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Could zero-waste living pave the way to happiness?

I have been cyber-stalking Bea Johnson. (This is what happens when you move across the country and have no life.) Ever since Scotti sent us a link to this Sunset Magazine article about Bea's zero-waste home, I have been digging around for more, more, more! I've read her blog, zerowastehome.blogspot.com from cover to cover. I've found more articles at the NY Times and MSNBC. I'm simply fascinated by her lifestyle. Her family produces almost no garbage, and that includes recycling. And they live in a lovely home and they are all attractive and they summer in France. Dammit. While living completely waste-free is not something I strive for, living a more minimalist lifestyle sounds like a dream. And without turning this into too much of a 'what's life all about?' spiritual post, well, really, isn't that what it all comes down to?

I know that living low-waste is not something that happens overnight. The journey that Renee and I both took getting our garbage down to one can a month took a couple of years. (And, sadly, since moving to Ohio, I've taken many steps backward.) Bea's family (husband and two sons) is united in their efforts to do what they can to keep unnecessary stuff from coming into their lives. Their goal: to be kinder to the planet and to focus on more meaningful living. For them it's all about refusing first, then reduce / reuse / recycle. Her boys don't accept goody bags at parties. She brings all of her own packaging (glass jars and cloth sacks) to the market for everything: meat, cheese, milk, bulk foods, produce, etc. She makes her own cleaning products, yogurt and soy milk. They own a minimal amount of mostly second-hand clothing. She cans tomatoes so they can eat them year-round. While it sounds like it takes enormous effort to live like that, I know from my own watered-down experience that it just becomes a part of your life. It is your life.

Part of their success comes from educating the people in their lives about their lifestyle. (No different than people who eat a vegetarian diet or live according to religious doctrine.) You wouldn't bring chicken soup to your sick vegan friend, would you? Friends of Bea's hopefully wouldn't bring her take-out in disposable containers, either. I would imagine that eliminating the clutter of day-to-day life forces you to examine the real purpose of it, to embrace it and experience it, rather than trying to simply manage it. (Though what do I know? I spend my days cyber-stalking.)

I find it all inspirational, which is why I'm rambling on about it here. You might, too. I've also been reading the minimalist blog zen habits, which you might enjoy as well. I suppose it's natural to reevaluate your life when you shake it up. Apparently I'm looking for some answers, and I should probably start by looking in the trash.


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