Zero Waste Home

Zero Wate Home Book

In 2011, I read an article on Sunset about a family of 4 who strive to produce zero waste. The article led me to the blog, Zero Waste Home, written by Bea Johnson. I was fascinated, inspired and challenged to start taking more steps to reducing our waste.

I’ve been a reader of Zero Waste Home since finding it and was excited to find out Bea was writing a book titled Zero Waste Home about their lifestyle. I received my copy a few weeks ago and couldn’t put it down.

Bea starts the book telling their story of downsizing from a 3,000 square foot home to their current 1,475 square foot home. Within a couple of years, they parted with 80% of their belongings and started becoming conscious of the amount of waste they were creating.

While the title of the book and the blog, Zero Waste Home, may seem like it’s just about trash, reducing waste, recycling and green living, Bea and her family live a very simple and minimal lifestyle. The book is not just a guide to becoming more conscious about waste, it’s an excellent resource for simplifying your life.

In Zero Waste Home, Bea basically walks you through your home and lifestyle, sharing ways to simplify and prevent waste in areas like the kitchen, your wardrobe, housekeeping and even handling holidays/gifts zero waste style. Zero Waste Home was written to share how the Johnson’s live their zero waste life and encourage others that there are steps you can take that can dramatically reduce your waste.

Reducing your waste is simple if you follow these 5 simple steps (the 5 Rs):

1. Refuse what you do not need.

2. Reduce what you do need.

3. Reuse what you consume.

4. Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse.

5. Rot (compost) organic materials.

Keeping the 5 Rs in mind has helped me shift my views about waste. I’m consciously refusing more and really evaluating the things I consume and rotting more than just kitchen scraps.

Easy ideas to implement to reduce your waste from Zero Waste Home:

Since reading Zero Waste Home, I have taken some more steps to reduce our waste:

  • Canning jars and Pyrex for freezing – Instead of using plastic freezer bags, I recently froze bacon in wide mouth canning jars with plastic lids. And, did you know, you can write on mason jars with Sharpie’s and they’ll wash right off, reducing the need for labels? 
  • Attacking the junk mail! I’ve been calling, e-mailing and refusing unwanted junk mail. To refuse – just write “Refused – Return to Sender – Take me off of your mailing list” on the envelope and stick it back in your mail box. In the past few weeks, we’ve had several days of no mail!
  • Almost Zero Waste Gathering – We recently had a cookout and instead of using disposable cups, plates and napkins, I put our camping plates, mason jars and cloth napkins in a plastic tote and brought them along. When we were finished eating, everyone put their dishes in the tote, I popped the lid on it, brought it home and loaded the dishwasher. This saved a tote full of disposables from going to the landfill!

If you’re interested in reducing your waste, simplifying your life and living minimally, Zero Waste Home is an excellent resource. I’m looking forward to reading back through my copy because I know I’ll glean more ideas from another reading!

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of Zero Waste Home.  All opinions expressed in this post are my own. This post contains affiliate links that help support this site. 

Tips for Preventing Food Waste

Food Waste
Eating high quality, nutrient dense foods is a major priority for our family.  We value our food and strive to have almost no food waste.

Here are a few tips for preventing food waste:

  1. Plan your meals based upon the foods that you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry, placing a high priority on creating meals from the foods (like fresh produce) that will soon spoil if not consumed.
  2. Eat your leftovers.
  3. Have leftover makeovers – creating new meals from boring leftovers!
  4. Freeze foods that you don’t think you’ll consume before they spoil.
  5. Divide leftover casseroles and soups into 1 portion servings and freeze. These are wonderful homemade convenience foods that save money!
  6. Share food with friends and family if you purchased more than you can use.
  7. Serve smaller portions, especially to children. If the initial portion is consumed, you can serve more!
  8. Have a clean out the fridge lunch/dinner. Eat remaining leftovers and produce that needs to be used. These type of meals are fun, especially for kids!

Do you have other tips for preventing food waste


Simple Composting

Compost in BarrelWe don’t put any food into our trash can.

The main reason we choose not to put food into the trash is because those scraps are valuable, as food for our chickens and as rich compost! A bonus of not putting food into the trash can, the trash doesn’t smell!

Our priority is to prevent food waste and not have much to throw out but there are peels, seeds, cores and bones that are inedible.

The scraps we do have fall into 3 categories:

  1. Scraps for chickens
  2. Scraps for composting
  3. Other scraps (like bones/cooked foods) which go to a pile in our woods

Starting to compost can be intimidating because there’s the fear of the smell of collecting food scraps in the kitchen. Plus, many people think they need a fancy kitchen collection container and an elaborate composting system outside. You don’t need these things to begin. Composting really can be simple!

Here’s our simple composting system:

Compost Bowl

We keep a bowl on our kitchen counter to collect scraps to go to compost. We only put peels, seeds, cores and uncooked food into this bowl (no meat or cooked foods).

Full Compost Bowl

Once the bowl fills up, it’s time to carry it outside. We dump the bowl an average of once a day (some days we’ll go two days before dumping, other days we fill up two bowls to carry out).

Compost Barrel

Once the bowl fills, we bring it  out to our compost barrel and place it inside the barrel.

We have the barrel to speed up the ‘cooking’ process for our compost but it’s not necessary.

You can just dump your kitchen scraps in a pile outside, you do not need anything fancy and don’t have to spend a dime to start composting!

Compost in Barrel

The compost barrel contains the scraps that are breaking down into rich compost.

If you look closely, you can see scraps of denim and a piece of leather. I cut up a pair of old jeans and a leather notebook cover and am experimenting with composting them!

Growing in Compost

Underneath our compost barrel is broken down pile of compost. It does not have a bad odor, it just has a rich, earthy odor to it. And, you’ll notice there are things growing in it, I’m pretty sure these are cantaloupe plants which excites me!

Composting really can be simple. All you need is a bowl to collect scraps and a spot in your yard to dump them!

Food Waste

Fresh Produce

The statistics on food waste are staggering to me. Approximately 14-25% of food is wasted in American households. Based on a $400/month food budget, the average American wastes around $56-100 each month. That’s a huge chunk of money, especially for families living on single incomes!

While our family has always lived frugally, only in recent years have I really made preventing food waste a priority. Sure, we used to eat leftovers, but we’d still throw some leftovers out, let produce go bad frequently and just weren’t conscious of preventing waste.

Now that feeding our family high quality, nutrient dense foods is a major priority, we truly value our food and I strive to have almost no food waste.

I’ve gotten really good at planning our meals around the produce that needs to be used before spoiling, make eating leftovers a priority and enjoy creating new dishes out of leftovers. We serve our boys small portions to prevent a lot of waste (and give them more food once they eat what was initially served) but they’re not the neatest eaters. In fact, the biggest source of food waste around here is the food that our boys drop on the ground.

Being conscious about how much food you are wasting is the first step to preventing food waste.

After we decided not to put any food/food waste in our trash can, instead choosing to compost and feed our chickens, we had a more accurate visual of the amount of food that was being put in the trash. Sure, a lot of it was scraps (peelings, seeds, etc.) but we also had a visual on the ‘real food’ that was being wasted.

Knowing how much food is being wasted serves as a motivator to reduce waste. When you start thinking about the money that is being lost by not consuming food, you start viewing food a little differently and preventing food waste can become a fun money saving challenge!

Are you aware of the food waste in your home? Is preventing food waste a priority in your home?