As the 5 am wake ups continue, another effect has been an increased desire to learn more.
I’m not typically one to go out of my way to pick up a book or learn something new just for the sake of learning, but all this week I’ve found myself being quite more curious than normal. It seems all this reflecting has opened up a new window inside my brain, and yesterday brought in the sweet smell of the Zero Waste movement!
What the hell is Zero Waste?
It’s a philosophy of creating a more sustainable lifestyle by keeping your waste down to a (pretty hardcore) minimal amount, while helping the Earth and your own happiness in the process. Consequentially, and the part that really interested ME, surprise surprise, was that it also happens to save you a ton of cash in the process :)
It’s minimalism on crack.
I’ve seen a handful of bloggers over the years snap pics of their monthly waste in an effort to spread the word and become better at it, but it never clicked with me as it did when I came across the queen of Zero Waste herself, Bea Johnson. Blogger, and now best selling author, of ZeroWasteHome.com. Here’s a snippet of her bio:
Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle, our lives have changed for the better: We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff… My vocation is to shatter mis-conceptions associated with the Zero Waste lifestyle, proving that waste-free living can not only be “stylish”, but also lead to significant health benefits, and time and money savings.
It’s quite the challenge to overcome, as admittedly my first thoughts were “no way,” and “you’ve got to be out of your f*cking mind,” haha… But the more I read, and the more I followed her story – particularly this 8:31 min video on her – I was completely blown away. And, dare I say it, inspired to maybe try this out in my own way! A pretty drastic change over the course of 20 minutes :)
But I keep coming back to the idea of having “more time,” “better health,” and a fresh new way to achieve “more savings.” (Though most of us here already incorporate varying degrees of frugality and minimalism which this lifestyle heavily relies on. So it very well could make for the perfect “next step” for those looking to amp it up a
bit lot!). It takes challenging everything to a whole new level, and if this wife, mom, author – AND full-time job holder – can do it, why not us?
Here’s an inside look at her home and the way she lives. Maybe it’ll spark something inside of you too:
- It’s not about complicating your life, it’s about simplifying it.
- It helps you focus on what matters the most.
- She brings her own totes to the grocery store – some home made – instead of using plastic bags
- Started buying more in bulk
- Also brings her own jars for the deli/cheese/meat counters! (I didn’t even know you could do this?)
- Says it becomes a more human way of shopping because it brings out conversation with those who work there – creates more of a community
- She doesn’t shop in any of the MIDDLE aisles – only the perimeter of the stores because that’s where the healthiest stuff is (interesting!)
- When shopping vegetables she tries to find the ones without the stickers (which = waste)
- She doesn’t own any trash cans (!!!)
- She found you didn’t need all those different cleaning supplies for the house, and that many were actually toxic for you
- She explains the 5 R’s of zero waste (see below)
- Uses organic powder for makeup
- Makes her own mascara using 4 ingredients
- Started tracking how much waste they use a year (picture down below – crazy!!)
- Husband not on board at first – hah
- Thought this new lifestyle was costing too much
- Turns out they were saving 40% on their overall spending!
- Zero waste is more about what you do outside of the home, than what you do inside (all goes back to consumerism)
- It’s complicated at first until you figure out a system that works for you (just like finance, eh? :))
- Takes time to declutter your life
- When you’re holding stuff you don’t need, you’re keeping them from other people. You’re keeping them from being useful to other people.
What a last line there. Keeping stuff that can be useful to other people – such an interesting way of looking at it.
So as you can see, it is about being better for the environment and your wallet, but it’s even more of a conscious LIFESTYLE. A lifestyle that’s on the opposite of the spectrum (not unlike extreme early retirement), but one that’s still very much attainable. For some more so than others ;)
The 5 R’s of Zero Waste
This whole movement is built upon the following 5 main R’s of living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. (And only in that order, says Bea :)):
- 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.
You’ll notice this overlaps a lot with the tenets of smart personal finance.
Refusing what you do not need — I.e. Not buying more “stuff!” Focusing on the needs over the wants (though Zero Wasters would quickly point out that wants are okay/important so long as you consciously do it in a way that fits)
Reducing what you need — You need clothes and shelter and a handful of other stuff, but you don’t need the biggest house on the block stuff full of clothes and toys and a myriad of other things. There’s power (and savings!) in minimizing the amount of stuff which will still grant the same – if not more – amount of happiness.
Reuse what you consume — The more you reuse, the more you don’t need to go out and buy again! Saving both money AND time. (And I like to think that donating/selling stuff on Craigslist also falls in line here. Instead of reusing it yourself, you’re sending it to a new home to be used)
Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse — This one won’t necessarily save you any money, but it will get you to double think future purchases and how you consume stuff if your end goal is to recycle or compost it which is the last step in the no-waste cycle.
Composting (rotting) the rest — No more trash bags/cans! Which = savings! Now I don’t know how exactly you go about composting your stuff (doesn’t seem that complicated?), but the fact Bea’s family of 4 only fills up 1 jar full of waste in a YEAR shows that it’s quite possible to go without trash cans. As insane as that is to imagine.
Here’s a picture of their waste from 2014:
And not to get too far off track here, but her kids were giving her a hard time by holding onto all these jars (because it’s quite literally waste! Haha…), so in a blog post she asked her readers what she should do with them, which lead me down another fascinating path of “bottle bricks” and “bottle schools.” which people use for all kinds of amazing projects and good.
It’s truly amazing the passion and creativity people have in this world… and that they’re using it for the GOOD instead of bad!
Zero Waste in my own home?
I don’t know how all this will effect me and my family down the line, after all, it’s pretty hardcore, but I already see the wheels turning as I move room from room noticing how waste-FULL I’ve become over the years. We throw out bags and bags worth every week without thought, and I’m hoping this becomes one of those light bulb moments where you look back and see how far you’ve come :) Again, not unlike those events that lead us to better financial management!
So there you have it. Zero Waste 101 :) Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.
Let it marinate over the weekend and see how you feel about it. I’m not here to convince you in either direction, I just find it helpful to explore new lifestyles with hopes of picking off the good parts and mashing it into your own world :) You never know which will end up changing your life (7 years ago I could care less about personal finance!), but it’s worth taking a few minutes to find out.
I’ll share all the other side effects of working like Benjamin Franklin next week. I wonder what he would have thought about Zero Waste?
PS: Here’s a great list from Bea on 100 ways to incorporate No Waste into your life. I found it super helpful when asking myself how the hell you start :)