I recently read a book that touched on two of my passions: 1) simplifying my life and 2) the environment. Since April is Earth Month, it’s a great time to think about how reducing the amount of waste we produce helps to simplify our lives. “Zero Waste Home” by Bea Johnson caused me to think differently about what I purchase and what I throw away.
Most of us are familiar with some of the “R”s of being Eco-friendly: Reuse and Recycle. Bea introduces us to 5 “R”s:
The key to getting closer to a zero waste home is to do them in the order listed.
I am a long way from the goal of producing zero waste, but I wanted to share with you a few things I have done and how it has made my life simpler.
1. REFUSE (What we do not need): For many of us, it’s difficult to refuse freebies. But how many times do we let others give us things that we just don’t need! We get pieces of paper that go straight into the recycle bin when we get home. Or, we let the paper sit in a pile for a while until we realize that we’re never doing anything with it, and then we get rid of it. I recently loaded a Business Card app onto my phone. Instead of accepting business cards, I now take a picture of them, and leave the card with the owner. How does that help make my life simpler? I no longer have the pile of cards on my desk that “someday” need to be entered into my phone.
2. REDUCE (What we do need and cannot refuse): Everything we buy eventually ends up in a land fill. So, a significant way to reduce waste is to reduce the amount of stuff we buy. My husband and I used to fill every closet in our home with clothes. We have gradually reduced the amount of clothes we have (donating them to charities and not buying more), so that all our clothes fit into the walk in closet in our master bedroom. A few months ago, we even got rid of an extra wardrobe in our bedroom. That’s one less piece of furniture to dust and our bedroom feels less crowded. I used to spend almost a full day every spring and fall moving seasonal clothes from my spare closets to my main closet. And they were not even on the same floor! Now that spring is here, I’m glad I don’t have to waste the time moving clothes around.
3. REUSE (What we consume and cannot refuse or reduce): I will confess that I am a paper towel and napkin hog. After reading the book, I made a commitment to stop using paper towels and napkins and start using cloth ones. I decided to count the number of cloth napkins I have on hand, and found out I have 60 cloth napkins! I also have an equally huge number of rags made from old towels and t-shirts. It really makes no sense to use paper products when I have a large supply of cloth ones on hand. How does using cloth save me time? I am no longer clipping coupons, shopping at the bulk store, and trying to find space in my home for all the paper products that I purchased.
4. RECYCLE (What we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse): I used to think I was good because I filled up my recycle container to the brim every week. But, now I understand that recycling is not the best option, since plastics often degrade in the process of recycling, are made into non-recyclable products, and eventually end up in the landfill anyway. I’m hoping that my focus on the first 3 “R’s” will help to reduce the amount I recycle.
5: ROT(Compost the rest): The goal of a Zero Waste Home is that the only waste you have left over after the first 4 steps is waste that can be composted. That seems like a very difficult goal right now, but certainly gives me something to work towards.
I hope these ideas will encourage you to think of ways to reduce your waste and simplify your life during Earth Month. And I highly recommend the book for many more ideas.