Zero Waste Home, interview with Béa Johnson

June 9, 2014  |  featured, people

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.

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