Less may be more, but zero is the best of all—at least where adding to landfills is concerned. So a growing number of households are joining the Zero Waste movement. Their goal is producing no trash at all. Some Zero Wasters come close. They winnow their household waste down to a tiny collection of non-recyclable and non-compostable items. Some households produce so little that a year’s trash can fit into a shoebox.
Jesus said in Luke 12:15 that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Zero Wasters take this to heart. They focus on living simply. Fewer products mean less packaging and fewer disposables for the trash bin. They share tips on where to buy unpackaged goods and how to recycle items that many people choose to toss.
“It may be too extreme for a lot of people,” says author Bea Johnson. She wrote Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. But “if you can cut your trash down by even 20 percent, you’ll gain 80 percent of the benefits. It’s about a simpler life based on being, not having,” she says.
Johnson says that shopping less means her family can afford adventures like scuba diving trips. That makes it easier for her sons to accept wearing only used clothing. The family members often buy those clothes online. They request that purchases be sent without any non-recyclable packaging.
Lauren Singer of Brooklyn, New York, was inspired by Johnson’s book. She started her own blog, Trash Is for Tossers, offering tips for how to reduce waste. She opened an online store, Package Free Shop, featuring only products that need not end up in the trash. All can be delivered with minimal—and fully recyclable—packaging. Singer claims she’s able to fit six years of trash into a single Mason jar!
“I realized that I can make a huge difference even as one individual,” she says.
The mantra of Zero Wasters is Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. They refuse disposable containers and straws at restaurants. They have a reputation of requesting paper or glass containers for takeout. They dispose of leftover food separately from other trash to ensure it has the natural ability to rot and return to the Earth.
Other than drastically reducing their trash output, Johnson argues Zero Wasters live quite normally. “We’re not crazy hippies. We’re normal families with houses and kids and cars,” she says. But “this is the way of the future.”