Day 25 of the January Money Diet – Go for Zero Waste

Mason jars at Happy Simple Living blog

Photo: Jamie Hansen

“In a recession, people are inclined to keep things, but I feel the opposite. The less I have, the richer I feel. Stuff weighs you down.” ~Béa Johnson

A couple years ago I read the most inspiring article in Sunset Magazine, about the Johnson family in Mill Valley, California. The Johnsons have pared down their possessions and live a wonderfully simple life. The family members are so careful about not consuming wasteful packaging, they generate almost zero garbage.

The Johnsons are big on composting, and this is one way we try to reduce waste. I just love the idea of reusing the kitchen scraps in a way that benefits the garden and keeps stuff out of landfill.

What about recycling? Homeowner Béa Johnson says, “So much recycling really goes to waste, so you need to try to reduce that, too.” They are diligent about taking reusable containers to the store for food and eliminating junk mail, and their tidy pantry and closets would inspire anyone to minimize and simplify!

How much trash does your family generate in an average week? If you coaxed everyone in the household to get on board, could you reduce it by 50 or 75 per cent? Or 80 or 90 per cent? We’re down to about half a can per week, but the recycling bin is full every two weeks when it gets picked up — so we have a long way to go. The Johnsons have motivated me to try harder to reduce our recycling and trash. If they can do it, why can’t we?

Homework assignment #25: Try to reduce your family’s waste to zero this week, and let us know how it goes in the comments section below.

For more inspiration, you might enjoy the Johnson family’s blog, The Zero Waste Home.

P.S. In case you’ve just joined us, the January Money Diet is a challenge to take a 31-day break from nonessential spending. You can learn more about the money diet here — and jump right in!


Win a Deluxe Happy Simple Living Gift Basket

In honor of the January Money Diet, I’ll be giving away a gift basket chock-full of home and garden goodies plus several books at the end of the month. On January 31, 2013, I’ll draw one random name from everyone who commented during the month and that lucky person will win the gift basket. I hope you’ll stop by often this month and share your own ideas, thoughts and experiences about taking a 31-day break from nonessential spending.


About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

Day 25 of the January Money Diet – Go for Zero Waste

  • Belinda

    I agree with Victoria. I spent 3 years separating my garbage into big bins, but my city wouldn’t pick it up so every couple of weeks I would pile the big plastic garbage cans into my little car and haul it down to the drop off center. it was so inconvenient because their hours were so sporadic, it seems like they changed every week and the center had a gate around it. I guess one day I got so sick of it because they were so picky about the things they would accept. only clear plastic with screw on lids, tin cans, aluminum, and paper. No glass. It was very hard to just throw stuff into my can and I feel badly still. My kids live in big cities out east and they have really good centers that come and pick it up off the porch, no separating necessary! The last couple of times my son came to visit, he would take sacks of recycling and drive them back with him!!! It really is hard on the spirit to throw perfectly good ‘garbage’ away. I also learned that it’s too expensive to recycle the way it should be. It’s a shame.

  • Deborah Gore

    We have a compost bin and recycle plastic, glass and paper. When shopping we try to buy with as little packaging as possible. We have been work on this for about a year now and we are still finding was to improve.

  • ElainieMay

    Buying as much as we can from bins had helped reduce so much waste. Still we could do better. Taking this assignment seriously.

  • Brenda

    We dont have recycling where i live so i try hard to try and buy things that are in containers that can be reused. This can be very challenging sometimes.

  • Victoria S Andrews

    We try to recycle everything, separating out the cans, bottles, plastic, cardboard, and paper from the garbage. Makes a lot of different piles but well worth it. Imagine our surprise when our local dump just buries everything together. Said it cost too much to recycle! Composting draws up foxes and bears so that is out!. Would love to live in a place that takes this problem of trash seriously. Thanks for your fabulous posts! I really love them.

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