This is your new goal! Cindy's blog Oct. 26 2107

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Think of the trash you and your family throw out every week? Are you proud that you may not fill the bin or that you use a small size vs your neighbours large bin? This blog is to make you think about what is in your garbage. Did you think about how much of the product will be disposed of before you bought it? Did you consider whether or not it could be composted or reused before tossing it in the trash? For one family, who have a zero waste home, not producing any trash is a way of life.


Imagine, producing only a jar’s worth of trash every year. To many, that seems an out-of-reach goal.But for Bea Johnson and her family of four, fitting all 365 days’ worth of garbage into a single glass jar is simply the end result of having a zero-waste home. The above photo is all of the garbage Bea’s family produced in one year!!

“It’s a life based on experiences instead of things,” said Johnson. “By going zero-waste, you make room in your life for what matters most to you.”

The path to waste-free living started in 2008, when Johnson and her family moved into an apartment while waiting for the right family home to become available in downtown San Francisco. They put 80 per cent of their belongings in storage and found, at the end of their apartment stay, they didn’t need them or miss them. So, Johnson says, they let go of their excess stuff and embarked on their zero-waste lifestyle.

The following are excerpts from an interview done by Megan Ogilvie of  the Toronto Star about Johnson’s zero-waste lifestyle.

 You sealed your most recent annual jar of trash on Oct. 15. You have it nearby; can you describe some of its contents?

Every year, we have the bristles of our toothbrushes. We buy compostable toothbrushes, but the bristles are not compostable. I see some photo paper — it’s not recyclable — because my husband recently went through his memory box and let some photos go. I have caulking from the back of our sink that we replaced because it gets mouldy over time. Every year, we have fruit and veggie stickers. We can eliminate those if we shop at a farmers market, but sometimes we can’t go. We also have the foam pad of my son’s earphones, the gasket of a jar. Every year, we have the backing from our licence plate sticker, which is not recyclable; the backing of every sticker goes into the jar.

And for everything else that you no longer need in your life, you are able to use your five Rs — Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot — rather than relegate those items to the trash. All the Rs must be used together, but is there one that’s most important for a zero-waste lifestyle?

What’s very important is to follow them in order. The more you refuse, the less you have to reduce, the more you reduce, the less you have to reuse, etc. For us, zero-waste lifestyle is not all about recycling or composting, though that’s important. It’s actually about preventing waste from coming into our home in the first place. The first thing you can do to adopt a zero-waste lifestyle is to simply learn to say no. Today, in this consumerist society, we are the targets of many things. Every time we accept them, we are creating a demand to create more. By refusing these things, not only do we stop the demand for more to be created, but also we stop them from coming into your home and creating a trash problem.

You’ve spoken all over the world and you insist that almost anybody can do this. But I’m sure not everyone is convinced. What is the most common protest you hear from skeptics and what is your advice to overcome it?

There are a lot of misconceptions associated with this lifestyle. Ten years ago, if I had heard about a zero-waste family, I would have thought these people must be hippies, living in the woods, that this must be a stay-at-home mom with way too much time on her hands. This is not at all the truth. People also think this will cost a lot more and take too much time. But what we have found is the zero-waste lifestyle creates the opposite. It’s not just good for the environment, it’s also good for our health because we’ve been able to eliminate all toxic products from our life; we clean with white vinegar, on my face I use food items. This lifestyle is also saving us a huge amount of money. My husband made the calculation and found we are saving 40 per cent on our overall budget. More importantly, we found it has been saving us a huge amount of time.

I can understand how adults can get behind this. What about your kids, do they find it more difficult to be zero-waste than you or your husband?

My kids do not even notice. Kids actually have very simple needs. It’s the parents that complicate those needs. It’s the parents who consume for the household, who have the choice to either not consume or consume differently by buying food unpackaged or buying the necessities second-hand. Growing up zero-waste is like growing up with a certain diet or certain religion; you don’t question it, you take it for granted. You might only question it when you become an adult and you have to make those decisions yourself.

So much of this goal is tied up with geography and opportunity. Here in Toronto, for example, there are food deserts, where people are forced to do the bulk of their shopping at convenience stores. Or in some parts of rural Ontario, recycling is limited. What are people who live in these places to do?

If you think about the five Rs, they are applicable anywhere in the world. Zero-waste is not just about buying your food unpackaged. It’s about learning to say no to the things you don’t need. Anywhere in the world you can say no to the things that are handed out to you. The second rule is to reduce what you actually need. Of course, we need a roof over our head, a few pieces of furniture and some clothing. But it’s important to learn to let go; to let go of the things you don’t fully use or need to make them available to others. You can do that anywhere in the world. The third rule is to reuse.

For most of you a zero waste life style is not feasible but keep the picture of that jar in your head as you purchase, consume and toss and maybe it will be an inspiration to lessen your impact on the environment.