The Zero Waste Lifestyle

As the 5 am wake ups continue, another effect has been an increased desire to learn more.

I’m not typically one to go out of my way to pick up a book or learn something new just for the sake of learning, but all this week I’ve found myself being quite more curious than normal. It seems all this reflecting has opened up a new window inside my brain, and yesterday brought in the sweet smell of the Zero Waste movement!

What the hell is Zero Waste?

It’s a philosophy of creating a more sustainable lifestyle by keeping your waste down to a (pretty hardcore) minimal amount, while helping the Earth and your own happiness in the process. Consequentially, and the part that really interested ME, surprise surprise, was that it also happens to save you a ton of cash in the process :)

It’s minimalism on crack.

I’ve seen a handful of bloggers over the years snap pics of their monthly waste in an effort to spread the word and become better at it, but it never clicked with me as it did when I came across the queen of Zero Waste herself, Bea Johnson. Blogger, and now best selling author, of Here’s a snippet of her bio:

Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle, our lives have changed for the better: We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff… My vocation is to shatter mis-conceptions associated with the Zero Waste lifestyle, proving that waste-free living can not only be “stylish”, but also lead to significant health benefits, and time and money savings.

It’s quite the challenge to overcome, as admittedly my first thoughts were “no way,” and “you’ve got to be out of your f*cking mind,” haha… But the more I read, and the more I followed her story – particularly this 8:31 min video on her – I was completely blown away. And, dare I say it, inspired to maybe try this out in my own way! A pretty drastic change over the course of 20 minutes :)

But I keep coming back to the idea of having “more time,” “better health,” and a fresh new way to achieve “more savings.” (Though most of us here already incorporate varying degrees of frugality and minimalism which this lifestyle heavily relies on. So it very well could make for the perfect “next step” for those looking to amp it up a bit lot!). It takes challenging everything to a whole new level, and if this wife, mom, author – AND full-time job holder – can do it, why not us?

Here’s an inside look at her home and the way she lives. Maybe it’ll spark something inside of you too:

The key takeaways:

  • It’s not about complicating your life, it’s about simplifying it.
  • It helps you focus on what matters the most.
  • She brings her own totes to the grocery store – some home made – instead of using plastic bags
  • Started buying more in bulk
  • Also brings her own jars for the deli/cheese/meat counters! (I didn’t even know you could do this?)
  • Says it becomes a more human way of shopping because it brings out conversation with those who work there – creates more of a community
  • She doesn’t shop in any of the MIDDLE aisles – only the perimeter of the stores because that’s where the healthiest stuff is (interesting!)
  • When shopping vegetables she tries to find the ones without the stickers (which = waste)
  • She doesn’t own any trash cans (!!!)
  • She found you didn’t need all those different cleaning supplies for the house, and that many were actually toxic for you
  • She explains the 5 R’s of zero waste (see below)
  • Uses organic powder for makeup
  • Makes her own mascara using 4 ingredients
  • Started tracking how much waste they use a year (picture down below – crazy!!)
  • Husband not on board at first – hah
  • Thought this new lifestyle was costing too much
  • Turns out they were saving 40% on their overall spending!
  • Zero waste is more about what you do outside of the home, than what you do inside (all goes back to consumerism)
  • It’s complicated at first until you figure out a system that works for you (just like finance, eh? :))
  • Takes time to declutter your life
  • When you’re holding stuff you don’t need, you’re keeping them from other people. You’re keeping them from being useful to other people.

What a last line there. Keeping stuff that can be useful to other people – such an interesting way of looking at it.

So as you can see, it is about being better for the environment and your wallet, but it’s even more of a conscious LIFESTYLE. A lifestyle that’s on the opposite of the spectrum (not unlike extreme early retirement), but one that’s still very much attainable. For some more so than others ;)

The 5 R’s of Zero Waste

This whole movement is built upon the following 5 main R’s of living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. (And only in that order, says Bea :)):

  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. and Rot (compost) the rest.

You’ll notice this overlaps a lot with the tenets of smart personal finance.

Refusing what you do not need — I.e. Not buying more “stuff!” Focusing on the needs over the wants (though Zero Wasters would quickly point out that wants are okay/important so long as you consciously do it in a way that fits)

minimalismReducing what you need — You need clothes and shelter and a handful of other stuff, but you don’t need the biggest house on the block stuff full of clothes and toys and a myriad of other things. There’s power (and savings!) in minimizing the amount of stuff which will still grant the same – if not more – amount of happiness.

Reuse what you consume — The more you reuse, the more you don’t need to go out and buy again! Saving both money AND time. (And I like to think that donating/selling stuff on Craigslist also falls in line here. Instead of reusing it yourself, you’re sending it to a new home to be used)

Recycle what you cannot Refuse, Reduce or Reuse — This one won’t necessarily save you any money, but it will get you to double think future purchases and how you consume stuff if your end goal is to recycle or compost it which is the last step in the no-waste cycle.

Composting (rotting) the rest — No more trash bags/cans! Which = savings! Now I don’t know how exactly you go about composting your stuff (doesn’t seem that complicated?), but the fact Bea’s family of 4 only fills up 1 jar full of waste in a YEAR shows that it’s quite possible to go without trash cans. As insane as that is to imagine.

Here’s a picture of their waste from 2014:

no waste jarAnd that right there is the reason she’s dubbed the “The Priestess of Waste-Free Living” haha… By the NY Times, no less. Talk about inspirational!

And not to get too far off track here, but her kids were giving her a hard time by holding onto all these jars (because it’s quite literally waste! Haha…), so in a blog post she asked her readers what she should do with them, which lead me down another fascinating path of “bottle bricks” and “bottle schools.” which people use for all kinds of amazing projects and good.

plastic bottle brick[by]

It’s truly amazing the passion and creativity people have in this world… and that they’re using it for the GOOD instead of bad!

Zero Waste in my own home?

I don’t know how all this will effect me and my family down the line, after all, it’s pretty hardcore, but I already see the wheels turning as I move room from room noticing how waste-FULL I’ve become over the years. We throw out bags and bags worth every week without thought, and I’m hoping this becomes one of those light bulb moments where you look back and see how far you’ve come :) Again, not unlike those events that lead us to better financial management!

So there you have it. Zero Waste 101 :) Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot.

Let it marinate over the weekend and see how you feel about it. I’m not here to convince you in either direction, I just find it helpful to explore new lifestyles with hopes of picking off the good parts and mashing it into your own world :) You never know which will end up changing your life (7 years ago I could care less about personal finance!), but it’s worth taking a few minutes to find out.

I’ll share all the other side effects of working like Benjamin Franklin next week.  I wonder what he would have thought about Zero Waste?

UPDATE: I’m now composting!! And doing other zero waste things :)

PS: Here’s a great list from Bea on 100 ways to incorporate No Waste into your life. I found it super helpful when asking myself how the hell you start :)

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  1. Chris Muller August 7, 2015 at 5:32 AM

    Top of the mornin’ my 5am brother! And a happy Friday to you! This post really got me thinking, too. I’ve learned that my initial reaction of people doing extreme things is usually wrong. I always say “man that’s extreme” but then after it digests for awhile, I start to realize that yes, they might be extreme, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take a PIECE of what they do and incorporate it into my lifestyle. Minimalism, early retirement, juice fasting, etc… all of this can be extreme, but you can make it work for you by just making a few changes (getting rid of crap and living in a smaller home instead of being an extreme minimalist, for example).

    This one feels different though. It’s like every extreme way of life, combined. As I was reading it I started thinking how much I really do waste. We just bought plastic sandwich bags at Costco the other day to put veggies in for lunch. Complete waste. We use paper towels like it’s nobody’s business. Complete waste. And I think you’re right… reducing waste will lead to saving (a lot) of money.

    Not unlike most of your posts, but you’ve yet again inspired me. Tomorrow is round 2 of my yard sale… whatever I don’t sell I am packing up and taking to Goodwill, even though trashing it would be 10x easier. Thank you, my good sir, and have a great weekend!

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 6:48 AM

      “It’s like every extreme way of life, combined. ” – yes! my thoughts exactly. I can’t see myself bringing jars to the grocery store or composting (at least yet), but I’ll admit I’m tempted to start doing a handful of the other tips and tricks to rockin’ this strategy. I honestly can’t see any downside other than the time spent trying to figure out how to do it, haha… And maybe my wife continuing to give me “the look” ;)

      So glad you’ve been enjoying the past few articles here – really means a lot that you say so. Congrats on making it through a whole week of 5 ams with me! I totally have to keep going.

    2. Lisa November 5, 2015 at 11:22 AM

      Costco can be irritating. Same thing with Sam’s Club. The good parts are buying stuff that is in glass jars or so.

  2. Kirsten August 7, 2015 at 5:37 AM

    Been up since 2:30 am here and I am not feeling the desire to learn more. Just more about the inside of my coffee cup…

    I would LOVE to be zero waste. A few years back, I really looked seriously into composting and my husband (who grew up on a farm, no less) gave me endless grief until I tabled the idea. Little does he know, I never forgot it. We are totally doing it… Just not right now…

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 6:55 AM

      Let me know if you ever do it! I want to start learning how just in case we want to try it too. I know one friend that passes out these little containers made for composting specific stuff which she then turns into a product she sells, but outside of that I’m clueless. Or I guess I can just Google it – hah.

      1. Brittany August 7, 2015 at 12:02 PM

        There’s not a whole lot to learn with composting–it’s a natural process that runs itself! Just don’t compost fats/meats/dairy. I purchased my compost bin from the city’s Public Works Dept. They also had this thing called a Green Cone that’s always sold out that’s pretty intriguing and can include fats/meats/dairy.

        I’ve seen people just do a compost pile and not put it in a bin at all. I’ve seen just yard waste compost. I’ve even seen compost pallets! It’s one of our nerdy/hippie delights in our yard (right along with the rain barrel and raised garden beds).

        1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:49 PM

          Awesome! Haha… I’ve heard of the rain barrels before and like the idea of that too. I would totally go for a bin and now have on my list to see what we have here in our city in terms of classes and stuff you can buy to get started. I feel like I’ve stumbled across some secret world I had no idea about, haha… Even though it’s been going on for probably hundreds of years :)

          1. Simple Is The New Green August 8, 2015 at 7:10 AM

            I worked with a colleague who was a “master composter”. She recommended that I didn’t waste my money on commercial bins. Besides, everyone used to compost ‘back in the day’ without the fancy bins.

            Instead, here are no-cost options that worked for me:

            1. For non-food waste, such as yard scraps, just make a pile somewhere that is out of sight. Composting is a natural process. If you aren’t in a hurry and don’t need the soil, there is no need to watch over it.
            2. Take a plastic bin with a lid and cut out the bottom and bury it in the yard. Cat litter containers and Folgers coffee containers work well for this. Put food scraps in the bin and close the lid. The worms will eat the food scraps and the lid will keep critters away. Do not put animal products or oils in there.
            3. Use raked leaves as mulch.

            1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:04 AM

              Fascinating!! Not sure our yard is large enough to do a lot of this, but I could probably test a coffee can-sized one easily. Great tips!

      2. Heather M August 9, 2015 at 1:10 AM

        Composting does not have to be complicated. Get a bin, put food scraps in it(not meat or dairy), dump in back yard, turn occasionally if desired(but that’s not even necessary), use in garden or don’t. This is exactly what we do currently, my favorite part is watching deer and turkeys scavenge through it in the winter time.

  3. Thias @It Pays Dividends August 7, 2015 at 6:36 AM

    The idea of this sounds so far fetched it might just be perfect haha. How a family can only go through one jar of waste a year is unbelievable when I’m taking out multiple garbage bags a week. From a food standpoint it definitely makes sense too – if it isn’t something that can be composted, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

    I think it would be really hard to get anywhere near their level but this does make me think about our current practices and what we can do to improve them and cut down on our waste a bit.

    Have a good weekend J. Money!

  4. Brian @ Debt Discipline August 7, 2015 at 7:24 AM

    Wow, that a small amount of waste. We are a family who recycles. It amazing the decrease in the amount of our normal trash that goes out each week. I like the idea of simplifying, de-cluttering it something we have been working on this year, over it helps make your life easier and less complicated.

  5. Kalie August 7, 2015 at 7:28 AM

    Very interesting. Thanks for the summary. I don’t think I could reduce my waste that much but I sure could improve! Composting helps a lot and our garden thanks us.

    I like the part about keeping stuff away from others who could use it. Embarrassingly, I also thought, what about my stuff that no one would want? Um, doesn’t that mean I should get rid of it, if I think it’s completely worthless? And of course, one’s man junk is another’s treasure.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 11:42 AM

      You know it! Which is exactly why thrift stores are so popular! Gotta donate it all there (as long as in decent condition) and then grab your tax write-off while you’re at it :)

  6. Hannah August 7, 2015 at 7:33 AM

    I guess this isn’t the post to admit that our home remodel has already generated 15 trashcans worth of trash :/

    Seriously though, her lifestyle is both inspirational and to a certain extent attainable. I’ve learned a lot from Bea, but I need to get more on the bandwagon again.

  7. Emma | Money Can Buy Me Happiness August 7, 2015 at 7:44 AM

    Wow. I am so intrigued by this. I know there are stores in New Zealand where you can buy bulk goods from cleaning products to chick peas and you bring in your own bottles, jars, baggies whatever. I am definitely going to do a price comparison with the supermarkets to see how much cheaper they are.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 11:47 AM

      In my limited learning so far it seems most things are cheaper going the Zero Waste / bulk route, but a few items are more expensive. Guess it depends on how – and what – you eat.

      Let us know what you find out :)

  8. jestjack August 7, 2015 at 8:03 AM

    We embraced this “lifestyle” some time ago. Certainly not in the same league as Mrs. Johnson but who is? But have had a fair amount of success. We don’t have trash collection as we only produce a plastic grocery bag of “trash” every two or three weeks. And trash collection in my neck of the woods isn’t cheap. Everything else gets recycled, reused or composted. I will share that I save the metal and aluminum separately and take this to the scrap yard and get paid for it. Lately scrap prices are down however. BUT the biggest boost has come from composting….I have a “compost tumbler” and this does a quick and excellent job of reducing organic waste into a usable soil amendment in the garden. You can get these used off CL pretty reasonable…Got mine for free…

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 11:50 AM

      Woahhh you’re doing great!!

      i’m gonna go look up this “compost tumbler’ right now.

      I need something super easy to use so I actually DO IT and can start getting into the habit. Thx for the tip.

      1. April August 7, 2015 at 4:32 PM

        Definitely go the tumbler route. It keeps it contained and wild animals out, while easily mixing everything up on a regular basis. Regular bins that you need to turn with a shovel are a PITA. I also had tried one with worms, but then I accidentally killed all the worms. The little holes on top let in too much water. Guess I should have kept it in the garage. Now I have a bin of VERY smelly liquidy goo that I’m afraid to dump out since it smells like a barnyard.

      2. jestjack August 7, 2015 at 5:55 PM

        Check it out “Money”….you’ll like it and like April says it contains it and keeps the “critters” out. And don’t get me started on “compost tea”….I mix a batch up of compost tea and put it on the vegetable garden when it’s “really ripe”. Excellent results…Check around on CL….Best of Luck!!

        1. J. Money August 17, 2015 at 3:18 PM

          haha… I’m thinking this could actually turn into a side hustle! I’m not a gardener in the least so how much do people pay for compost?? ;)

  9. Chris @ Flipping A Dollar August 7, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    It’s missing an R. Re-sell what you don’t want on eBay!

    “She doesn’t shop in any of the MIDDLE aisles – only the perimeter of the stores because that’s where the healthiest stuff is (interesting!)”

    My wife and I did a Whole30 a few years back. WHAT A WAKEUP CALL! The gist is that you can only eat meat, veggies, fruits, and some nuts for 30 days. Some seasonings are ok, some condiments are OK (I’m looking at you Frank’s Red Hot – we put that sh%t on everything).

    Could not believe how many things have added preservatives in it. I was in fantastic shape before this, and I still almost lost another 5-10 lbs. We just crushed it. We ate literally non-stop the entire month too! The first 2 weeks were brutal and we almost quit. The last 2 were so easy we didn’t even think about it anymore.

    Now, years later, I’m not doing this as part of my lifestyle, but I did have a few takeaways from it. I only drink coffee black. I also realized that I’m sensitive to milk. Ice cream and cheese is fine, but if i drink too much milk… let’s just say it’s not fun.

    So long story short, if you’re into this kind of thing, I recommend trying to go hardcore for a month or so and then see what worked well and didn’t.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:09 PM

      I LIKE IT!!

      Maybe that should be my next challenge after this B. Franklin week is over?

      I’d need a lot of good snacks though as working right next to my kitchen makes me want to eat all the time :) And speaking of black coffee – I had my first cup like that today! Can’t say I enjoyed it, but I wanted to see if I could *do it*. And I did! It’s been a year since stopping sugar into it so I bet I could get used to it if I had to w/out milk. I don’t know if it’s that important to me though.

      1. Isabelle August 7, 2015 at 10:19 PM

        If you want a good book explaning the WHY and HOW of a Whole 30, read “it starts with food” by Doug and Meliss Hartwig.

        1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:09 AM

          Will Google it!

  10. Angela August 7, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    I’ve always been surprised that more PF blogs didn’t acknowledge the zero waste life. It seems so extreme at first, but if you do it little by little it turns into a habit of thinking of ways to reduce waste (and save lots of money!!) I think it would take me a long time to get to the point she is at, but I’m always trying a new zero waste lifestyle idea since reading her book a few months ago. My favourite chapter is the one about the holidays! So simplistic and meaningful.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:11 PM

      I’m surprised too, actually. Even on Minimalism blogs I don’t see it that often?

      I’ll have to check out that holiday chapter – I just activated my first act of Zero Waste by borrowing the book from the library, haha… Even though I felt bad for not supporting her :(

      1. Debbie M August 23, 2015 at 4:58 PM

        No Impact Man was my first introduction to this lifestyle. I really enjoyed his blog at the time, and the book is pretty good, too. (I haven’t seen the movie.)

        1. J. Money August 24, 2015 at 11:55 AM

          Neat – never heard of but will Google!

  11. Catina Marie August 7, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    J, I popped over to the site and “whoa”….hooked! I think this is what I have been searching for. Thanks for sharing!

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:12 PM


      Let’s try to tweak our lives together!

      1. Catina Marie August 8, 2015 at 9:27 AM

        I’m in! I have been de-cluttering like a beast…this is my next stop. The challenge I have is definitely shopping at the grocery store. We don’t have too many bulk options but Costco has been my friend lately so hoping that helps. #LetsDoThis

        1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:11 AM

          Woo! I started this weekend by trying not to use so many damn paper towels. I think I cut down 80% just by paying attention better (started using a cloth). I really want to get some of those glass jars just cuz they’re so clean and nice looking! Need to see if there’s bulk stuff around here…

          1. Debbie M August 23, 2015 at 4:59 PM

            I like to re-use glass peanut butter jars. Some of the spaghetti sauce and salsa jars also have wide mouths.

  12. Dee @ Color Me Frugal August 7, 2015 at 8:41 AM

    The “refuse” part has me a little stymied as I sit here thinking of all the not-exactly-wanted things that my mother-in-law is constantly giving us. Sometimes we are able to sell things she has given us (I’m sending out a package today that was something from her we sold on eBay), but other times we just end up throwing it away. I’d LOVE to refuse to accept things from her, were it not for the fact that I think she’d be pretty offended. I wonder how zero wasters handle people like this? I’m sure that she wouldn’t consider the things she gives us to be “waste.” Guess I’ll have to keep pondering this one…

    1. Shannon August 7, 2015 at 9:02 AM

      In Bea’s household they emphasize experiences as gifts. Like trips to the museum, movies out, rock climbing gym for a kids’ birthday, fancy dinner with wine pairings gift certificate, etc. Maybe if you can ask your MIL to think about gifts in the experience form rather than physical form. Then she can fulfill her need to give, but you don’t end up with crap! PS we are working on that too with H’s family.

      1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:16 PM

        I think we’ll have the same problem too as we start doing some of this stuff, so I’m loving that *experience* idea. Not that it’s a problem-problem (how fortunate are we to have people caring/giving to us?) but still, best to figure out how to make it more win-win all around :)

    2. Catina Marie August 8, 2015 at 9:29 AM

      Yes! This one hit me too since my mother thinks she needs to bring a truckload with her every time she visits. I refuse is my new phrase! :-)

  13. tracy August 7, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    composting is SO easy! We’ve been doing it for years and between composting and recycling we only produce one normal sized bag of trash per month, and most of that is used kitty litter. I realize we are nowhere near as extreme as Bea (I read her book last month and WOW!) but seriously, we don’t pay for trash pickup which is a separate bill where we live because we produce so little trash. Instead we take it to the our county dump every couple of months (we also don’t make stinky trash which helps) which is covered by our property taxes.

    Anyone who is scared of composting really just needs to give it a try!

    1. Lisa O August 7, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      Just started this year and I am loving it! We too have no stinky garbage in the house any longer :) We turn it once a week and all we smell is dirt! It has been very positive for us so far. Looking forward to the dirt for next years gardening.

      1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:18 PM

        You guys are exciting me!!!

  14. Shannon August 7, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    I first read about her in Sunset magazine while on an airplane years ago, and I was completely intrigued as well! It is very inspiring! I too want to know how you shop for meats using your own jar. I think also where she lives, you can get any thing you want in bulk, including shampoo and olive oils. I love her kids’ toy system. They only get 4 bins of toys total. If they want a new toy, they need to make sure it fits in the bin so that usually means they have to donate something to create room. (I don’t have kids, but to those I tell it to they all say “Yeah right!”) I’m also fascinated by her wardrobe. She went to fashion school and loves fashion, but manages to only upgrade her wardrobe 2x a year with about 2 pieces each time (while getting rid of 2 pieces). I often go to the archives and browse all the wardrobe posts for inspiration. She wears heels a lot, not sure I could pull that off on a daily basis. I am working on the Refuse part – not letting stuff into your house. Starting with junk mail and writing to place to reject mailings. That in itself is taking a lot of time! They also go camping (mind you she doesn’t own regular walking/hiking shoes, just Ugg boots), and they manage to produce no garbage waste when camping. Amazing.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:20 PM

      Wowww – I hadn’t seen any of that stuff yet on her blog, that’s amazing.

      As a parent I can say the toy stuff IS challenging, but I bet if you laid down the law and explained why and made it fun it would work over time… I’m all about one-in, one-out – even just in my own life. Although lately it’s all *out* since I’m hawking stuff on CL all the time, haha…

      Thx for the insight!

  15. Robin @ The Thrifty Peach August 7, 2015 at 8:56 AM

    I discovered Bea and her book and blog about six months ago and it fired me up. Since then I’ve been working at reducing everything with a vengeance. I still have a long way to go, but we now compost, take reuseable bags to the grocery store, and recycle, and our trash is down to one bag a week. Her big idea is to shop somewhere that sells bulk food items that are not in packages, but our closest store for that is a 45 minute drive away. But still, love her ideas. Very motivating, and I hope more people try it.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:29 PM

      Awesome! It’s so cool to see how many people already know about her and the lifestyle :) I’m gonna have to check out the stores around here and see what the deal is w/ bulk… I know we have a Costco but not sure if that’s a decent spot for this or not?

  16. Ali @ Anything You Want August 7, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    Wow – this is pretty extreme! I like the idea of reducing waste, but zero waste seems a bit unrealistic. I would like to try to reduce my trash by bringing my own containers to the grocery store and composting.

  17. Tonya@Budget and the Beach August 7, 2015 at 9:51 AM

    I have a feeling some people are going to watch that video with a critical eye because “doesn’t she look like miss. perfect and there is NO WAY myself or my family can l live up to that..I mean look at her pristine friggen house!!!” :) OK, maybe that was just me thinking that. lol! But, I’m working on seeing the big picture and not being judgmental and there is A LOT to be taken away from this. Plus, it may be hard to jump all in, but you/me can take baby steps to try and make your house and your life zero waste so that the task doesn’t seem so huge. For me, I’m starting with making my own cleaning products. Something I’ve been thinking about doing for awhile.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:32 PM

      I think that’s a good first step :)

  18. Kathy August 7, 2015 at 9:55 AM

    I will admit upfront that this whole lifestyle seems pretty inconvenient. What a load of stuff to have to carry to the store. Carrying your own bags is one thing, but containers for things like laundry detergent, blueberries, strawberries, pasta……I gotta admit is something I’m not willing to do. Obviously you have to be dedicated to the cause.

  19. Tawcan August 7, 2015 at 10:19 AM

    That is a very small amount of waste. What an interesting idea but you’d need to be very dedicated to this program to be successful.

  20. Cassandra August 7, 2015 at 10:37 AM

    Thanks for sharing. Our town is instituting a “pay as you play” trash system next month (you pay per bag of trash). So it’s the perfect time to start thinking about reducing how many bags we produce per week. We’re already pretty good about recycling, but it’s time to step it up to the next level. Maybe we can get down to one bag per month?

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:34 PM

      Interesting! I know they do that in a lot of cities now for plastic bags at the stores (5 cents per bag) trying to get people to cut down, so I’m curious to see how it works for this trash thing! Is that the reason they’re switching? Or are they trying to make more money? Haha…

  21. Lisa O August 7, 2015 at 10:39 AM

    Love this post! About 3 years ago, I started reading and living a cleaner life. I cleaned out my closet and set rules about buying to much stuff…stuff you don’t need & don’t use. I started recycling everything I could for a better world! I have bins in my garage for bottles, paper, tin, aluminum, etc. I usually take it 2x’s a month on my way to the grocery store and make a few bucks off my garbage. I just started the composting pile this year in full swing. When we turn it weekly you smell dirt and next year that dirt will be used for my garden. I reuse everything I can…bread bags become bags for walking the dogs and picking up waste, garbage bags get washed for another storing of soda bottles, gallon plastic bags get washed and reused to store food. I have no problem picking up the soda cans/bottles that are left behind by people in parking lots, side of the road or park (while walking dogs) and recycling them with mine. If I have old blankets, pillows and/or towels they are given to the SPCA to help animals in need. To me it is like a game to make the most out of everything you have :)

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:37 PM

      I love it!!

      It is a kinda game – you’re right. And one that benefits soooo many different areas!

      It’s pretty funny. I normally care less about this stuff but my brain is on fire now and I “see the light” :) I think it’s just perfect timing with how I envision living in the future anyways, what with early retirement and “less stuff” etc. It’s an amazing goal (and journey) to work towards. Especially compared to just being lazy and never changing – hah.

  22. Heather @ Simply Save August 7, 2015 at 12:09 PM

    I’m not sure I could go there completely, but even trying to really reduce waste is a big start for simplifying life and saving money! I’m trying to replace all my disposable items with a more permanent option to save money and inadvertently I’m reducing waste too! A lot of places also give a discount for bringing your own bags and mugs!

  23. mollyjade August 7, 2015 at 12:13 PM

    Be sure to look for rebates on a lot of this stuff. My city gives you money towards a compost bin if you take a compost class. Besides a compost bin, you could also look into a bokashi bucket.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:38 PM

      Awesome!! I’d totally take a class just to learn, so that $$ would be icing on the cake :) Thanks for the tip!

  24. Kayla @ Femme Frugality August 7, 2015 at 12:16 PM

    Wow! That is very interesting/insane, haha. :) I don’t like to waste and I try not to waste much, but I’m not that extreme about it. I never would have thought about buying the veggies without the stickers at the store.

  25. Mrs. Frugalwoods August 7, 2015 at 12:30 PM

    Fascinating! That is an astoundingly small amount of waste. I like to think about consuming less in my life in order to generate less waste, but we certainly throw away a lot more than she does.

    I’ve been focusing on giving away/donating anything we don’t need–even perishable things like some milk that I wasn’t going to drink–which for me, is a great way to think about the world. I very much like that quote about keeping things that other people can use. It’s very true that we don’t know how much people will enjoy our hand-me-downs until we, well, hand them down!

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:41 PM

      I wonder if you’ll get into composting more and the like when you arrive at the homestead? Seems like a perfect match?

      1. Mrs. Frugalwoods August 9, 2015 at 3:16 PM

        Absolutely! Definitely in our plans :)

  26. Michelle August 7, 2015 at 12:32 PM

    Wow! One jar full of a waste is awesome. We are working on doing something similar – using less and wasting less. We are so much more mindful of all of the waste out there now and it is crazy.

  27. Amber August 7, 2015 at 12:47 PM

    What about toilet paper?

    I’ve thought about this in relation to using reusable diapers for my baby. I am eliminating the waste from throw away diapers but what about the increased water and electric to clean the diapers? It’s all a wash. I will continue recycling, but I draw the line at mason jars for deli meat.

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:52 PM

      I think there’s some special type of toilet paper you can buy that’s better for the environment or something… maybe disintegrates? Haha… I dunno. I’m sure they figured it out though.

  28. Jason @ Phroogal August 7, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    Definitely avoid the middle isles, when possible. Another funny thing is to never buy food with its own television commercial. :)

    1. J. Money August 7, 2015 at 12:55 PM


  29. Melanie @ Dear Debt August 7, 2015 at 12:57 PM

    Whoa! I hate all the packaging that comes along with things, so this made me think about how I can do things differently. I am so impressed with how little waste they had in 2014. Damn. Inspiring post, J!

  30. Kate@GoodnightDebt August 7, 2015 at 1:46 PM

    Way to go, J$. Now all I want to do is minimize the waste opportunities in my home. It’s like hitting the reset key on my optimization. One hard but hopefully good factor for me is that a grew up in a home with very little waste. So I know how far I am from what I need to do, but at least I know the road to get there!

    1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:12 AM

      It’s all about the baby steps, baby! :)

  31. Simple Is The New Green August 7, 2015 at 2:34 PM

    I love the idea that we shouldn’t keep things that we don’t use that can be useful to others. I used to hoard my books and then I thought, why should I keep these great ideas to myself? If I can find it at the library or if I won’t re-read it or if it is not reference, it gets donated or given away. Living as a minimalist sounds hard to many people. but I LOVE it!

    1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:14 AM

      Books ARE hard to let go! I was just telling a friend how much I love my library but feel bad I’ve only read like 1% of them in there :( I just love the way they look and make me feel (so cozy!) that I used to hoard them too. I’ve paired them down quite a bit, but you’re right – others would enjoy so much more and learn from so why not send more back into the world?

  32. Simple Is The New Green August 7, 2015 at 2:36 PM

    Check out the book and documentary “No Impact Man”. He also goes ‘zero waste’ for a year. No toilet paper even. I’m not sure I can go that far, so I buy recycled TP. :)

    1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:15 AM

      OH man, haha… I feel like you’d at least need one of those bidets to pull that one off.

  33. Master Nerd August 7, 2015 at 8:16 PM

    Very cool! I’m not too bad with waste and I try to recycle as much as possible, but there’s lots of room for improvement. It takes me a few months to fill up one of those curb-side garbage cans. Meanwhile I see people on my street with garbage cans constantly overflowing each week! I find the hardest is avoiding excessive packaging when you buy non-grocery items. Fortunately, most of those can be recycled. It’s definitely a very inspiring lifestyle!

    I also find a certain peace and serenity with being so minimalistic. It totally changes your perspective on the world. Suddenly the “need” for stuff dissipates and you get so much more out of nature and the environment.

  34. Laura Beth August 7, 2015 at 9:26 PM

    This is very interesting. I’ve always thought I was doing my part but this gets me thinking about how much more I can do. Indeed, keeping waste down by practicing a more sustainable lifestyle helps the Earth and saves consumers money.

    I am glad that so many people are embracing this concept and it’s growing in popularity.
    Thanks for your article. It was very thought provoking.

    Laura Beth

    1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:17 AM

      I’m glad you enjoyed it :) I feel like my eyes have been turned wide open and just a cool way to live to work towards. in baby steps, haha..

  35. Tre August 8, 2015 at 7:10 PM

    wow! I was happy because it took us a month to fill the trash can. I’m not sure I could do zero waste.

  36. Jayson @ Monster Piggy Bank August 8, 2015 at 9:00 PM

    The 5Rs fits my minimalistic perspective. These 5Rs are really specific. I think it would define my minimalism much further. I am still hoping to get a zero waste lifetyle!

  37. Thomas @ i need money ASAP! August 8, 2015 at 10:10 PM

    Love it! Thanks for sharing. This speaks to me in so many ways and I can completely understand that getting to that point would take quite a bit of time and effort. Looking around my home I couldn’t imagine all the changes that would need to be made to even get close to this type of lifestyle. But, thats also the same way I felt about my personal finances about 5-8 years ago. Then slowly over time I got them under control and now they seem simple, easy & efficient.

    1. J. Money August 10, 2015 at 6:19 AM

      BOOM! That’s how you do it, man! Setting up the plan/dream and then taking those steps one by one to make it happen. Not easy or fast, but possible!

  38. Mom @ Three is Plenty August 12, 2015 at 3:41 PM

    We generate one grocery bag size bag of waste every week via dirty cat litter. But, we recycle everything we can, and only have 1-2 kitchen size trash bags of waste per week (including the cat litter). We use the refill bin from Petco, so we’re not bringing in more plastic waste. I have yet to find a bulk grocer with decent prices, so we haven’t gone down that road yet. And I’m not allowed to have a compost pile at the new house (although, I really, really want one…) :( This stems from never actually using the compost that we had at the old house :(

    1. J. Money August 12, 2015 at 4:24 PM

      hah! what about a compost “bin” ? :)

      Good idea on the Petco refills – forgot they had that! Will have to check prices to see if it’s decent compared to our own kitty litter buys. If only $$ weren’t an option and we could simplify that much faster.

      1. Mom @ Three is Plenty August 13, 2015 at 11:55 AM

        The initial buckets are $19.something (for the really big ones – I *think* 15lbs?), and the refills are $17.something. If you’re willing to get the petco loyalty card, I’ve gotten them as low as $13.something for two of them (% discount plus a $10 off coupon). Petsmart and some of the other pet shops offer the refill as well. We like the petco stuff :)
        I’m just flat out not allowed to have a compost bin/pile/etc. But, once we have a deck built, what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him – but it’ll really only be me throwing the compost waste out.

        1. J. Money August 17, 2015 at 3:19 PM

          Thx for the $$ info!

  39. theFIREstarter August 14, 2015 at 3:56 AM

    Zero waste is something we should all be trying to aspire to, but I do fear the name might be slightly counter productive.

    It very much sounds like an all or nothing concept where of course it totally isn’t. You can just start of small reducing waste and pick up the tips that work for you as you have correctly mentioned.

    Composting is probably the easiest thing you can do to reduce waste if you have a back yard. You just need a space to chuck your organic waste and something to cover it with! Or just buy a cheap bin. Since doing that we are struggling to fill a small rubbish bag per week and we don’t really do much of the other “extreme” or should I say less convenient ideas, but I do want to start looking at those soon.

    On another note I think it’s high time companies like supermarkets started taking this stuff more seriously as I think there is a real market for it. They need to make it easier for people to pick up loose fruit, veg, meat etc in reusable containers. Maybe they could provide them for free and/or offer a small discount every time you bring them back to reuse them? There are various ideas and options out there and I’m surprised I haven’t heard anything like this being piloted yet (maybe it has and I just haven’t heard of it)

    1. J. Money August 17, 2015 at 3:23 PM

      Agreed! I’m about 1/4th the way through her book now (Zero Waste Home) and the more I learn the more I realize how big the market is too for this stuff. Most people WOULD change their habits to be better if it were *easier* than it seems. At least with composting you have more control which is nice. And I agree, after reading more about it for a week it DOES seem easy/simple!

  40. Jenna L August 14, 2015 at 10:06 AM

    Plenty to think about here!

    I try to be a Zero-Waster with my possessions (reduce, reuse, recycle) but I’m aware that we can be wasteful when it comes to food. In an attempt to change this and to save some money, I’ve started buying fresh foods at the local greengrocers in smaller quantities so that my household uses it all before it can go off.

    1. J. Money August 17, 2015 at 3:24 PM

      Awesome! I bought our first (glass) bottled milk this weekend from a local store myself :) Healthier (seeming, at least?) but also no waste – woo! Feels old school to be drinking it like that too, haha… I kinda like it.

  41. Our Next Life August 18, 2015 at 2:41 PM

    Chiming in late here, but just wanted to say THANK YOU for drawing attention to zero waste principles. You have a big megaphone, and people listen to you, so this post will no doubt make a lot of people reconsider how they do things! So often, PF people seem to do whatever’s cheapest, which is often the worst quality foods in the most packaging, and that way of doing things just isn’t sustainable if we want the next generation to inherit a planet that can keep supporting them. Even though the zero waste way isn’t the cheapest way to live, it’s the best way to ensure that we don’t keep trashing the planet. And even if people don’t go all in, adopting some of these good habits will make a big difference if enough people do it! So thanks again!

    1. J. Money August 21, 2015 at 10:07 AM

      Agreed! And I’ve been just as guilty of not caring about the environment/waste that I’ll need to keep on sharing about this movement just to make up for it! Haha…

      But you’re def. right on picking off a habit here or there at the least. I can’t look at a paper towel roll anymore without asking myself “is there a different way?” I’ve probably cut back on 50% already just by that one question – and I’ve been recycling a helluva lot more too lately – but outside of that I still have a ways to go…

      But baby steps, right?

  42. NDQ August 19, 2015 at 8:51 PM

    Thanks! This is pretty fascinating. Packaging drives me nuts. Water bottles kill me. Straws are handed out whether you need them or not. I’ve been working hard to not waste food, but it is a challenge because I travel a good amount. Even while on the road, restaurant portions are way too much for a reasonably-sized meal. I end up sticking to appetizers or the a la carte side of the menu.

    Good for you. This is a great challenge and really does make me think about choices I make each day.


    1. J. Money August 21, 2015 at 10:08 AM

      Thanks for popping in :) I used to be a water bottle fiend and thankfully have reformed my ways. Though I still swear that water tastes better than tap or filtered! Haha…

  43. Mrs. SimplyFinanciallyFree September 17, 2015 at 3:18 PM

    I read this post a few weeks ago but it stuck with me. Although I don’t think I could go to Bea’s extreme I do believe I can make additional changes to reduce waste even more. This past weekend I walked to our local co-op and remembered to bring 3 containers with me for some of the items on my list. One for ground ginger, a second for quinoa and a third for my treat of chocolate covered almonds. Three bags with twist ties were saved on this trip. Often times my trip to the store are not this well planned as I often stop on my way home from work but I loved that I was able to make it work this past weekend. Thanks for planting the seed!

    1. J. Money September 22, 2015 at 4:25 PM

      Look at you go!!! So glad you enjoyed this one and then TOOK ACTION!

      I’ve since started composting (so far so good!), used more microfiber towels around the house (to save on paper towels) and then swapped glass jugs of milk for plastic ones. Though those are DOUBLE the costs and not sure how long I can keep that one up :( At least the plastic you can recycle eh?

      Here’s my follow up post if you’re interested – congrats again! :)