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Beyond the reusable water bottle

Book Review – 'Zero Waste Home' by Bea Johnson

Zero Waste Home. Well that sounds impossible. How, in this modern age, could anyone produce absolutely zero waste? It’s completely unfeasible to live life without plastic food packaging or bottled cleaning products… right?

Whilst I was already using a reusable metal water bottle and dutifully took my own bags to the supermarket each week, I knew that it wasn’t enough. In search of ways to up the ante on my environmental efforts, I picked up a copy of Bea Johnson’s book Zero Waste Home at the local library. In her book, Bea tells the story of her family’s transformation from living the supersized American Dream to a simple zero-waste lifestyle (yes, really). But her book is far from just an inspirational autobiography. It is a comprehensive, practical how-to guide for transitioning to zero-waste. The book is broken down into areas of the house and aspects of life so that it covers everything from doing the grocery shopping to celebrating Christmas. Within each she then goes through her “five R’s” – refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot. And in that order. I’d always been used to the mantra “reduce, reuse, recycle” but I was only just beginning to realise that my real focus should be on the prevention of waste in the first place. The book brought to light the environmental impacts of things I’d not given much thought to previously. For instance, my staples have been switched for reusable paper clips and I look forward to switching wrapping paper for cloth and experimenting with wrapping gifts using the Japanese Furoshiki technique. It was eye-opening to be shown just how much more I have in my power to do.

At times, it can seem overwhelming with all the changes you realise you can implement and acknowledging that zero-waste is still a long way off. You may even think it would be too time-consuming or costly. Bea takes a balanced approach and addresses these concerns about money, time, waste seemingly outside your control and not feeling like this lifestyle is depriving. She points out that she did not become zero-waste overnight; it’s a process and introducing small changes gradually is what will make this lifestyle most sustainable. So, while I’m not quite ready for making my own mascara (one of the many recipes in the book), I have challenged myself to practise Navy showers (turning off the water whilst lathering products) and have resurrected the handkerchief.

Zero Waste Home is an inspiring and empowering read that I would recommend to all searching for ways to be more environmentally friendly on a daily basis. Although it is probably most relevant to home-owners, there are still ample suggestions that can be applied at any stage of life. I’m sure I will continue to refer to this book as I take my small steps towards that impressive zero-waste goal.

Rachel Swiatek, Community Champion




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