I'm currently reading this book, that I received for Christmas and am finding it incredibly interesting. I heard about it in a comment posted on Just a Little Less's blog and it ignited my curiosity, so I put it on my Christmas list. I'm not expecting to reduce my yearly waste to absolute zero, but I do think reducing waste is a great idea and would like to get ours down as much as I can. We're not too bad on the waste front, throwing out only one bin bag full per week usually (our collection is weekly), but wouldn't it be great to get that down to half a bag or even less.
In her book, Bea Johnson describes her journey to downsize, simplify and minimize her life and possessions and try to live a zero waste lifestyle. This idea appeals to me at the moment, as despite constantly trying to de-clutter, I still find that our house just has far too much 'stuff' in it and in 2014 I want to tackle this problem, but needed to engage in a bit of reading around the subject first.
In her book, Johnson explains that by getting rid of what you don't use or duplicate items in your possession, you free up your time, space and life to do the things you really want to as well as having a beneficial effect on the environment.
The main proposition of this book is the promotion of the practice of the 5 R's, namely, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot. The sequence of these R's is particularly significant, she suggests.
Firstly, Johnson urges readers to refuse by not accepting items of junk mail, freebies, single use plastics (i.e. plastic bags), etc., and not engaging in unsustainable practices such as excess and unnecessary car usage, for example, that waste and pollute the earth's resources, and in doing so, the production of these things is discouraged. She suggests that even politely refusing things offered to you by friends and family is okay, if you explain to them that you are minimising your possessions in order to simplify your life.
In order to reduce, she suggests that we should evaluate and curb current and future consumption as much as possible and learn to find satisfaction with what we already have. Avoid unnecessary shopping trips or over consumption. Ignore or avoid clever advertising and merchandising to encourage us to buy what we don't really need or want.
With regard to reuse, Johnson refers to the items we consume that we cannot refuse or reduce. She suggests making things you own but can't or don't use, into other things that you can use, such as old sheets or towels into tea towels, reusable bags, washable sandwich/food wraps, etc. Repair items, rethink the way you use items and share the use of large or expensive tools/machinery through borrowing and loaning them from/to others.
Recycling, Johnson argues, refers to the items that we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse, that can be recycled by way of using various recycling initiatives in our communities be they charity shops or waste management initiatives. She argues that we should not aim to create large amounts of recycling, but that we should instead try to avoid the convenience of buying over packaged products and polluting plastics and disposables and instead use reusable packaging, products or storage where possible, to avoid the creation of as much recycling waste as possible. She says we should think carefully before every purchase and think about the lifespan and recyclability of every product we buy and bring into our homes. Much of what she refers to is not new and I have read some of her ideas in various books before, but there are some very good ideas in this book that are completely new to me.
Finally, in relation to the 5 R's, Johnson talks about rotting or composting as much of your waste as possible. This is something I have been doing for many years now and is just part of our daily life. For anyone new to composting, she gives a rundown of the sort of systems that you can use to suit your circumstances. I can vouch for how less smelly your rubbish bin is if you no longer put food in it. We are very fortunate in our borough, that even meat, cooked food and bones are collected by our recycling team, so we no longer need to put any food in our bins. The dog helps too, of course, as suitable leftovers can be given to her and mixed in with her regular food.
The rest of this book goes into more detail about simplifying different areas of your life and after starting to read the first chapter on kitchen simplification on Boxing Day, I immediately started this process and was surprised at how much I was prepared to put in the charity shop bag in a matter of minutes. How many napkins do you really need when you rarely entertain? How much simpler life is, when your napkin/kitchen linen drawer is no longer bulging and getting stuck every time you try to open it. How much better it is to use dark coloured tea towels, that don't show up the stains and dirt visited on them as a consequence of daily use. Very obvious things, but ones that can make a difference to the lifespan and continued use of your possessions.
As you have probably guessed by now, I'm really enjoying this book and I am hoping that it can help me to let go of some of the things that I have hung onto for years, but never use, and that it will help me to buy better quality items where I do need to buy new. I'm hoping it will help me make our home a much simpler, more enjoyable and less time consuming place to live in 2014.