A life without garbage

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This article is also available in norwegian here.

Bea Johnson has since 2008 lived a life where the goal has been to produce no garbage at all. She is living the so-called Zero Waste Home lifestyle.

She has a blog, a bestselling book called Zero Waste Home, and she has become an official spokesperson for their lifestyle. She has inspired thousands of people around the world to change their lives, namely to renounce everything that can become garbage. Johnson is currently guiding others who wants to join this lifestyle, by giving lectures around the world. This is why she visited Bergen this week, and Studentmorgen got to meet the happy frenchman.

A lifestyle, not a project

By a mistake, we ask her how this «project» started, and she is not late to correct the terminology.

– This is a lifestyle, and not a project. It has never been a project, but a wish to live like this for the rest of our life. Think about that: when we die, what kind of world do we want to leave to your children?, she asks.

She shows us an iPhone cover that she found at the ground here in Bergen. She is planning to give this cover to her son who is missing his iPhone cover.

– There are so many things in the nature that you can use even though others have thrown it away. Hairbands for example. I never buy hairbands, because I always find a couple wherever I am. In other words; the world is giving me whatever I need.

She bought a cover that has a build-in charger. (Foto: Jeron Joseph)
She bought an iPhone cover that has a build-in charger. (Foto: Jeron Joseph)

She tells us another story about the time her son lost a pair of sunglasses at the airport, and she planned to get a pair of sunglasses for him at the thrift shop. However, she did not need to buy new ones, since she found a pair of almost new Ray Bans on the beach.

– It was like the world gave them to me, she smiles.

She tells us about her home, where they have solar panels that produce their electricity.

– The solar panels give us a huge advantage because we can both use our own power and resell the power we have made to others. It feeks great looking at our electricity bill and seeing that we are always on the plus side.

She points out that many people often let the power stay on whether they need the electric devices or not. This is a waste of power, she thinks.

Bea has five Rs that she lives by. Listen to them here:

– Applies to my whole family

Bea is living with her family of four in California. For her children this is a natural way of living, since they have lived longer in this lifestyle than in the common way.

– Children are easy to satisfy, as long as you give them their favorite cereal and a snack after they are coming home from school. Even though we are living this lifestyle, it doesn’t stop us wearing branded clothes. I go shopping for clothes twice a year, and I’m asking my children for what kind of clothes they want. The only difference is that our clothes are reused.

She is telling us about the garbage she has in the jar. (Foto: Jeron Joseph)
She is telling us about the garbage she has in the jar. (Foto: Jeron Joseph)

We asked her how the children’s friends reacts. Are they being bullied for using reused clothes? Bea is tells us that people often don’t notice or care where your clothes come from.

– If my kid’s friends come over to our house, they don’t know that everything in our home is from the thrift shop and reused. It is when they ask where the trashcan is, ask us where we bought our clothes or notice that we do not have any food packed in plastic that they find out about our lifestyle, Bea explains.

– If you ask my children, they will only say that this is my thing, since I am the one who is buying things to our home. It is not like that, I am using the whole day on this lifestyle, but this happens most when we are out shopping. I make the decisions for my children. This is why it has become a thing that I am doing and that my children are just being included in, she says.

Of course I hope that this lifestyle will affect the rest of their lives, Bea tells us.

It was Bea who took the initiative to change their lifestyle in 2007. She started to read and watch documentaries on how this world could become if we continued like we do today. It was then her mind opened up and they together (her husband and her) decided to change their lifestyle.

– At first I started with only using recyclable plastic bottles to eliminate garbage. Then I began to bring along jars to the super market, so that I didn’t need to use wax paper.

Listen to Bea tell about how she and her family are dealing with their lifestyle:

Meets criticism

We ask her whether she is getting any reactions and criticism because of her lifestyle choices.

– There are people who think that I’m trying to become the most “green” person in this world.

She is not interested to portray herself as better than others, and she expresses that this is not a contest.

– I’ve been criticized by those who are vegans and nature activists. They ask me how I can see myself as nature friendly because I eat meat and travel by airplane and even own a car. My goal is not to become the most “green” or the best in any way. I want to prove that it is possible to live without throwing away everything we use.

She uses the plastic bags from grocery stores as an example:

– I will always bring a net to put my groceries in. Each time we are using a new plastic bag, we are saying yes to the industry. We are saying “I want more of the plastic bags, plastic bags are good and I can see myself with several more plastic bags”. That’s why I am keeping my distance from products that can be recycled. Recycling is the my option.

Did you find this interesting? Follow Bea Johnson on Twitter, Facebook or on her web site.

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