:
If you eliminate plastic packaging in your life, you are making a dent in all these crises: plastic toxins in the household and leeching into your foods; oil consumption to manufacture plastic items; ocean and sea life devastation; and lack of landfill space. You are reducing your consumption of fake, processed non-foods, meat, and dairy; supporting local farmers/ sustainable agricultural practices; reducing the number of miles your food travels to get to your plate (saving further resources). And you are saving money, as you stop buying single use products and instead buy products that can be used again and again, not to mention real foods sold in bulk are much cheaper that packaged foods.

The zero waste lifestyle is about much more than just eliminating plastic, but that was such an obvious place for me to start. This book lays out how and why to eliminate the waste in all areas of your life: eating, cooking, housekeeping, entertaining, holidays, wardrobe, junk mail, etc. The wastefulness of our culture is directly CAUSING (not just contributing to) environmental devastation, human suffering, animal suffering, health problems, and an unsustainable economic climate, not to mention our smaller day-to-day problems such as clutter and distraction overload. I read her book and had such clarity of mind. I can’t solve the problems of the world, but I can make a huge impact just by being more mindful of my consumption. Reconnecting to the impact of my actions.

Bonus: you’re also totally rebelling, and it’s my favorite part. You’ll feel marketing-proof! I highlighted her take on marketing campaigns as intended “not to create satisfactions, but to create dissatisfaction with what people possess.” This was key for me. Not because I’m some slave to brands or fashion, but because sticking it to the Man is my favorite thing. Johnson gives a zero waste alternative to the stupidly-expensive ladies razors: a stainless steel men’s safety razor. They last FOREVER and all you do is change the blade (and they are pennies!) I’d literally never considered there was an alternative – this is just one example of an idea that was so liberating to me!

If I had any critiques of the book, it would only be that all her tips are lacking for regions outside of California, but I didn’t read the book thinking it would be the answer to every potential hurdle I would face. Therefore, the fact that some of her suggestions didn’t apply to my household, in Suburban Utah, didn’t deter me from jumping in. For example, I cannot take my used wine bottles down to my local winery for a refill. And we don’t have curbside compost pickup. I’d imagine most people around this country would have a closer experience to me, in that we have to work a bit harder to seek out the best alternatives. But that’s ok. This book started me on the path with something to really aspire to. It sets the bar really high, but there’s no competition.

It’s been hard for me to look at anything in the same way since reading this book, and difficult not to become obsessed. Each little action encourages the next. If you want to embark on zero waste, or just do a little better, this book will inspire you and save you time. Johnson has given us so many solutions she’s found only through doing the legwork, and the results that show it’s possible.

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