Don’t get me wrong, I buy my fair share of books. But working at Recycled Reads has changed me—especially after seeing people donate box upon box of books they’d held onto for many years (and in some cases for many cross-country moves).
“I don’t know how I accumulated all of these. It’s hard to let them go,” they’ll say as we hoist the boxes from the bed of a pick-up truck.
These days I keep a running list on a sticky-note of intriguing titles I pick up on as I move books from box to cart to shelf. Then, I use the sticky-note list to guide my Bibliocommons mission: log in; search for books; place holds on available books, add inevitably-found-along-the-way other books to For Later shelf; have all books sent to my neighborhood branch for pick-up.
One such book from the list is Bea Johnson’s 2013 book Zero Waste Home, which I have on loan right now. This book is, as Johnson subtitles it, The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. And boy is it Ultimate. Bea Johnson and her family “produce just one quart of garbage per year” with the help of her 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (p. 14). The book is divided by chapter into the many familiar areas of a household including the kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, and workspace. It is bursting with bullet points and lists (you’ll want to take notes), but maintains a well-written and funny narrative throughout, that of a family’s shift into the zero waste lifestyle.
I like to buy in bulk (I actually live around the corner from "the first 'zero-waste, package-free' grocery store in the nation") but I was inspired to take it to the next level with Johnson’s section on BYOC (Bringing Your Own Container). She writes about getting deli meats and cheeses in reusable containers, where I’ve only ever considered nuts, grains, and coffee beans “bulk” foods.
“[It] is uncommon and may raise eyebrows, but only if you show hesitation. I find it easier not to ask for permission to shop with reusables. For example, when facing new staff at the fish counter, I’ll say, ‘Four calamari steaks, in here, please,’ as I hand out my jar, looking down at the calamari steaks, aloof. Staring at the staff for approval will only make them doubt you. I act as if jars were common practice (as if I had shopped this way my whole life), and when asked about the purpose of the jar, I simply reply, ‘I do not have a trash can.’”
-- Johnson, p. 56
Overall, the best description I can give about Johnson’s book is: informative yet frou frou. Or, maybe handy and hoighty toighty. Johnson, with her practice of buying calamari steaks in a mason jar, might turn a few people off. (Admittedly, I rolled my eyes once or twice, for instance on page 47 when she suggested reusable titanium toothpicks for cocktail parties.) Still, don’t discount her tips. Her mission to run a zero waste home is valiant, and reading about her family’s transition gave me many good ideas for where I can cut down on waste in my own home.
I’ll have to post an update when I get around to looking aloof at the seafood counter. Baby steps, though: After running out of laundry detergent last week, I filled up a mason jar with bulk detergent in the bulk department of my grocery store—I hadn’t even noticed bulk laundry detergent there until I looked for it. I'll be returning my copy of the book later this afternoon—until you make it to the Library to check it out, you can check out Johnson's Zero Waste Home blog.