Zero Waste Heroes: Bea Johnson
Bea Johnson is one of the most prominent figures in the zero waste movement. While people have been trying to reduce their waste for many years, Bea is considered one of the pioneers of the current generation. Bea and her family began living a zero waste lifestyle back in 2008, totally transforming the way they deal with waste, but changing their lives in many other ways too.
In any of Bea’s well documented zero waste talks, she explains how much simpler her life has become and she paints a pretty compelling argument for the zero waste lifestyle. From saving around 40% on their annual budget, being healthier and getting sick less often, as well as being able to travel more, her talks leave you thinking ‘why wouldn't you want to adopt a zero waste lifestyle?’
Perhaps one of her most famous lessons, is how one day she realized that she had about ten wooden spoons by her cooker but then quite rationally came to the conclusion that she only has two arms, using only one of them to stir food, and so donated or repurposed the other nine. This has spurred thousands to reduce and declutter, then start approaching life with a more minimalist outlook.
Maybe it was the wooden spoons, maybe it was something else, but Bea is as passionate about minimalism as she is zero waste (the two kind of sit hand in hand). Bea is quick to explain how her family is very minimalist with their possessions as a whole too. Now, when they need to pack for a holiday, each member can pack all of the clothes that they own into one carry-on suitcase. This instantaneously de-personalises their house, which they rent out while they are away to help pay for their vacation. It’s incredibly pragmatic, sensible and inspiring.
Bea has penned a book championing the 'Five R’s of zero waste living'. This has helped people on their path to significantly reducing their environmental footprint.
THE 5R’s OF ZERO WASTE LIVING
- REFUSE -
The first step is to refuse things you don’t need. This could be anything from a plastic pen from a market researcher, single-use plastic wrapped food, or hanging a sign asking your postman not to post unaddressed junk mail through your door (you need to sign up with MPS to stop this).
- REDUCE -
Next, it’s about reducing those items we do need. This could be those ubiquitous wooden spoons or the amount of cleaning products you buy. Bea gives a great example on how there seems to be a different product for cleaning every different surface in your house but you can clean almost everything with white vinegar and castile soap.
- REUSE -
There are thousands of reusable alternatives around these days to help you on your zero waste path. Be it reusable nappies, coffee cups, or bottles. You can ditch cling film completely by using waxed cotton wraps from Abeego, stainless steel food containers, or even repurposing old jam jars.
- RECYCLE -
If you have followed the first three R’s, you will probably find that you have less to recycle than you did before. When shopping try to opt for items packed in fully recyclable materials like paper or metal.
- ROT -
The final R is rotting. You’d be amazed what can be composted when given a little thought and investigation - check out this website for guidance. Obviously all your food scraps can rot down but wood shavings, floor sweepings (depending on what you’re sweeping up!), hair and biodegradable wooden/bamboo toothbrushes can all go on the compost heap too (note - you might need to break the head off some toothbrush models as the bristles are often still nylon). Compostable packaging is slowly growing in popularity in the UK too.
You can find Bea’s blog here, or follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.