zero waste chicago

Who is Bea Johnson?

While most people involved in reducing their waste have heard of her, most of my friends and family who read this blog have no idea who Bea Johnson is.

Well, Bea Johnson, of Zero Waste Home, started the whole Fit-My-Entire-Family’s-Annual-Waste-in-A-Mason-Jar trend.

That’s right.

Her family of four can fit all the waste that they produce annually in one jar.

 

This is her family’s waste for 2017. Source: https://zerowastehome.com/about/bea/

The reason I am bringing her up is because I had the opportunity to hear her speak on Monday at the Shedd Aquarium thanks to an event put on by my buds over at Zero Waste Chicago.

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I have not been to the Shedd in ages, mostly because I am terrified of fish and only like free museums, but they are super involved in conservation through their Great Lakes Action Days and plastic waste reduction through their Shedd the Straw campaign.

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The evening started out with an action expo of numerous local organizations and businesses striving to reduce their waste. I knew most of the organizations in some way or another and got to see a lot of familiar faces.

I did get to pick up some low-waste powder laundry detergent from Meliora Cleaning Products, which I am super excited to test out. That’s a post for another day.

After the expo, we filed into the auditorium to hear Bea speak about living without waste.

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Bea’s journey to a zero waste lifestyle started in 2006 when her family first moved to be closer to town and it’s walkability. She outlined her failures with making her own cosmetics, shampoo, and even toilet paper.

She and her family follow the 5 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, & Rot, which I have posted about before.

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Her family refuses what they do not need and say no to single-use plastics, promotional freebies, junk mail, business cards, and more.

Then they reduce what they actually need. One thing that she said really struck me, “Once we pass our comfort level, anything beyond that becomes excess.” That is absolutely true. She has 4 kitchen cooking utensils, uses only white vinegar and Castille soap to clean, and her entire wardrobe can fit in a carry-on suitcase.

The family approaches reuse by swapping out disposables for reusable alternatives, which means glass jars for food, an old pillowcase for bread, and buying secondhand.  Everything they buy is from a thrift store or from E-Bay for super specific purchase you can’t easily find.

After that, they recycle what they cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse. Contrary to what people believe, living a zero-waste lifestyle encourages you to recycle less. Whatever is left is composted, or rot.

Overall,  Bea Johnson finds the best benefit of her lifestyle is the simplicity, which is something I can get behind. Although I understand and support her lifestyle, I know that for some people, it is just not attainable, which is totally fine.

You may never be able to fit a year’s worth of trash in a jar and that’s okay (I know I won’t). Every small step or implementation of one of the R’s is a step in the right direction.

 

 

I advise you to learn more about Bea and Zero Waste Home. It is really interesting. And with that, I leave you with these two pieces from Monday:

“When you live with less you have more time to do what is important to you.”

“It’s a life based on being instead of having.”

 

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Talking Trash: Garbology

You know you are nerdy when the current book you are reading is a book from the library on garbage.

garbology

But hey, whatever.

I am reading Garbology by Edward Humes as part of Zero Waste Chicago‘s BYO Books March Book Club, and so far it has been a bit challenging to get through.

“Americans make more trash than anyone else on the planet, throwing away about 7.1 pounds per person per day, 365 days a year. Across a lifetime that rate means, on average, we are each on track to generate 102 tons of trash.”

-Edward Humes, Garbology

It is an informative book for sure and definitely eye-opening, but I often have trouble reading (and watching) about things that are just so darn negative. It is why I haven’t watched Cowspiracy.

The best part of the book was finding another, more meaningful book.

Let me back up and explain.

I hang out with my grandma a lot and when I go over there, she tries to give me stuff. I love old things and usually take what she offers me (we have started a collection of old cookbooks from her now). A while ago, I was helping her clean out a room and we went through books that had been on a bookshelf for probably 40 or more years. I took a couple that sounded interesting and a few that just looked cool.

Fast forward.

As I was reading Garbology, Humes referenced a book from the 60’s called The Waste Makers.

“Vance Packard…wrote a prophetic follow-up in 1960 called The Waste Makers. In it, he accused his industry and marketing critics of sparking a crisis of excess and waste that would exhaust both nation and nature, until future Americans were forced by scarcity to ‘mine old forgotten garbage dumps’ to recover squandered resources.”

-Edward Humes, Garbology

I sat on the couch pondering this book he referenced. It sounded so familiar. So I got up, and I peered into our bookstand TV case.

Sure enough, The Waste Makers was stacked between Catching Fire and The Martian. It was one of the books I had taken from my grandmother’s.

tv stand with book

I immediately called her and asked about the book, curious about who was the original owner. Unfortunately, she couldn’t entirely remember, but we deduced that it was most likely my great grandfather’s, a German immigrant who was adamant about planting trees.

The Wast Makers

I can’t wait to read this book that my great grandfather read. Even though it is 58 years old it is absolutely ahead of its time and scarily accurate.

“Wastefulness has become a part of the American way of life. [The people of the United States]…must be induced to step up their individual consumption higher and higher, whether they have any pressing needs for the goods or not. Their ever-expanding economy demands it.”

-Vance Packard, The Waste Makers

Beach Clean up with Zero Waste Chicago

Cool things are happening in Chicago, and the creation of Zero Waste Chicago is one of them.

They host monthly events and this month they asked me to lead a beach clean up since I am an Adopt-A-Beach Team Leader. (Check out my other clean up posts here, here, here, and here.)

We headed down to 31st Street Beach, a beach I have not been to or cleaned up before.

31st street beach

For a Tuesday night, it sure was hopping. Families were out barbequing and kids were splashing in the water, trying to squeeze the last few days of summer before back to school.

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A great crew of volunteers showed up and spread out all over the beach armed with bags and litter monitoring surveys.

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Overall, we collected 35.66 lbs of trash, recycling, and compost!

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Some highlights:

  • 609 cigarette butts
  • 221 food wrappers
  • 200 pieces of plastic
  • 135 metal bottle caps
  • 110 pieces of foam
  • 94 pieces of glass
  • 69 balloons
  • 56 pieces of paper
  • 54 plastic bags
  • 46 straws
  • 18 band-aids
  • 7 hair ties
  • 1 razor
  • 1 tampon
  • 1 condom