Zero Waste Home Part Two and a Giveaway!

In yesterday’s post we got to know about how Bea Johnson, of Zero Waste Home, transitioned into her Zero Waste lifestyle.  Today I asked Bea, “What are the five steps you recommend somebody to start with?”  She tells us about the 5R’s so that we can implement the principals in to our own lives and enjoy the benefits that simple, conscious living has to offer.

*Be sure to check out the book give away at the bottom of the post!

Zero Waste Home jacket

By Bea Johnson

What we do to generate only a one liter jar’s 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). 

The most important thing one can do to stop waste and clutter from entering their 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 our 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.

*Five winners will be chosen at random on October 21 to receive a copy of Zero Waste Home. To enter to win, leave a comment below and tell us if Zero Waste Home is something you’d like to try in your own home, or leave a Zero Waste tip for us to all try.  Good luck!

For more tips from Bea Johnson, check out her website, Instagram and Facebook.

Bea Johnson and a Zero Waste Home, Part One

There is no underestimating how less waste and clutter can help you clear the mind, create time and bring you closer to the ones you love.

Bea Johnson, the queen of Zero Waste, is not only responsible for a huge shift in how I run my household and the amount of trash we produce, but also how I view and spend my time.  As a result, of her book,  Zero Waste Home, I have begun de-cluttering my home, re-organizing my kitchen and rethinking how I value and spend the moments that create my life.  I was fortunate to ask Bea some questions about her transition into a Zero Waste home and how it has affected her life and family.

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Bea Johnson’s living and dining area.

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Bea Johnson’s kitchen

Interview by Kimberly Van Der Beek.  Answers by Bea Johnson

What is a Zero Waste Home?

A Zero Waste Home strives to eliminate all forms of waste in its day-to-day activities. It’s not only about adopting waste free alternatives, but also embracing a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity, a lifestyle focused on experiences versus stuff. It is achievable through the application of the 5R’s, which we’ll cover tomorrow. 

Tell me a little bit about your transition from living the “American Dream” to living Zero Waste style?

In 2006 we were living in a large home located in a bedroom community (where the car was our main mode of transportation). We wanted to be able to walk or ride everywhere (school, stores, coffee shop, movies, theatre) so we decided to move to a downtown to be closer to amenities. Our transformation from there took two years. It is downsizing that triggered our rethinking. Our transformation was not overnight, but rather gradual.

Before finding the small house, we rented a small apartment for a year, and moved in with only a few necessities (we stored the rest). We immediately realized the benefits of living with less: We had more time to do the things that are important to us, such as spending time with family and friends, and explore/enjoy the outdoors.

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Bea Johnson’s pantry

The second year, we bought a house half the size of the previous one, we let go of 80% of our belongings (including those that we had stored) and 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. In the midst of the recession, my husband quit his job to start a sustainability consulting company; I tackled the house and our lifestyle.

How has your day-to-day life changed?

We found that the Zero Waste lifestyle is nothing that we would have expected it to be, it is 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 once urged my husband to compare bank statements from 2005 (pre Zero Waste life) with 2010 (when we had already adopted Zero Waste as a lifestyle), he found out that we were saving 40% on annual household costs by living this way. Did you know that 15% of the sales price of a packaged product covers the cost of the packaging itself? It basically means that when you buy food from bulk bins you automatically save 15%! The savings of the Zero Waste lifestyle are so great that I beat myself for not doing it earlier and I could not envision myself going back to the way I used to live (what a waste of money it was!)

Zero Waste has even brought beauty into our life -glass jars are so much prettier than disposable packaging in my pantry for example. 

In the end, it’s all good! And I wish everyone realized and enjoyed the great hidden benefits of this lifestyle.

What I love most of 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 (since 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 to rent our house when we’re gone (our minimalist wardrobes fit in carry-ons), which then funds vacation and family getaways!

What’s been the biggest challenge about your transition?

Our major challenge was finding balance, figuring out what works for us and what does not. There were no books or blogs on how to do Zero Waste when I started in 2008. So I googled alternatives and tested many recipes and how-to’s. But I eventually got too wrapped up into homemaking: At one point, I made cheese, bread, yogurt, soy milk, butter, etc.  Some of these practices were too extreme, too time consuming for my full time job, and we later dropped them for the sake of simplicity.  For example, we realized that there was no need for us to make bread if we could buy it unpackaged either directly from the bakery or from the bakery bins. Other alternatives were easy and we adopted them. 

Today, we have Zero Waste on auto-pilot in our home. We found that for Zero Waste to be sustainable in a household, one has to adopt alternatives that fits his/her schedule and are feasible in the long run.

How do you children feel about the shift?

The transition was very easy for our kids: they did not even notice that we were doing Zero Waste until we were months into it and I pointed out to them what we were doing things differently from the norm. Kids adapt so well. To help them understand the reason and need for change, we watched movies with them such as “Wall-E”, “Earth” and “Home”, and I pointed out how their efforts could make a difference.

Our kids have what they need and they live very normal lives, filled with friendships and fun! 

They very much enjoy living minimally because they have “less to clean and pick up from the floor”, and it has allowed them to live some cool experiences. For example, they received a parasailing gift certificate instead of stuff from their grandpa for Christmas. Last year we also gave them a subscription to a monthly secret family activity. So each month, we surprised them with an activity that we had never done before (strawberry picking in a farm, zip-lining, kayaking, etc) 

My kids think that Zero Waste is a breeze. In their mind, Zero Waste is mainly my responsibility because I am the one that does the shopping for the household – Zero Waste really starts outside the home, with the decisions we make when shopping.

All that is expected of Max and Leo is to be mindful about the decisions that they make outside our home -for example refuse a party favor that they know is going to quickly break and clutter their room, or bring a plate to the local pizza parlor to buy a slice. That said they also know that if they accept a wrapped candy that someone hands out to them, we’re not going to be mad at them!

Be sure to check back tomorrow.  Bea will be giving great tips for creating a Zero Waste Home and we’ll be giving away five of her life-changing books!

For more information you can check out Bea’s blog, Instagram and Facebook.

Flood Reflection from Colorado Resident Robyn O’Brien

130913085212-lyon-colorado-flood-restricted-horizontal-galleryMy friend, Robyn O’Brien, who lives in Boulder Colorado raises some thought provoking questions when she shares her reflection on the impact the flood has had on her family and friends.  A beautiful piece.  You can read it here.

I must admit, I had not watched the news on this once, as it’s very difficult to see yet another catastrophe.  After reading Robyn’s blog, I finally brought myself to witness what’s been going on through these 20 photos CNN posted.  Let’s all pray, send healing thoughts, love, whatever it is that you do, to all those affected.  And as Robyn suggests, perhaps we should question, “Can we be smarter about this?”

The Healing Benefits of Palo Santo

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My girlfriend, Lacey Mackey of Natureal Mom, discovered the healing and spiritual purpose of Palo Santo on a recent stay in Ojai.  The sweet woodsy aroma alone was enough to lure me into purchasing some sticks to burn myself (you can get them here).  They’re also known to cure a hangover and ward off mosquitos.  Perhaps the perfect way to recalibrate for fall, you can read about all the beautiful benefits here.

The New Chipotle Ad is INCREDIBLE!

Whether you’re ordering the veggie burrito or steak, I think most of you will agree that over the years factory farming has become an incredibly cruel process that is both tragic for animals and our health.  Chipotle’s new, beautifully done ad cleverly depicts the manipulation of our current food labeling system.  “Natural” means nothing and the FDA continues to get heat for the lack of regulation.

To tout Chipotle a little further, a few months ago they announced plans to banish GMO foods from their restaurants, keeping with their mission statement of “food with integrity.”

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Taught?

Expressing oneself doesn’t come easily for many, myself included.  And the burdens of unprocessed emotions can take an incredible toll on the mind, body and spirit.  Furthermore, until processed they can prevent one from learning new concepts.

This post from The New York Times focuses on children, how to protect them and enhance their learning ability by teaching them the art of processing and expressing emotions.  While the article focuses on school programs (worth looking into for your kids school), you can apply some of these concepts at home with yourself and your children.

Robyn O’Brien’s TEDx Talk on Food Allergies and GMO’s

A former financial and food industry analyst, Robyn O’Brien is an author, public speaker, strategist and mother of four. She brings insight and detailed analysis to her research on the health of the American food system as documented in her first book, The Unhealthy Truth, and has been called “food’s Erin Brockovich” by the New York Times.

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