BOOK REVIEW: Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

I have no idea why I got Zero Waste Home.  I’m pretty sure I added it to my Amazon Wishlist, but I have no idea why.  Maybe I saw a link to the original blog, Zero Waste Home?  Saw it on a TV show?  Read about it in an article?

Nope.  Never gonna remember.

I do remember that my sister purchased it for me, though.  We’re almost complete opposites. 

I’m a souvenir-hoarder who lives in what I call “organized chaos” (I know where everything is, but it just looks like a mess to everyone else). 

My sister is a meticulous minimalist.  She doesn’t hold onto every gift she’s received, & goes to the library several times a week instead of keeping a staggering number of books (like I do).

Even though this item was on my Amazon Wishlist, I’m pretty sure my sister got Zero Waste Home to encourage me to be less materialist.  Or to clean my freakin’ room.

She’s… something else.  I could write an entire post about her & our relationship.  Maybe I will one day. 

This post isn’t about her or us.

Hmm.  I may actually try to spoil this book.  I don’t think I can, though.  Read more to find out if I can do it!

OK, I’ll be honest – I REALLY wanted to dislike this book.  I thought it was preachy, reeked of privilege, & it depicted a life that, to me, seemed unreasonable.

I almost stopped reading after the introduction.  Even though I managed to finish the book, I only read a couple of pages each night.

However, as I read it, it did inspire me.  Bea Johnson reveals some less wasteful practices of which I wasn’t taking advantage. 

Let’s begin with the annoying parts, shall we?  Since humans have a negative bias, & that’s how I felt when I started reading the book, it seems like the right place to start.

Bea Johnson’s husband, before the Zero Waste lifestyle changed his whole life, apparently, had a corporate job.  Bea is tight-lipped about what they do, professionally, to be honest.  On the blog, they mention Scott – the author’s husband – was/is an engineer.

Johnson also says she’s not a “home-maker with too much time on her hands,” despite people’s claims during some her seminars.  But she doesn’t out-right say what she does for work.  From some of her comments, it sounds like she’s an artist.

They have two children. 

But, when Johnson began delving into the Zero Waste lifestyle, Scott quit his job.  He then started his own green startup company.  Bea began blogging, writing Zero Waste, & touring.

They took their kids out of private school & got rid of a lot of their stuff.  So, they did begin living a more frugal lifestyle – but they had the privilege to do all that because they had money.

Suffice to say, that “vibe” runs throughout the book.

A line that stood out to me appeared at the end of page 183 onto the top of 184.  Johnson says, essentially, that working parents only work so much to buy the newest, biggest, latest gadget.

Ummm… what?  My immediate thought was, what about single parents?  Are they just trying to buy the biggest, newest, latest meal?? 

Too many people are struggling in our country to say that with a straight face.

BUT, there’s still a lot of good information in this book.  I learned a lot:

  • There are ways to make junk mail stop (eventually & with a lot of work)! 
  • My family wasn’t recycling everything that our county picks up!
  • My county also has drop-off for a lot of items they don’t pick up!
  • Shoes & old clothes that we can’t donate to second-hand stores we can put in boxes around town where companies recycle them!
  • We can – & should – turn down stuff like plastic silverware & straws from take-out restaurants!

More than that, I started noticing how everything my family uses is disposable, plastic, individually packaged, & wasteful!  It made me feel incredibly guilty.  The guilt fueled my desire to make changes, however. 

Getting my family on board?  Whole ‘nother story.  The sheer amount of toilet paper, tissues, & trash they produce, daily, smacks my new-found guilt around. 

They received my request for them to start recycling chip board (the thinner form of cardboard used to make cereal & many other boxes) as if I’d asked them to jump over the moon.  Still, after missteps & loads of complaining, we’re now recycling chip board.

It’s a tiny step, but it’s one we weren’t taking before.  I don’t think I’ll be able to make serious changes until I live alone, though.

Final Score:

Between 2.5 & 3.5 out of 5 stars!  I couldn’t give this book a single number.  It was both painfully privileged & helpful.  It raised a lot of feelings in me – not all of them bad.

It made me take notice, ultimately, of the eco-friendly practices happening in my area. 

We have a bicycle rental service (it has GPS monitoring so you can locate the nearest bicycle, & people pay for a certain amount of time with their credit card). 

Our gym just installed new water fountains with a way to refill your water bottle.  It even tracks how many plastic bottles it has “saved.”

It opened my eyes, even if it came from a pretentious sounding source.  A source with multiple typos (but, English isn’t her first language, so I wasn’t going to focus too much on that detail). 


2 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson

    • That’s great! If you don’t mind my asking, why don’t you go to that gym anymore? Do you go to a different gym?

      One of the great suggestions in Zero Waste Home was, if there’s some place you like that has somewhat wasteful practices, you can always make suggestions to improve them!!


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