How many minutes a day do you think about trash? A couple of minutes while taking it to the dumpster? Ten minutes while figuring out how to dispose your old smartphone or whether the plastic lid from your morning coffee is recyclable? For most people it doesn’t get any further than that. But then, there are others who have made thinking about trash an essential part of their life. Now some of them are inspiring thousands of people from all over the world to try a zero-waste lifestyle on their own.
Take Bea Johnson, who is originally from France but now lives in the US. A decade ago she was a typical consumer. She was overwhelmed with the items all around the house. Like most other people, she would dump a few bags into the trash each week. But at one point something changed. The mother of two is now highly adept at preventing trash by adhering to the 5R’s.
“Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot (and only in that order) is my family’s secret to reducing its annual trash to a jar since 2008” says Johnson. And many people listen. Her social media followers have surpassed 300,000 and The New York Times has called her “The Priestess of Waste-Free Living”. You can find tips on zero-waste shopping, hygiene, travel and every other aspect of life on her blog or in the book called Zero Waste Home, which has been translated into over 20 languages.
Recently Johnson returned from a tour around 16 countries and now she’s up for another one, this time to promote zero-waste philosophy in India, Australia, New Zealand and five more new countries.
Zero-waste options provide simple reference points and solutions. A straightforward hierarchy of choice and tips on the most essential choices to overcome wasteful consumption. Do you drink a lot of coffee? Bring your own cup to coffeehouses. Are you going to buy groceries? Take two large and a few smaller reusable bags and don’t forget your jars for liquids. Are you searching for a good toothbrush? Try one made from bamboo. Looking for inspiration? Over a million beautifully minimalist zero-waste lifestyle pictures on Instagram can be a good starting point to help you give it a try.
The trend has been catching on. A community of people exploring zero-waste lifestyles is growing exponentially. Zero-waste shops are opening in hundreds of places around the world, while the number of cities implementing zero-waste programs (often starting from the ground up) has surpassed 400 just in Europe. Many have achieved more than 80% recycling rates and five times lower waste production rates than the average across Europe.
And, while we still often hear that individual choice can change nothing for sustainability, these stories, told with beauty and elegance, show how simple individual choices can inspire real change.