Operation Rescue is underway: 70% OFF on 12Min Premium!
A truly unprecedented opportunity to reach your goals in the second half of 2023!
This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste
Available for: Read online, read in our mobile apps for iPhone/Android and send in PDF/EPUB/MOBI to Amazon Kindle.
Described by the New York Times as the “Priestess of Waste-Free Living,” Franco-American author Bea Johnson has started a revolution from her own kitchen – the zero-waste lifestyle movement. Just a decade ago, nobody knew what “zero waste” meant, but since Johnson published her groundbreaking 2013 bestseller, “Zero Waste Home,” the phrase has become part of the mainstream.
As defined by Johnson, “Zero Waste is a philosophy based on a set of practices aimed at avoiding as much waste as possible.” In practice, it encompasses five steps – Johnson’s 5 Rs – which take into consideration both direct and indirect forms of consumption. More specifically, “the first and second Rs address the prevention of waste, the third R thoughtful consumption, the fourth and fifth Rs the processing of discards.” Get ready to learn all about them – and prepare to revolutionize your relationship with your home and the environment!
The first R of Zero Waste – refusing what you don’t need – addresses the indirect type of consumption, “the handouts and marketing materials that creep into our lives.” Even though it is not difficult to recycle them all, contrary to popular opinion, Zero Waste doesn’t promote recycling. Instead, it is much more about eliminating and handling waste materials, with recycling seen as “the last resort before the landfill (as is composting).”
There are many refusing opportunities in our consumer-driven societies, but the following four areas are key and should be addressed correctly:
Of all the Rs, “refuse” might be the most difficult to implement, because saying “no” to waste often means saying “no” to people, and in many cases, this might seem awkward and even impolite to others. Even so, refusing waste is the socially responsible choice, so it’s important that you develop the right attitude from the outset. Be friendly but firm in your “no’s”, and opt either for brief explanations such as “I’m sorry, but I have gone paperless,” or other thoughtful justifications that might inspire change in the people around you. Essentially, that is your final objective. Refusing, as Johnson explains, is “a concept based on the power of collectivity.” Though it doesn’t necessarily make the waste disappear, the more people practice it, the greater the demand for alternatives will become.
Refusing is simple. You just need to say “no” to various types of indirect consumption. Reducing, on the other hand, is much more complicated, not only because it deals with direct consumption, but also because it affects your comfort. Consequently, it’s also a pretty individual affair: everyone has different expectations in life, and not everyone is able to reduce their consumption to the same extent as others. For example, if you live 10 minutes away from your workplace, you can refuse using your car altogether. However, if you live in a rural area where public transport is unavailable, the best thing you can do is reduce your car usage.
Even though reducing begins with self-assessment and nobody knows the realities of your own life better than you, Johnson suggests three practices that are applicable in many cases:
Reusing is not the same as recycling. While the latter can be defined as “reprocessing a product to give it a new form,” the former means “utilizing the product in its original manufactured form several times to maximize its usage and increase its useful life.” Naturally, by extending the useful life of purchased goods, reusing simultaneously eliminates waste and alleviates resource depletion. Here’s how you can accomplish each of the three:
In “Cradle to Cradle” – the 2002 manifesto of the eponymous environment-aware design movement of the 21st century – American architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart likened recycling to an aspirin “alleviating a rather large collective hangover – overconsumption.” In other words, as great and profoundly important as it is, recycling is not the final solution to our waste problems, but rather a remedy dealing with its superficial symptoms. Rely on it too much, and waste will become resistant to it. Moreover, being a “coordinated effort of manufacturers, municipalities, consumers, and recyclers,” recycling depends on just too many variables to be dependable. That’s why it is important to see it as a last resort rather than the preferred choice.
Of course, recycling is always a better option than the landfill. Although essentially “a form of disposal […] it does save energy, conserve natural resources, divert materials from landfills, and create a demand for recovered materials.” So, you should always have it in mind when buying things. Naturally, it is preferable to choose items that can be reused, but in case that is not an option, go for goods made of materials that can be recycled over and over again such as steel, aluminum, glass or paper. Bear in mind that plastic items are not recycled but downcycled, meaning that they are turned into products of lower quality and functionality than the originals.
Here are a few other things to keep in mind about recycling:
Rotting, better known as composting, means utilizing nature’s way of recycling organic materials to deal with your own waste. Considering that a third of household waste is organic, composting makes a lot of sense and can introduce a lot of change in the world.
Choosing a compost method that will work for you is not easy. You should take into consideration many factors, such as food consumption, end products, pests, pets, cost, location, aesthetics, and capacity. Even so, once you do your research and install the system, composting is a satisfying and rewarding experience.
Think about it this way: you don’t know what the plastic you recycle will become, but you can watch with your very own eyes how a few worms transform your veggie scraps into nutrient-rich material and your soil into what gardeners refer to as “black gold.” The fact that the same soil will grow even more, and better vegetables afterward makes rotting a big “closed-loop waste cycle” upon which, as Johnson concludes, our manufacturing model should have been based from the beginning.
By her own admission, the philosophy of the 5 Rs has been Johnson’s method to “reducing [her] family’s annual trash to a jar since 2008.” Since 2013 and the publication of “Zero Waste Home” it has been adopted in hundreds of thousands of households worldwide.
Talk about books that make a difference!
Stick to the hierarchy of the 5 Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot. Or, just abide by the wisdom of that ancient proverb, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.”
Bea Johnson is a Franco-American author and minimalist, best known as the developer of the 5 Rs of Zero Waste – a waste-management method that kickstarted the global waste-free lifestyle movement. Published in 2013,... (Read more)
on Apple Store and Google Play
of 12min users improve their reading habits
Grow exponentially with the access to powerful insights from over 2,500 nonfiction microbooks.
Start enjoying 12min's extensive library
Don't worry, we'll send you a reminder that your free trial expires soon
Free Trial ends here
Get 7-day unlimited access. With 12min, start learning today and invest in yourself for just USD $4.14 per month. Cancel before the trial ends and you won't be charged.Start your free trial
Now you can! Start a free trial and gain access to the knowledge of the biggest non-fiction bestsellers.