Could You Live a Zero Waste Life?

I am fascinated by the idea of producing zero waste in my home, but it seems like a pipe dream right? Not for this family. The Johnsons no longer take out the trash- they have none! And while you're probably already picturing a family of hippies weaving clothing from wheat, the Johnsons are anything but. As soon as I logged on to Bea Johnson's Zero Waste Home blog, her slogan struck an immediate chord with me. "Refuse, Refuse, Refuse. Then reduce, reuse and recycle (and only in that order)."

Refuse is right. How did we become such a junky society? Look around your house right now. How much of your stuff is actually valuable and serves a purpose? I've had to ask myself this question a lot over the last few weeks as I prepare for an international move. The answer for me? Not much. My family of three + two pets could easily move back into the 800 square foot loft that we use to occupy and lose no quality of life whatsoever. (Although the garage and yard are, admittedly, nice to have.)

Purging our home of the useless items and senseless clutter is liberating for sure, but the sense of weightless freedom and uncomplicated living will be short lived if we do not learn to REFUSE. Every day I am assaulted by trash. It seems that somebody everywhere is forcing their rubbish on me. In the mail. In the shops. In my daughter's pre-school. (This is the most heartbreaking, because to a 4 year old every creation is precious and my daughter is a prolific artist.)

The paper waste alone builds up so quickly. Even though it all goes into the recycling bin at our house, it's still such a waste of energy and resources that it often weighs me down. And then I begin to think about the things I cannot recycle. My mind follows the bags into the garbage truck, across the city, to a landfill, into the ground where it joins the millions of other bags of trash that were generated in just that one day by the citizens of this city. If I continue with this line of thinking much longer I give myself a panic attack.

Our national waste is mounting up as quickly as our debt, and these days that says a lot. It seems almost unsurmountable. But, ironically, the answer to the debt crisis is the same as that of our waste crisis, and Bea Johnson pinpoints it so eloquantly. Refuse. Refuse. Refuse. Stop creating the waste. Refuse to participate in this downward spiral.

While I'm eternally optimistic, I am also realistic. I know that at this moment in time a completely zero waste life is unachievable for 99% of society. However, imagine the impact if we could not only stop the bleeding, but reduce our production of waste by even 50%! I have a nagging suspicion that the positive effects would be felt by more than just the envrironment. Perhaps aspiring to a zero waste lifestyle would be just the catalyst society has been waiting for- an unlikely force for real and lasting change. After all, don't all of these problems (unsustainable debt, economic devestation, environmental pillaging, political unrest, waste) stem from the same human conditions of greed and apathy?

Take a quick peek at how the Johnsons transformed their household and their lives, and get inspired! If you wish to inspire others, share how you could or do reduce your household waste.