Minimalism

Could You Live A Zero Waste Life?

About a year ago, I read a book that opened my eyes to something completely new and thoroughly captivating: a lifestyle of producing zero waste. Bea Johnson, author of The Zero Waste Home, has produced only a mason jar’s worth of trash in the last year – and that’s including all of the trash for her family of four.

The Zero Waste Home: How one woman and her family fit a year's worth of trash in a mason jar (and 6 ways you can reduce your own waste!)

Ever since reading this book, I’ve been trying to find ways to reduce the amount of stuff I use and get rid of, as I’ve learned that being eco-friendly is more than just recycling and carpooling to work.

Reducing your waste not only helps the planet, it has health, financial, and time-saving benefits.

Whether you think this idea is intriguing or completely unachievable, I wanted to share a little bit about the book and the ways we can try to incorporate zero waste into our lifestyles.

How is zero waste possible?

Living With Less: The Zero Waste Home
Bea lives a zero waste lifestyle by following the 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot.

Refuse.

Refuse what you don’t need, such as single-use plastics, freebies (anyone else have way too many hotel pens?), junk mail, plastic bags, etc. This way you won’t accumulate ‘stuff’ that you didn’t really want in the first place.

Reduce.

Reduce what you already use, like packaging, products, your car, technology, and reduce the quantities of things you buy.

Reuse.

Shop with non-plastic bags, rent out your car or house (think Airbnb style), buy used, buy smart (durable, rechargeable), and extend the life of what you already own by repairing it or using it in new ways.

Recycle.

Because recycling uses a lot of energy to recycle and it’s confusing to know what can be recycled and what can’t (this Portlandia clip is so spot on), Bea says you should look at labels before you buy anything to make sure it can easily be recycled or reused before purchasing.

Rot.

Aka composting. Instead of throwing away food scraps, you can compost your food waste, turn it into soil, and use it to grow new things. It’s nature’s way of recycling!

Why is this important?

Living With Less: The Zero Waste HomeThe average American throws away 4.4 lbs a day, adding up to 1,600 lbs per year (source). It’s not surprising considering just how much packaging and non-recyclable materials we encounter every day: napkins and straws at your morning coffee shop, plastic water bottles and utensils at a work meeting, wrappers from your afternoon snack, and the disposable makeup wipes, razor, and that bottle of lotion you used up in the evening.

It’s a bit overwhelming to think of how much stuff we get rid of. Since we don’t have to deal with trash for more than a week before the garbage man comes, we never get to see the accumulation of the things we throw away. But we all know it goes somewhere and that ain’t a pretty place.

P.S. Did you know it takes 450 years for a disposable diaper to decompose? Whaaaat.

I think if I can contribute in any way to reduce the amount of waste I produce, I’m going to try. While I’m not ready to ‘zero waste it’, I am prepared to ‘less waste it’. The more I pay attention to how much I throw away, the more shocked I am that I didn’t notice before.

All it takes is little more awareness of your own actions and some preparation ahead of time to reduce your waste.

6 Simple Ways To Reduce Your Waste

The Zero Waste Home: How one woman and her family fit a year's worth of trash in a mason jar (and 6 ways you can reduce your own waste!)

Zero waste is a bit extreme for most people, but making an effort to reduce at least some things is so much better than continuing to throw away 4.4 lbs of stuff every day. Here are 6 simple ways you can reduce your waste during the day:

1. Java The Cup. Bring your own cup to your coffee shop. They’ll probably even give you a discount!

2. Bulk Up. Get nuts, grains, and spices from the bulk aisle of your grocery store, and bring a reusable baggy or mason jar instead of using the plastic bags they provide.

3. Get Fresh. Buy produce from a market or grocery store that doesn’t wrap it in plastic. Bring your own produce bag.

4. Unsubscribe. Get rid of that junk mail once and for all here.

5.  BYOB. Try to always carry a reusable tote with you when shopping, and opt for an email receipt if possible.

6. Go Vintage. Buy second hand items as much as you can. Poshmark is a great app for finding used clothing.

What do you guys think? Is it too Portlandia for you or are you inspired to reduce your waste?

Photo: Cincono

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Tags : minimalism
Catherine Beard
Hi, I'm Catherine! The Blissful Mind is your guide to being the calmest, healthiest, most productive version of yourself. Whether you're trying to slow down, de-stress, or feel more content, I’m here to help make life a little less complicated.
  • i just watched a video today about a girl who has only produced one mason jar full of trash in the past four years! it’s crazy! not something i was thinking about before– but definitely something that requires our attention!

    xx nikki

    http://www.dream-in-neon.com

    • That’s so amazing! Was it the girl from Trash is for Tossers? I think it’s so cool that people can do that – it takes some serious dedication!

  • Great post! I really need to remember to pack my grocery bag in my purse. I always seem to end up at stores without them. :(

    Connie | Sponsored by Coffee | Bloglovin’

  • Tiny House Tiny

    Hi! If you want to interview me for your blog, feel free to reach out! tinyhousetinyfootprint.com. Believe we’re following each other on the social media and all that :)

  • Love this post, Catherine! Your blog is so beautiful and has some great posts!

  • Fantastic post! We already recycle as much as possible and rot on our veg plot but I’m still guilty of using plastic bags and really need to remember to be more prepared with my own bag all the time.

    • I know, it’s so easy to forget! I try to just keep my reusable bags in the trunk of my car now.

  • Just found your blog, and I’m loving it! I lead a zero waste life style. Great write up about it! :)

    • Thank you, Kathryn! I’m off to check out your blog now :D

  • Loved this intro – it lays everything out really nicely and makes reducing waste seem achievable to anyone! I haven’t regretted anything I’ve refused or reused – I’ve found durable, reusable items so much more pleasing to use than their disposable counterparts, too (from cloth diapers and reusable “un paper” towels to non-plastic cleaning brushes and my plastic-free water filtration system.)

    Cheers!
    Meredith

    p.s. I’m attempting a zero waste home in 2016 (with my husband and one year old daughter!) – http://MeredithTested.wordpress.com

    • Hey, Meredith! That’s so awesome that you’re trying it this year! I can’t say that I’m zero-waster myself, but I think even just having this knowledge in the back of your head can help you make better decisions when it comes to what you buy and use.

  • I’ve been living this way for almost 1½ years now and I love it! It really takes a lot of work (and time) to get the results of Bea, but it’s so worth it. Right now, I produce one Mason jar of trash every month, and sometimes I can fit 2 months in it, and it keeps reducing. :)

  • I’m loving getting into zero waste! Shopping bags are a no brainer, and as I work at Starbucks I’ve started using our mugs and glasses instead of plastic cups. I’ve also gotten into buying secondhand furniture instead of new stuff! When we move I plan on starting to compost. There’s a lot to tackle but I love that we can do small things in steps!

    • Furniture is a big one (literally haha). So many people buy cheap stuff from IKEA and then just end up throwing it away when they don’t need it anymore. My mom is really good at upholstering secondhand furniture, so maybe I should learn some of her ways lol.

  • This is so perfectly timed! I’ve been experimenting with zero waste on and off these past few years and I’ve just recently decided that when I return to Australia next month I really want to step up my commitment! Maybe I can use you as an accountability partner haha :)

    One really great blog that has been inspiring me lately is http://www.litterless.co – definitely check it out (it’s a beautiful blog, well written with really simple but practical ideas.) I’m also really inspired by http://myplasticfreelife.com – I first came across it 5ish years ago and there are so many ideas and resources!

    • You can totally use me as an accountability partner! Haha. I definitely need the reminder sometimes. I’m going to check out those blogs now! xx