Zero Waste Home, interview with Béa Johnson

June 9, 2014  |  featured, people  |  No Comments

Zero Waste Home US ORIGINALZero Waste Home US ORIGINALVera Hamady: Béa Johnson, you are the author of the book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. What inspired you to write this book?

Bea Johnson: In 2006 we were living in a large home in the suburbs and wanted to move to a downtown to be closer to amenities. We moved into an apartment for a year with only the necessities and learned that living with less allowed us to live more. We all of a sudden had more time to do the things we enjoy. When we found our ideal home (half the size of the previous one), we let go of 80% of our belongings, including those that we had stored. Then our voluntary simplicity opened time to educate ourselves on environmental issues. That’s when we decided to change our way of living for the sake of our kids’ future. We adopted green alternatives and learned how to reduce our waste to a quart size jar’s worth per year.

We found that Zero Waste is nothing that we would have expected it to be. It’s not just good for the environment. Overall it has also made us healthier, and it saves us an incredible amount of time and money! I wish more people realized the great potential of this lifestyle and embraced it. Since there was no book about waste-free living, we had to figure it out for ourselves. I felt that it was important to share my knowledge with others. I wrote the book to share all I know about the lifestyle.

VH: What does it take to adopt the Zero Waste Lifestyle?

2013 trash tallyBJ: What we do to generate only a one liter jar full of trash per year is no secret. We found that following a set of 5R’s IN ORDER was the key to eliminating waste. So, we:

1. Refuse what we do not need (for ex. single use plastics, junkmail and freebies)

2. Reduce what we do need (furnishings, clothes)

3. Reuse by buying secondhand and swapping disposables for reusables (that includes shopping with reusables such as cloth bags, jars and bottles)

4. Recycle what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse

5. Rot (compost) the rest (fruit peels, lint, hair, floor sweepings etc).

2013 trash tallyVH: I would like to imagine a planet where we all become environmentally conscious. How can we speed up our own transformation?

BJ: The most important thing one can do to stop waste and clutter from entering one’s home is to simply say ‘no!’ Think before accepting something that is handed out to you. Turn down flyers, freebies, party favors, business cards, single use plastics (such as plastic bags), and fight junk mail. Accepting these things not only creates a demand to make more, they are a waste of resources, and once they are brought into your home, they add to the clutter and require effort to dispose of them later. Refusing is the first rule to living a Zero Waste, simple lifestyle. Give it a try — you’ll be amazed how much stuff you’ll be able to stop from coming in.

VH: How do you intend to continue inspiring people to live responsibly?

Picking up litterBJ: My work is to shatter misconceptions associated with the Zero Waste lifestyle. So I will continue blogging (and social media), giving tours of my home to organizations and schools, speaking at waste conferences (I will be speaking in France this month) and universities, etc. But the bulk of my work is to address the interest of national and international media (TV, print, radio and blogs). For example, I filmed with a Swiss crew last week, and will shoot with CNN and a French crew the next. Writing my book, Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste allowed me to nationally and internationally share everything I know about this lifestyle, but I would like to see it translated into a TV show (the visuals of Zero Waste are so attractive and convincing). I am currently pitching the idea to French and American production companies. I am also developing a crowd funding plan to raise money for my Bulk app, which needs updating to keep up with ever changing technology. I also started making art again and showing my work (I used to be an artist before putting all my creativity into finding Zero Waste alternatives for my household!), and I am collaborating with my town to offer a tool library and develop EV charging stations.

VH: Tell us how the simple life beautified your life?

BJ:  The Zero Waste lifestyle does not deprive, as one would think but improves one’s quality of life. Life becomes less focused on having and rather on being. What I love most about the lifestyle is the simple life and how closer it has made my family. Voluntary simplicity has changed our daily routine in these ways:  It has greatly simplified our cleaning (picking up the house only takes a few minutes each day). It makes our housework and professional work much more efficient. It has allowed us to play more (simple living focuses on experiences versus stuff) and spend more time together (we always eat dinner together). It has even allowed us to travel more by being able to easily rent our house when we’re gone (our minimalist wardrobes fit in carry-ons), which then funds vacation and family getaways! Zero Waste has also brought beauty into our life — glass jars are so much prettier than disposable packaging in my pantry, for example.

Zero Waste Home’s website







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Restoration Hardware reimagines French style

Restoration Hardware reimagines French style

May 26, 2014  |  featured, inspiration  |  No Comments

Beautiful objects inspired by French style have been appearing in the Restoration Hardware collection for the last couple of years. But this year’s collection marks a reinvention, even a reimagination, by curators from around the world. Looking at the HR’s catalogues, I can’t help but wonder if French style is back in vogue, a comeback led with bravado and imagination by the company.

The catalogues are full of inspirational stories of objects and styles, of craftsmen and designers fond of antiques and notable objects. Blending old styles with a touch of modernity, the company’s curators have created timeless pieces for our admiration, use, and comfort.

If you haven’t been to a Restoration Hardware showroom lately, it is worth the trip. There is an abundance of French furniture pieces from different centuries – from armoires to chairs, French lighting, curious objects like a 19th century Horse fragment, a 20th century Glass Cloches, 19th century cartographic maps of Paris, and antique hand-pressed French botanicals. Even HR’s blank journals are inspired by 18th century “couverture muette,” or mute book of the French Revolution. And this is just a tease of the myriad of pieces found in the catalogues (which, by the way, I heard weighted 16 lbs. combined).

The picture below represents circa 1900 brass brasserie table with elegant and simple lines.  I love this table. It reminds me of Paris, of my favorite cafés, of my favorite writer Proust, and of my favorite time in the cultural history of France. This is a must-have for a Francophile.

French Brasserie table

This beautiful mid-century library is called the French library. It’s made of metal and comes in three different finishes.

French Library

If you love big maps and if you have a great wall to showcase them, you can choose from a 1739 Plan de Paris decoupage map, circa 1756 Elevation of the Louvre, or a 1672 Plan de Paris Panel Map. I think the maps are just marvelous and beautifully reproduced. In the baby showroom, I even saw a wall display – a sweet baby dress made from a Parisian map.

Baby Dress - wall display

The baby collection is exquisite and courtly. If you have a baby or a young child, HR makes you dream of Versailles and tufted luxury. Your child can sit in the Versailles chair, the Antoinette bench, or the mini ondine salon bench (below). You can choose to decorate your child’s bed with a canopy, add a French script tapestry to the wall, cover the walls with French botanicals, and add elegant scones or extravagant ornamentation. Who can feel more a king or a queen surrounded by such elegance!

French tapestry

The French script grand canvas wall tapestry.

HR’s inspiration and philosophy resounds in this sentence by John Barrymore: “A man is not old enough until regrets take the place of dreams.” Thanks to HR, we can continue dreaming in French style.

Website and showrooms: Restoration Hardware













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Nico, SF, Modern French Cuisine

Nico, SF, Modern French Cuisine

May 17, 2014  |  featured, san francisco  |  No Comments

Nico is located on an elegant stretch of Sacramento Street and feels surprisingly welcoming. Upon entering, one sees the whole interior of the restaurant revealing itself as far away as the kitchen, separated from the main room by a big glass window. I was greeted by two hostesses but later learned that one of them was the co-owner. They made me feel comfortable while I was waiting for my friend to come, and I had a chance to ask questions about the chef and his hard-working team behind the big glass window.

During our dinner, we had a surprise visit—the chef came to greet us and introduced himself. Nico is a young, attractive, and soft-spoken Parisian man who speaks fondly of his restaurant and food creations. He described his cuisine as Modern French, using California ingredients with French techniques to create sophisticated and light dishes. I must add that the food looks and tastes really healthy. I had never been to a French restaurant and eaten so wholesomely without ordering any meat. Nicodecor I went to the web site to find out the name of the dishes we had, but instead I read that the menu is reinvented each night and subject to change. Before you make a reservation, please visit their website to read about their most recent menu. The latest one looks fantastic. I am definitely ready to make another reservation! Nico2 I had as an appetizer an asparagus dish with sesame dressing. I would like to know how Nico cooks asparagus because they were just perfect—firm and crunchy. My friend Kristen ordered the sardines and was happy with her choice. You can tell from my pictures that the dishes were just gorgeous. My main dish was meatless—a morel mushrooms dish with an egg and chikpeas. My friend ordered the pork. It came in a pretty brown plate, pink in color with similar colors veggies. We didn’t order desert, but we ordered a cheese plate and we loved the choices of cheese. The selection was generous in size. Nico5 We found it pleasurable to watch the kitchen team prepare our dishes behind the big glass window. They seemed to work in a harmonious way, focused and organized. We loved the fact that we didn’t feel rushed by our server. She was gracious and prompt and was smiling the whole time. The restaurant is a nice size, but it is quiet and there is enough room between the tables so you don’t feel invaded by other people’s conversations.

Nico is a little gem in San Francisco. You will be delighted by the inventiveness of this young chef and the beautiful energy of the décor and the staff.

Nico | 3228 Sacramento Street, San Francisco| (415) 359-1000

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