April 19, 2011

A Zero-Waste Home: Could You Do It?

It's Earth Week and I've been thinking about my family's imprint on the planet. We recycle, shop with reusable bags and refuse plastic, buy locally and fresh when we can... but there is certainly more we can do. That's when I saw this article from Sunset Magazine about the Johnson family and their zero-waste home.

After reading through the article I asked myself, could I do this? How about you?

Forgo packaging - instead of buying bags and boxes of food, buy in bulk instead. The Johnson family actually brings glass jars to the grocery store and has meat (from the butcher) placed in jars and other food products stored in fabric sacks, instead of packaged in plastic. Who knew? If the store can weigh the jar empty, and then deduct that weight, you could shop this way, too. Bring mesh bags to hold fruits and vegetables and leave the plastic alone. Could I do this? Yes. Mostly. I honestly can't see myself using glass jars or eliminating packaging altogether, but I can absolutely reduce packaging by at least half and purchase mesh bags to use right alongside my fabric grocery bags. I'll save the jars for holding the bulk foods when I get home.

Pare down - The Johnson family uses only essential, multi-purpose kitchen gadgets instead of drawers filled with many. Mail, clothes, books, and even furnishings, can all reduced to the bare minimum. I especially like their idea of giving gifts of experiences instead of things. Could I do this? Not well. I can live with less clothing and stuff in general, and I can definitely do without a mailbox full of wasted paper, but I need my books and the comforts of home. I am more apt to buy something from a second-hand shop or repurpose a piece of furniture than buy something new, so that's good news. I only buy clothes for myself when I need to, but I could do better with my girls. And I've already reduced the amount of gifts I give. I plan to increase the number of gift certificates I purchase and gift experiences instead of things.

So although I couldn't live entirely like the Johnson family, I will be making some changes. Here are some ways you can make changes, too.
  • Remove yourself from direct mail and catalog lists by visiting dmachoice.org and catalogchoice.com.
  • Consider using microfiber cloths in place of paper towels.
  • Buy re-fillable bottles of shampoo and conditioner.
  • Reduce beauty product packaging by using one thing for multi purposes like Vaseline (eye make-up remover, lip gloss, moisturizer, and burn and cut balm).
  • Buy beauty products from companies that buy back packaging like Mac cosmetics.
  • Make your own household cleaner using Mrs. Johnson's recipe: 1 1/2 teaspoons castile soap, 3 teaspoons white vinegar, and 4 cups of water. 
Check out the blog (I love the tagline) and see what else they've done.