It’s fair to say that the zero waste movement became popularised because of one woman’s mission, alongside her family, to waste less and live more: say hello to Bea Johnson everybody! Last week I had the privilege of hearing Bea tell her zero waste story from Durban’s sunny botanical gardens, and have some tales to share with you as a result.
It’s fair to say that the image our mind conjures when we think of a zero-waste-environmental type is one of a colourfully dressed, dreadlocked hippy. Bea is most certainly not that. She’s a French gal living with her American man and two kids in California, dressed to the nines (from her 15 piece wardrobe) and living to the full – and producing one jar full of waste a year as she does so.
Bea describes her family’s journey to zero waste as a natural one after educating themselves on the issues we face in our future through films like In Defence of Food, Home or Cradle to Cradle. It really was a journey too, one that started by watching (and cutting) their energy consumption and their water consumption before finally, their waste consumption. After all, ‘if zero waste isn’t the goal, what is the goal? Producing a little bit of waste? Medium waste?’
After a whole LOT of experimenting and fails (including using moss for toilet paper…) Bea and her family have managed to condense the waste they produce in one year to fit in one jar. Yep.
To move towards a life of wasting less and living more, Bea’s tips for zero waste living can be most basically summarised in two points:
1. Just say no and get rid of what you don’t need
No to conference freebies, to one-use objects etc. Accepting these things creates the story that we need more- if we stop the demand we stop the creation
2. Reduce what you do need
Once we have reached a certain comfort level everything else becomes excess. ‘Why have ten wooden spoons when we only have two hands?’ Another classic example is how most of us only wear 20% of what is in our wardrobe, the other 80% is for ‘what if occasions’
More specifically, this looks like making your own beauty products and cleaning products, creating a capsule wardrobe and buying secondhand. Making tissues out of old bed sheets, packing lunches in cloth and buying from brands with lifetime guarantees (as just a few examples).
The benefits Bea and her family have seen in their lives as a result have been huge. They are healthier and have seen persistent illnesses disappear as they have gotten rid of toxic products from their home by making their own zero waste alternatives. Their finances have improved having made savings of 40% by not buying what they don’t need. Most importantly – they have crafted a simple life based on experiences not things. On being instead of having.
You can’t say fairer than that.
For more in depth tips on reducing waste in your life visit Bea’s website and join her community. Litterless, who has featured once or twice on the Foraged Life, is also one of my favourite go-to’s for all things zero waste so make sure you visit her too.