Book Review: Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

Posted on: 13 December 2022

An eye-opening book, however some of the recommendations and values are a little heavy handed, so I would recommend a healthy dose of self-moderation when reviewing the suggestions. There was definitely enough in here to spark my creativity and realign my compass as to how I live my life, and more pertinently, how I consume.

My main takeaway was: it’s not enough to simply be a stickler for recycling. Slimming down your general waste and increasing your recycled waste is one tiny facet to wasting less. Recycling is an energy intensive activity and one that does not guarantee reuse of the materials.

Reduce, reuse, recycle is a common idiom many are aware of. But the book elaborates on this mantra, adding two extra Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (in descending order of importance).

The biggest difficulty for me is in reducing the amount of packaging I take into my house. Plastic packaging is everywhere. You can try to make conscious decisions to buy the product not wrapped in plastic, but this is typically the more expensive option, and often not an option at all.

What I liked about the author Bea Johnson’s approach, particularly to the biggest “R”: Refuse, is her committed stance to saying no to all waste that may enter her life. She describes saying no as a “muscle that can be strengthened”. Bags, cups, business cards, promotional freebies, junk mail. Even refusing packaging at supermarkets; bringing her own containers or voting with her wallet, buying from a shop that will.

This is often inconvenient and at times downright awkward. But remaining true to her morals, she slowly builds up an immunity and a persona to outwardly live her values, and spread the message in every interaction. Once you’ve changed your approach to waste, the next big step is preventing other people bringing waste into your life.

Thriftiness when it comes to buying items, particularly clothes, is a big part of living sustainability and reducing waste. Buying second hand, ignoring fashion trends and buying good quality, lasting fabrics, lead to a more minimal and content existence. This dovetails perfectly into the minimalist lifestyle and values I try to live by.

Suffice to say, most of the tips for reducing waste has countless knock-on personal benefits too. Saving money being the big one. Improving the health of your family by saying no to harmless plastics and chemicals another.

The lengths a person must go to cut all waste is frankly impractical to the point of impossible in today’s society. Making your own yoghurt and cheese and shampoo and cutting out all packaged foods is several steps further than I’d be willing to go. But overall just being more meaningful about where and what you spend your money on is a powerful mental shift.

The author went viral when she shared the single jar of waste she’d produced in a year; a lofty goal, but one considerably out of reach for most. But that’s not the point of this book. The point is to become acutely aware of how waste flows in and out of your house. Making steps to reduce this will then begin to come naturally.