By Kaitlyn Wang
Bea Johnson, founder of the Zero Waste lifestyle movement, owns 100 glass jars that she uses instead of plastic containers or bags. They hold anything from flour to dried fruit, from cosmetics to a year’s worth of waste.
At grocery stores, she buys food using glass jars or cloth bags, which she makes from pillowcases or other fabric. She also makes her own toothpaste, her own mascara, and her own shampoo – opting for natural, safer ingredients compared to the mysterious materials in usual store-bought items.
Starting her journey by documenting her lifestyle on a blog, Bea Johnson’s experiences have given rise to the bestselling book Zero Waste Home, a website, and talks around the world.
Johnson and others who practice a zero waste lifestyle can fit an entire year’s worth of trash into a single jar, Time reports, with most of the trash being stickers from produce. While the average American’s lifestyle results in 4.4 pounds of garbage every day, Johnson has a family of four, yet all the waste they produce in 365 days fills a quart-sized jar.
According to Johnson in a video for CCTV America, the five guidelines of a zero waste lifestyle are refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, and rot. She encourages people to refuse what they do not need, reduce what they do need, reuse by choosing more sustainable alternatives and by making secondhand purchases, recycle, and allow organic items to rot, or compost.
Despite of her family’s initial hesitations to adopt a zero waste lifestyle because they thought it would more expensive, Johnson proved that a zero waste lifestyle actually allows families to save money. Because of fewer purchases made and products created from scratch, people spend less of their paycheck.
For Johnson, a zero waste lifestyle resulted in a 40% reduction on all spending over the course of a year.
Mailyne, a mom who also practices a zero waste lifestyle, has noticed the benefits of eliminating almost all garbage as well. In a video, she describes how zero waste requires people to simplify their lives and consider the impact of the products they use. Although people do need to spend more time making products such as toothpaste, there is also the advantage of controlling and knowing what goes into a product.
If living completely zero waste seems like a daunting task, Mailyne suggests that people can strive to only use reusable water bottles and not use any plastic bags: these two choices alone can cut down on a large amount of waste.
Mailyne and others living zero waste recognize the unseen consequences of waste—consequences that people may be aware of but too often forget or disregard.
“We live in a world where everything is so disposable, and we do it without even thinking about it,” Mailyne said. “And just because we can’t see where it’s going or what that effect is doesn’t mean that we aren’t affected by it in a huge way.”