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Soul Talk: Zero Waste with Bea Johnson

Each German produces around 100 Kilograms of garbage a year. Each discounter disposes of around 45 kilograms of edible food every day. We don’t intend to preach a sermon, we all know that we have to change something. Especially in Berlin, a strong movement in a sustainable Lifestyle is emerging: Green Markets, Second Hand Clothes and refill, plastic-free Shops.
But what about the rest of the world? We met Be a Johnson. Bea and her family live in San Francisco and only dispose of one hand(!) of garbage a year. In the meantime she has already convinced thousands on Television, as a Speaker and published several books.
She and her method is unique! How can this work? We thought. She told us everything!

How came the idea to live without waste?

It is downsizing that triggered our rethinking. Our transformation was not overnight, but rather gradual. It took two years for us to go from living in a large home to choosing a more environmentally-friendly way of living. The first year, we moved into an apartment with only the necessities and stored the rest -that’s where we learned that living with less allowed us to live more. 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 ways for the sake of our kids future.

We’ve changed our way of living for the sake of our kids future. But as Jeffrey Hollender, CEO of Seventh Generation,said himself : “Zero Waste is the mother of environmental no‑brainers” – as quoted in The Story of Stuff. It has become evident that the Earth‘s resources cannot sustain our society’s consumption. Reducing Waste is important because it’s not only good for the environment (waste of resources going to landfills, which release toxic compounds in the air and the ground), it also greatly improves one’s standard of living! 

What my family does to generate only a one quart size jar of trash per year is not as difficult as it might seem. We simply follow a set of 5R’s IN ORDER, and we apply it to every aspect of our lifestyle and every room in our home. 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). 

Do you sometimes think your lifestyle is extreme or restrictive and try to give an example?

We’re not here to tell anyone how to live their lives, we’re just sharing how we live ours, and hope to inspire others).

We do not consider our lifestyle extreme because it has greatly improved our lives and we could never imagine going back to the way to used to.

We found that Zero Waste 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!  What I love most of the lifestyle is the simple life, and how much closer it has brought my family. Voluntary simplicity has changed our daily routine in these ways:  It has greatly simplified our cleaning. 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. It has even allowed us to travel more by being able to easily to rent our home when we’re gone (our minimalist wardrobes fit in carry-ons), which then funds vacation and family getaways!

Which advices would you give to live more sustainable? 

My advice would be to simply follow the 5 R’s that I mentioned before.
The first 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. 

What do you think of Beas’ method?

More about Bea Johnson and her Zero Waste Home

Diesen Artikel auf Deutsch lesen

Masha is the founder of Literaa Poetry and the better half of Pedro.
She likes to write columns and lifestyle topics and takes care of the editorial staff.
Read more about Masha here.

This interview was created for the bachelor thesis:
“Living without money? An alternative way to sustainability.” To see the whole online documentary (in German) check out here

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