Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot

That's the mantra of Bea Johnson, the Frenchwoman who started the Zero Waste Movement. 
 In 2008, Bea [who went to the USA as an au pair, married an American guy, and stayed there with him to raise their two sons] realised just how much was being thrown away in their home. Where is 'away'? is it the ocean? or landfill? and so many of these things do not bio-degrade, they remain and pollute the environment. [brief moment to cheer the current progress on the British government's steps towards banning microbeads]
But back to Bea - she encouraged her family to stop using disposables, avoid using plastics, and reduce the amount of unnecessary stuff coming into their home. Her 5-R rules are these [and should be followed in the order given]
Refuse - Refuse what you don’t need, such as single-use plastics, freebies (all those promotional pens and keyrings), junk mail, plastic bags, etc. This way you won’t accumulate ‘stuff’ that you didn’t really want in the first place.
Reduce - Reduce what you already use, like packaging, products, your car, technology, and reduce the quantities of things you buy.
Reuse - Shop with non-plastic bags, rent out your car or house, buy used, buy smart (durable, rechargeable), and extend the life of what you already own by repairing it or using it in new ways.
Recycle - Because recycling uses a lot of energy to recycle and it’s confusing to know what can be recycled and what can’t, Bea says you should look at labels before you buy anything to make sure it can easily be recycled or reused before purchasing.
Rot - Aka composting. Instead of throwing away food scraps, you can compost your food waste, turn it into soil, and use it to grow new things. It’s nature’s way of recycling!
Bea maintains that by following this method, the amount of stuff which is sent from her home [two adults, two teenage children] to landfill each year is this...
Just one Kilner jar [nb, she obviously keeps the jar!]

Some of her ideas are good, and worth following. Even Bea admits, in her Ted Talk that some of her early experiments had disastrous outcomes. 
I am still reading up on the whole idea of a 'Zero Waste Home' - and she says this is what she is working towards - she admits it is virtually impossible to achieve.

But even though I haven't got my head round this yet [Bob and I agree that some things are a step too far for us- like re-usable toilet wipes, instead of loo paper, or taking dishes to the Chinese Takeaway and asking them to put our egg fred rice and sweet'n'sour straight into them, and not into their plastic boxes] I am flagging up the subject today, because the 2016 British Zero Waste Week has just started. 
This is spearheaded by a lady called Rachelle Straus, whose community was washed away in the Boscastle floods some years ago. At that point she started wondering what kind of a world she was leaving for her children - and what could she do to improve things. Read more about her and her ideas here. You can sign up for encouraging daily emails through the week, and read other peoples ideas about reducing waste.
Like I say, I am still reading round the subject and thinking it through - more posts will follow I am sure.
Have you encountered Zero Waste initiatives? 
Are you involved in any yourself? 


  1. I do what I can, but some of her methods would be too extreme for my lifestyle. I think it is important to do as much as possible, reusing, mending, recycling etc, but not, for me, making it a total focus of my life.

  2. I'd not heard of this before but will definitely read up about it.
    We have a huge amount of rubbish each week in this house, it would be interesting to see some ideas in reducing it. (Maybe chucking the kids out would help? Lol)

  3. It's very challenging. We have become complacent, I think.

  4. It is super challenging but really important! I am good in some ways and hopeless in others.I have invested in a silicon collapsible container for left overs or takeaway which I hope to use as it fits in my handbag!

  5. Great comments from everybody, thank you. As Mags said, we have become complacent - but as Elizabeth says, it is not necessarily something to make the focus of our lives. I think minimal waste is possibly easier with a minimalist lifestyle - and if we are involved in crafts or working with children, we do tend to accumulate 'stuff'. Interested to read about your container Kezzie - I have been looking at similar silicon collapsible coffee cups. But they are not cheap, are they??

  6. I agree about being complacent, I am looking for any patterns in our behaviour when it comes to being wasteful. Often it seems to be when we have guests - almost certainly down to the fact that I'm not confident enough to unless my cooking onto others!

    We have worked hard this year on making things we would previously have bought packaged, such as bread.


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