I am late to the party – most of you will have already read this book, or have an opinion about it. I originally approached this book without much enthusiasm because I thought the author would be a zealot. I have to laugh at myself. What did I expect from a book called Zero Waste Home? Obviously she wasn’t going to do anything in half measures! And the world needs some zealots to inspire us. So I read on.
Believe it or not, I found the author to be on the far side of moderate, but not “holier-than-thou.” So if you have avoided reading the book in case it makes you feel guilty, you should know about Bea Johnson:
- She travels regularly from the US to France
- She attended fashion school but doesn’t make her own clothes
- Her kids have video games at home because they were spending too much time at their friends’ houses otherwise!
- They buy a few personal products like toilet paper and sunscreen
- They buy a few over-the-counter meds
- She got rid of her kefir because it was too high-maintenance
- She thinks having 24 wine glasses is about right!
On the other hand, there were some parts of her life I couldn’t relate to. The author was an upscale stay-at-home mom for a few years before voluntarily downsizing. She now makes a living from her blog, the book, and a zero-waste consulting business (which requires a lot of travel). So in my world, her lifestyle would not be called typical. She lives in the San Francisco area where her family doesn’t need the level of home heating or 4-season wardrobes that I do. Her own wardrobe contains only about 25 items.
I wouldn’t say this is a criticism. My “lifestyle” is so specific that I don’t expect to find authors who live or think like I do!
It would be a good learning experience to use some of the techniques in the book, like clothes shopping at thrift stores just twice a year, from a list. I also thought some of the everyday tips were good, such as bringing a set of cutlery and a cloth napkin with you to a restaurant that might have disposables. Those things would easily fit in my big purse – I could even take a reusable container for leftovers.
About 2 years ago, before I started this blog, I made my own list of enviro-friendly tips. I realized there was a lot more I could do, and I tried to decide: What is reasonable? What is excessive? That line is different for everyone.
For example, I don’t line-dry my clothes. I am out of the house from 8-6, and it’s currently dark at 9 (5 in the winter). The air is extremely humid and we get a lot of rain. I’ve hand-washed sweaters that have taken 4 days to dry indoors. One even went mouldy before it dried! To be effective at hanging laundry, I’d need to save it all for sunny Saturdays, of which we get maybe one a month. So I am a fan of the clothes dryer.
On the other hand, we make almost of our meals from scratch and don’t care how long it takes! It’s all about personal preference and local conditions.
I actually found this book really inspiring and not at all OTT! In fact, it was very soft-core compared to No Impact Man by Colin Beavan and Plastic Free by Beth Terry.
Have you read Zero Waste Home? How far is too far (for you) with enviro tips?
I decided to read this book for myself after reading Lois’s review here.