I didn’t anticipate my life would be simplified. A zero waste lifestyle looked hard to implement and complicated to follow. But by taking small steps, I'm making it a reality.
I first learned about the concept in 2011 when I read about Béa Johnson and her family’s zero waste home. I was enamored with their simple and spare home and was blown away by their ability to produce virtually no trash. I was already taking steps toward simple and sustainable living, but Béa inspired me to make further adaptations to create less waste.
My family is best described as having a low-waste home with continual progress toward zero waste. It hasn’t been a fast or always easy transition, but I’ve noticed with each change that my life is simplified. I spend less time shopping, my home is less cluttered and easier to clean, and I don’t have to work as hard to pay the bills. Thus, I’m healthier, happier, less stressed, and the planet is better off for it.
"Zero waste living is often focused on limiting the trash we haul to the curb each week, but attention should also be given to limiting our overall consumption of goods."
Zero waste living is often focused on limiting the trash we haul to the curb each week, but attention should also be given to limiting our overall consumption of goods. Béa Johnson coined 5 R’s to going zero waste: “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.”
For me, “refuse” means opting out of consumerism as a first choice. Before making a purchase, I ask these questions:
In addition to buying less, I’ve taken the following steps to reduce my waste:
For everyone who doubts their ability to live a zero waste lifestyle, my recommendation is to take it one change at a time. I do it for the earth, but I too reap the benefits. Lauren Singer from Trash is for Tossers, said it so well in her TED Talk, “I live a zero waste lifestyle because, to me it’s the best way I know how to live a life that aligns with everything I believe in.”
Julie Fathy lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband and three children. She writes about simple and sustainable living at The Beauty in Simple.