By Joyce Reyes-Aguila
Have you heard of Bea Johnson? A few years ago, she shared her family’s journey to simplify life by reducing their waste. According to Johnson’s bestselling book “Zero Waste Home” her family only produces a quart of garbage annually. In doing so, they have decreased their yearly spending by 40 percent and said that “their overall quality of life has changed for the better.”
Johnson gives tips on how to drastically reduce a home’s waste output. To some, it may be an idealistic, almost impossible, to-do. But the reality of climate change and its detrimental effects to our way of life have pushed many to change to a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. To those not convinced, the World Bank reported that as of 2012, the world’s cities generated 1.3 billion tons of solid waste per year. This means that each individual is responsible for 1.2 kilograms of trash a day.
Reducing our household’s contribution to the amount of waste being dumped to different facilities positively impacts the environment. This is why many homes are changing their perspective on household waste, and aspire to be zero-waste households. This means immensely decreasing the amount of trash produced by practicing new ways, such as Johnson’s five Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. Want to start on a journey to have a waste-free home? Here are some tips to get you started.
Johnson’s five Rs.
On her website, zerowastehome.com, the author’s zero-waste approach pillars are provided: “Refuse what you do not need, reduce what you do need, reuse what you consume, recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse, and rot (compost) the rest.”You may already be practicing some of these by employing reusable bags when you do your grocery, recycling paper and plastic bottles, and having reusable drinking bottles for water or coffee when you leave your home.
Know what you do not need.
This includes the special, free drink holder when you takeout milk tea; real estate flyers you cannot say “no” to at the mall every weekend, and freebies or samples of items you know for certain will never be useful to you. Their purpose can last 30 to zero minutes yet they enter your home and become part of the waste you will produce in the future. The best way to reduce trash is not even let it become of your home. Use your hands and hold that drink (that’s hopefully not in a plastic cup – bring your tumbler); smile and thank the agents and promo personnel at the mall.
Learn to replace.
Johnson’s household has a long list of items they no longer use and therefore, need not buy. They have found reusable alternatives, like opting to use reusable rags or old cloths instead of paper towels. Instead of buying cleaning products, they use baking soda for scrubbing jobs, vinegar for mildew, and castile soap on floor and sinks. There’s no need to buy cleaning tools if you have a wooden brush for light scrubbing; used toothbrush for hard-to-reach places; and rags for floors, mirrors, and surfaces.
Know these beauty remedies.
Johnson’s site provides tips that can help us lessen the number of products we have to buy for self-care. Some of her tips include foregoing conditioner and using the same soap you use for your face and body to wash your hair. In place of hairspray, switch to lemon water in a spray bottle by mixing sliced lemons, water, and rum or vodka (recipe on her site). She suggests using bulk baking soda to exfoliate, using cocoa powder as bronzer, and making homemade products like balm and toothpaste.
Renew your old ways.
The next time you host at home, do not include paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, or straws in your grocery list. It will make your job of cleaning after the celebration easier but will increase the amount of trash your home will produce! Take out your beautiful napkins in place of paper napkins. At the grocery, buy in bulk. Sachets of beauty and cleaning products find their way to the ocean (and inside the stomach of marine animals or even birds). Johnson suggests bringing bottles when you buy fish, meat, or cheese so you do not go home with the non-reusable packaging they offer. Do not be restricted by feeling you may be becoming a difficult customer. You are not alone in your efforts to reduce this planet’s waste!
Staying committed when you go out.
Aside from your tumblers, bring reusable containers when you eat out. Imagine the amount of plastic containers that your home throws out every month because you have too much or they easily break. Bring a handkerchief instead of tissue. Refuse the tiny paper bag they give you when you buy some medicine or glue. You will surely throw it away when you get home! Go paperless with your bills. And when you travel, bring a scarf or sweater to avoid unnecessary purchases of coats. You have a ton at home! And borrow nicely from relatives or friends instead of buying items you really do not use year-round like gloves, and ear muffs.