The original zero-waste blogger was a total revelation to me.
California-based woman Bea Johnson, of French extraction, could sort the treasure from the trash like no other in her blog Zero Waste Home.
Johnson carried recycled jam jars and string bags to collect package-free groceries from bulk food stores and farmers’ markets.
She could fashion a whole winter wardrobe from five unfathomable finds at the local second-hand shop. Perhaps it’s the French genes. Oh la la!
When running errands, she calculated the most direct route and got all of her shopping done in one fell swoop.
Inspired by her philosophy about five years ago, I stepped up my bulk food shopping, using my own containers where possible and frequenting package-free food stores and farmers’ markets.
I bought Yackandandah raspberry jam six at a time, Ardmona crushed tomatoes by the dozen, shampoo by the litre and wine by the pallet. Anything for the social good!
I soon felt much more at home in my local thrift shops; one of my favourite dresses of all time was a $6 find at St Vinnies and I picked up a sweet Gap trench in mint condition for my then-toddler for a fraction of the cost of a newbie.
Then Johnson went dumpster diving, which involved rescuing food from the industrial waste skips dotted around her city late, one chilly night. From her bounty she made ginger carrot soup, sauteed zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown herb mix; grilled zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown mint; two apple pies; snacks of apple slices topped with peanut butter and sandwiches for a week’s worth of lunches with the bread.
While I loathe food waste and support doggy bags for restaurant leftovers with relish, dumpster diving was hardcore waste collection even for me. The late hours didn’t appeal much either. (As luck would have it, Albury Wodonga Regional FoodShare already does an excellent job of rescuing supermarket food, meaning it need never even hit the skip!)
Meanwhile we have kept up our shopping habits and our family’s hard waste to a minimum, though never in the same league as Johnson.
Like me, Johnson has a family of four but, unlike me, their annual hard waste fits inside a quart-sized Mason jar. Our hard waste bin is half-full – or half-empty depending on your perspective – at the fortnightly collection.
But a whole new generation of zero-waste bloggers has sprang up since Johnson’s foray into a simplified lifestyle in 2008 pledged annual savings of up to 40 per cent, better health and more family time through fewer chores. She confirmed her status as a zero-waste lifestyle guru in 2013 with the publication of Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Reducing Your Waste.
On Earth Day last week I came across a whole bevy of millennial bloggers – mostly women – sporting their annual output of hard waste in a single Mason jar.
Kathryn Kellogg, a 25-year-old print shop employee, writes about homemade eyeliner and lip balm, worm composting and shopping bulk bins on her lifestyle blog Going Zero Waste. For her trouble she gets plenty of hate mail; she’s been criticised on social media for driving and flying, for not installing a grey-water system, eating eggs and for using toilet paper. Turns out it’s rough at the top of the zero-waste tree!
My only take-home message from the movement is that we can all strive to keep our waste to a minimum – even if we’re not quite prepared to preserve it in a jar.