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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Zero Trash in a Year - Could You Do It?


USA Today's Wendy Koch reports on family that lives with almost no trash each year. Here's how they do it, could you?

By Thomas J. Story/Sunset
"How much could you live without? In upscale Mill Valley, Calif., a family of four lives in a stylish home with modern amenities but with only a tiny bit of something else: trash. It throws away only a few HANDFULS of non-recyclable waste each year.The Johnson family doesn't buy and keep unnecessary stuff, and most of what it purchases has either recyclable wrapping or no packaging at all. They take their own jars and containers as well as canvas totes to grocery stores and farmers' markets.

'The less I have, the richer I feel. Stuff weighs you down,' Bea Johnson tells Sunset magazine in its January edition. 'When we started getting rid of things, it was kind of addictive,' she continues. 'In a recession, people are inclined to keep things, but I feel the opposite.'

Bea and Scott Johnson are among a growing number of Americans trying to lighten their landfill load in a country where the average person generates 4.5 pounds of trash each day. Another example is Amy and Adam Korst, a young married Oregon couple that lived almost entirely trash-free for a year. "It was actually a lot easier than we expected," Amy Korst told Green House.

By Thomas J. Story/Sunset

The Johnsons started their quest three years ago when they downsized from a 3,000-square-foot home to their current 1,400 square feet, reports Sunset. Béa Johnson said a neighbor called their uncluttered home "futuristic and alien-like" and, peering into closets, asked: 'Where's all your stuff?' She offers tips for living simply on her blog, and here are a few as excerpted from Sunset:
  • The Johnsons go to the grocery store with their own jars and buy bulk snacks and other pantry supplies. 'Some of the kids' friends came over recently and said, "You have no food here,"' says Béa. 'They didn't recognize this as food since there weren't any boxes.'
  • The family shops with glass jars, fabric bags, and canvas totes, and returns containers for a deposit. Even cheese and meat go in jars. Cheese is purchased when it is cut, to avoid plastic wrap.
  • Clean up is done with microfiber cloths. 'People are really attached to paper towels,' Béa says. 'But they're the easiest thing to give up.'
  • In the playroom there are four bins of toys. The rule is simple: If the boys want something new to them, it needs to fit in the bins.
  • One medicine cabinet in the bathroom holds toiletries for the entire family... Béa uses only four beauty products: face powder, eye cream, mascara, and eyeliner....The family uses no Q-tips, cotton balls, or tissue (handkerchiefs sub in here). Toilet paper rolls come wrapped in paper, not plastic.
  • The house closets are enviable for their lack of clutter. Shopping is done only twice a year at a thrift store and replaces items that are stained, worn, or outgrown.... Everyone has a set number of items. For example, Béa caps out at 6 pairs of shoes, 7 tops, 7 pants, and 2 skirts (1 also wearable as a top)."                                                                                                                                                      More on living green:

    Decluttering Any Room in 3 Weeks

    Declutter by Becoming Package-Free

    Recycling Electronics and Appliances