Bea Johnson, who in the US has been dubbed the guru of the zero-waste movement, arrived in Taiwan on Dec. 17 to promote her book on living without waste.
The Frenchwoman, who lives in Mill Valley, California, has promoted the “five Rs” in maintaining her house: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot.
These principles have allowed her and her family to minimize the amount of trash they produce in a year to fit into a regular-sized mason jar (less than half a liter), she said during a talk last week at Eslite Bookstore in Taipei’s Xinyi District (信義).
Her family in 2006 moved to a small town, where the house was a lot smaller than their previous one, so a lot of their belongings were stored in the basement, Johnson said.
They realized after a while that they were not using 80 percent of the things they had stored, which she said was when they began reducing the unnecessary waste they had in the house.
The author of Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste said the benefit of living with less is having more time to do things that are important, such as spending time with family and friends.
Although Johnson has lived a zero-waste lifestyle for a decade, she admitted that it was difficult making it a target in the beginning because of the lack of resources to guide her.
She turned to her parents and grandparents to figure which commercial products she could replace with natural alternatives, such as baking soda instead of commercial shampoo and toothpaste, so that she would not contribute trash with the packaging of the products, she said.
Johnson showed the audience what she was carrying in her bag during her two-day stay in Taiwan — an insulated beverage container, chopsticks and a cotton bag — saying that whenever she is buying food or drinks to go, she does not need vendors to provide a bag or cup.
The family’s zero-waste lifestyle has also meant unconventional presents.
Instead of giving her children consumer products for their birthdays, she said that she and her husband treat them with experiences, such as scuba diving lessons and bungee jumping.
Since publishing her book in 2013, Johnson has traveled around the world to promote her zero-waste lifestyle, as well as zero-waste, no-packaging stores.
The Chinese-language edition of Johnson’s book became available in September.
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