Book Review – Zero Waste Home

Yesterday I was driving behind a van that had one of those stick figure families on the rear window. The father was golfing, the kids were doing ballet and soccer and the mother was shopping. Unless she is a professional shopper, I can’t imagine why she would want her character portrayed with shopping bags.

I had just finished reading Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and the thought of shopping as hobby is the absolute antithesis of the Zero Waste Movement, which Johnson adheres to.

While I often talk about consuming less and simplifying, I felt like a complete planet-destroyer after reading the book. I agree that it’s important for us to tread gently on the planet; however, some of the solutions she proposes will seem absolutely bizarre to many people. Purchasing used clothes at thrift or consignment shops? Sure. Unraveling silk thread from a used shirt, to use as dental floss? Not so much. In her description of how her family has been successful, she appears overzealous and patronizing instead of encouraging.

Johnson claims that her family creates less than a gallon of garbage a year. They achieve that feat by refusing packaging, reusing objects, recycling when necessary and composting. Most people will not be able (or willing) to reduce their trash so drastically; however, there may be some steps you can take to reduce your footprint.

In The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, Amy Korst takes a more accessible approach to reducing garbage. [Full disclosure: I had this book on hold at the library and grabbed Johnson’s book off the shelf, thinking they were written by the same person.] Korst’s project started as a one-year experiment, which she and her husband decided to continue. She also is more realistic about the challenges of living without producing trash.

Although trying to eliminate all the packaging in your life may not be practical, the first step you can take is to refuse things you don’t need. Don’t pick up paper you won’t read – sure, it can be recycled, but why waste the resources? Don’t accept free samples of things you won’t use – they’ll end up getting trashed. Finally, don’t take home things you don’t need, like pens from a trade show.

I never really thought about where the toilet paper goes after it leaves my home’s pipes. Now that I’ve been made aware, though, I cannot see myself forgoing toilet paper.

Do you live a zero-waste life? What can you do to create a little less trash?

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