Where there is a will there is a way

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Zero trash family lives without clutter, excess

Contents of this blog posting is the article posted at http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2011/01/zero-trash-home-mill-valley/1?loc=interstitialskip

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How much could you live without? In upscale Mill Valley, Calif., a family of four lives in a stylish home with modern amenities but with only a tiny bit of something else: trash. It throws away only a few HANDFULS of non-recyclable waste each year.

The Johnson family doesn't buy and keep unnecessary stuff, and most of what it purchases has either recyclable wrapping or no packaging at all. They take their own jars and containers as well as canvas totes to grocery stores and farmers' markets.

"The less I have, the richer I feel. Stuff weighs you down," Bea Johnson tells Sunset magazine in its January edition. "When we started getting rid of things, it was kind of addictive," she continues. "In a recession, people are inclined to keep things, but I feel the opposite."

Bea and Scott Johnson are among a growing number of Americans trying to lighten their landfill load in a country where the average person generates 4.5 pounds of trash each day. Another example is Amy and Adam Korst, a young married Oregon couple that lived almost entirely trash-free for a year. "It was actually a lot easier than we expected," Amy Korst told Green House.

"There's a huge amount of grass-roots efforts to change how we live," sasys Colin Beavan, who launched the No Impact Project after his family spent a year trying to live without using any power or generating any trash in Manhattan. He wrote a book about it.

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The Johnsons started their quest three years ago when they downsized from a 3,000-square-foot home to their current 1,400 square feet, reports Sunset. Béa Johnson said a neighbor called their uncluttered home "futuristic and alien-like" and, peering into closets, asked: "Where's all your stuff?" She offers tips for living simply on her blog, and here are a few as excerpted from Sunset:

•The Johnsons go to the grocery store with their own jars and buy bulk snacks and other pantry supplies. "Some of the kids' friends came over recently and said, 'You have no food here,' " says Béa. "They didn't recognize this as food since there weren't any boxes."

•The family shops with glass jars, fabric bags, and canvas totes, and returns containers for a deposit. Even cheese and meat go in jars. Cheese is purchased when it is cut, to avoid plastic wrap.

•Clean up is done with microfiber cloths. "People are really attached to paper towels," Béa says. "But they're the easiest thing to give up."

•In the playroom there are four bins of toys. The rule is simple: If the boys want something new to them, it needs to fit in the bins.

•One medicine cabinet in the bathroom holds toiletries for the entire family... Béa uses only four beauty products: face powder, eye cream, mascara, and eyeliner....The family uses no Q-tips, cotton balls, or tissue (handkerchiefs sub in here). Toilet paper rolls come wrapped in paper, not plastic.

•The house closets are enviable for their lack of clutter. Shopping is done only twice a year at a thrift store and replaces items that are stained, worn, or outgrown.... Everyone has a set number of items. For example, Béa caps out at 6 pairs of shoes, 7 tops, 7 pants, and 2 skirts (1 also wearable as a top).

CAPTION: Bea Johnson cooks every day, but their kitchen in Mill Valley, California, looks uncluttered. She keeps only utensils and equipment she uses frequently. Photo by Thomas J. Story/Sunset

CAPTION: Bea and Scott Johnson, along with their two sons, live so simply in upscale Mill Valley, Calif., that their 1,400 square-foot home is uncluttered as is their nearly-empty garage. Photo by Thomas J. Story/ SunsetCAPTION: Amy and Adam Korst, who began a one-year experiment to live trash free on July 6, 2009, have only a few unrecycled scraps in a box one month into their Green Garbage Project. Photo by Adam Korst CAPTION: Bea Johnson brings her own glass jars and other containers and fills them with bulk foods at the grocery store. Photo by Thomas J. Story/Sunset

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See Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Tips

See a video of Bea Johnson and her beautiful zero waste home.


Judy said...

The Johnson's live in a home worth millions of dollars in Mill Valley. It's also rich people telling the rest of the world how to live.

April 18, 2011 9:53 AM

Nonavee Dale said...

Hi Judy,

I appreciate your comment. I honestly feel though, that having money doesn't mean that the message of Bea Johnson's zero waste lifestyle is in any way negated. The first people that learned developed writing, for example, only were able to do so because they were supported to do so (because of farming, for the first time we had extra food to sit around and do other things).

Whether you have more or less money, you can live a life that creates less waste. It's just a matter of awareness. Yes, Bea has made it into an art, she makes her own toothpaste, and could even be called an expert in the amount of research (and the living experiment) she carries out. I am glad she is there as an example, and to ask questions to. But the ordinary, busy, stressed person can do alot without doing all of those things. You can avoid buying cheap plastic toys that break after a few uses, and save up for fewer long-lasting ones for example. Avoiding plastic bags by using cloth ones anyone can do. Living off a vegetable garden, composting veggie scraps, these are all things that people needing to save money would benefit greatly from as well.

The fact is, economy and our environment are linked. Bea has had time to figure out how to live zero waste to the greatest - for lack of a better word - fanciness, to be an example to other rich people, who are extremely wasteful, where she lives, showing that you don't have to be a "dirty hippie" to protect the Earth. But saving resources and not being wasteful have their greatest inspiration from having little money - trust me, I have personal experience!

I personally think that what is offensive and causes anger in people would be the possibility that if we don't change how we live - and change at first isn't easy - we are not being "good", and we don't like that. But if you do things you are proud of, you can truly feel great deep down, and I think that's what she talks about. But it's not that people are trying to be "bad" or destructive, as I am sure you'll agree. It's not even our personal fault our society chose to go down this path. But as the younger generation, we have to do all we can to survive in the future - despite it being unfair - we can realize the mistakes of our parents and live differently. And we have a duty to.