After 15 months of living Near-O Waste, I finally read Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson, and can now confirm that everything I’ve heard is true. She really is the all-knowing goddess of Zero Waste.
But that doesn’t mean I agree with all of her ideas…
Occasionally peeing on the compost pile? I’ll stick to the toilet, thank you very much, even if urine is supposed to benefit my rotting scraps. (This idea did amuse my boys, however. I guess I won’t be surprised if I catch them doing it!)
Making seven types of makeup from scratch, some requiring you to burn almonds and grind their ashes? My zero waste (and zero-time) alternative to makeup was to just stop wearing it, aside from the occasional application of a cornstarch/cocoa/cinnamon powder that I adapted from this “natural foundation” recipe.
A laundry hamper in every room of the house? I have opted for no laundry hamper at all, and the results have been amazing. Our dirty clothes go straight into the washer, I run it when it’s full, and put them away (ASAP) when they’re dry. We never have a pile of dirty clothes (and our socks don’t lose their partners). This method is possible because we mix all of our clothes together and don’t have any whites or delicates. (Once a week, I run a separate load of cleaning rags, rugs, the shower curtain, and the dog blanket.)
Buying packaged butter??? It’s one of the easiest things to make! Granted, I don’t use it very much (just for rice, cheese sauce, popcorn, and to grease the griddle for pancakes), so it’s not too time or cash intensive for me.
On the flip-side, Bea did inspire me to:
Get rid of more kitchen tools (garlic press, zester, salad spinner, and salad tongs)
Eventually replace my solid-color cloth napkins with (hopefully organic!) prints because they are, indeed, starting to show stains.
Buy surgical paper tape instead of Band-Aids when we run out of them.
Make my own liquid soap (using grated bar soap and water) for the sink dispenser.
Continue simplifying my routine and chores
Invest in some sustainable school supplies like refillable whiteboard markers and pencils made of newspaper.
I did get a little nervous when I turned to the wardrobe chapter because I had just finished revamping my own. I could have bought more secondhand items, for sure (which she says are the “greenest”) but at least my new pieces were built to last, which will minimize future shopping trips. And even with light-footprint-thrift-store-shopping, most of the clothes probably still contain plastic, which I don’t care to wear.
Overall, this book is an amazing resource (so amazing that I bought the e-book, for future reference, after I returned my library copy). It’s a must read no matter where you are on your path to Zero (or rather Near-O) Waste. No matter how unattainable you think the lifestyle is, no matter how much of an expert you think you are… pick up a copy at your library or online. Drinking wine as you read doesn’t hurt (bonus points if it’s from a flip-top refillable bottle: Santa Cruz folks, get yours at Sones).
Just be careful not to spill…