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Zero Waste Guru's 10 Tips for a Happier and Healthier Life
Bea Johnson and her family adopted a zero waste lifestyle back in 2008 and they've never looked back. A zero waste guru, Johnson has inspired thousands of people, including Lauren Singer, author of the zero waste blog Trash is for Tossers, to adopt a zero waste lifestyle. She has been hailed by The New York Times as "the priestess of waste-free living."
Johnson's book, Zero Waste Home, and her blog of the same name, share her personal story of how she simplified her life by reducing her waste. Johnson, her husband, Scott, and their two sons produce just one quart-sized jar of garbage per year and they say their overall quality of life has changed for the better.
They are doing more with less. They now have more time together, they've cut their annual spending by 40 percent, and they are healthier than they’ve ever been. What Johnson loves most about the lifestyle is that it simplified her life: She and her family spend less time doing chores and more time having fun. (Sign me up!)
Johnson, a native of France, lives with her family in Mill Valley, California. In 2006, they moved downtown to be able to walk or bike everywhere. Before finding the small house they now live in, they rented an apartment for a year and moved in with only a few necessities (they stored the rest). They found they really enjoyed living with less and when they found their new home (which was half the size of the previous one), they got rid of 80 percent of their belongings.
"Voluntary simplicity was a first step towards waste-free living," says Johnson. When she and her family educated themselves even more about environmental issues, they decided to take the plunge and aim for zero waste. In the midst of the recession, her husband, Scott, quit his job to start a sustainability consulting company and Johnson tackled the house and the family's lifestyle.
She has proven that zero waste living can not only be stylish, but can also lead to significant health benefits, and time and money savings. "It's not only good for the environment, but it greatly improves one's standard of living, too," says Johnson. "It offers a richer life: one based on experiences instead of stuff ... Just imagine what it would be like if our society shifted from focusing on 'having' to focusing on 'being.'"
Johnson has been invited to speak at universities, corporate events and conferences all over the world. She provides consulting services and even opens her home to educational tours and the media. For her commitment and innovation, she was awarded the grand prize at the 2011 Green Awards.
"The 'zero' in zero waste makes it sound scary and hard to achieve, but it is actually not as as hard as it seems," Johnson says. To make the process even easier for newbies, Johnson created an app, Bulk, which helps users eliminate packaging from their life by locating bulk food bins and liquid refills near them and letting them share the locations that they find with others.
To adopt a zero waste lifestyle, Johnson proposes a simple guideline, the 5 R's: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (and only in that order). That means refusing what you do not need, reducing what you do need, reusing what you consume, recycling what you cannot refuse, reduce or reuse, and rot (compost) the rest.
Here are Bea Johnson's 10 easy steps to zero waste living:
- Fight junk mail. It's not just a waste of resources, but also of time. Register to receive less at dmachoice.org, optoutprescreen.org and catalogchoice.org.
- Turn down freebies from conferences, fairs and parties. Every time you take one, you create a demand to make more. Do you really need another "free" pen?
- Declutter your home, and donate to your local thrift shop. You'll lighten your load and make precious resources available to those looking to buy secondhand.
- Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you'll have to deal with.
- Swap disposables for reusables (start using handkerchiefs, refillable bottles, shopping totes, cloth napkins, rags, etc.). You might find that you don't miss your paper towels, but rather enjoy the savings
- Avoid grocery shopping waste: Bring reusable totes, cloth bags (for bulk aisles), and jars (for wet items like cheese and deli foods) to the store and farmers market.
- Know your city's recycling policies and locations—but think of recycling as a last resort. Have you refused, reduced or reused first? Question the need and life-cycle of your purchases. Shopping is voting.
- Buy primarily in bulk or secondhand, but if you must buy new, choose glass, metal or cardboard. Avoid plastic: Much of it gets shipped across the world for recycling and often ends up in the landfill (or worse yet, the ocean).
- Find a compost system that works for your home and get to know what it will digest (dryer lint, hair, and nails are all compostable).
- Turn your home kitchen trash can into one large compost receptacle. The bigger the compost receptacle, the more likely you'll be to use it freely.
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A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
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My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
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