How this woman fit a year's worth of garbage into a small jar

Oct 23 2018, 4:13 am

Imagine a family of four being able to fit all the garbage they produced in one year into a small jar.

Bea Johnson of and her family have managed to do just that for the past decade.

The California-based author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home, has been dubbed the “Priestess of Waste-Free Living.”  While it may seem extreme and even impossible, Johnson says that fitting a year’s worth of trash into a jar has taught her the beauty of simplicity.

“I know what people are thinking about this way of life, and initially I thought the same thing,” Johnson told Daily Hive in an interview.

“But the zero-waste lifestyle is completely the opposite of what we thought it would be. In the end, it involves very simple alternatives that have been forgotten in this consumerist society.”

 The five R’s

According to Johnson, the zero-waste lifestyle requires just five simple steps.

“So describe my methodology in my book and it involves the Five R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot,” said Johnson.

It all begins with refusing things you do not need, like freebies and junk mail.

Every time we accept these things we are not only creating a demand to make more but once we bring these things into our home they turn into clutter.” 


This is all of the trash Bea Johnson and her family produced in 2017/ Supplied

Reducing involves getting rid of the clutter you do have and donating items to go to a better cause.

For Johnson, this meant getting rid of almost all of her wardrobe. She says she only has 15 staple pieces in her closet but the capsule wardrobe actually gives her 50 outfit options. “Having less does not mean I have fewer options,” she said. 

Reusing involves swapping anything that is disposable for reusable items, and then you can recycle what you can’t refuse, reduce, or reduce.

The last step, rot, is simply composting what is left. Johnson says she has managed to compost almost everything, including hair and floor sweepings.

“The hardest part of the lifestyle is finding a balance,” she said. “And sticking to a system that works for you.”

Zero-waste movement already popular in Vancouver

The zero-waste movement has already caught on in Vancouver. Nada and The Soap Dispensary + Kitchen Staples are two popular zero-waste retailers and Nada also recently opened a new in-house cafe.


Soap Dispensary owner Linh Truong/ Supplied

Johnson says she is looking forward to visiting a city where people are already conscious about the environment. She is speaking on October 25 on how she achieved a zero-waste lifestyle.

“I love Vancouver, it’s just a beautiful place,” said Johnson. “My family and I definitely feel connected to the city and what you have to gain here is the improved standard of living.

Her upcoming talk will be hosted by The Soap Dispensary + Kitchen Staples at the Arts Club Theatre. Tickets are available online.

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