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Essay

Zero waste

By Tan Ying Zhen

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How much garbage do you produce in a day?

I started thinking about this after attending a talk by Bea Johnson, an advocate of zero-waste living.

Her family of four (herself, her husband and two sons) produce so little trash that their annual household rubbish fits into a single glass jar. They accomplish this in a few ways. First, they don't buy packaged items, instead putting foodstuffs into their own glass jars and bags. They also reduce the things they own to the bare essentials, and use the same product for many things.

For instance, Johnson uses vinegar and baking soda to clean. Also, her wardrobe consists of just fifteen items of clothing.

"A zero-waste lifestyle is not about depriving yourself," she said. "It's about focusing your time and resources on what's important, and you'll find yourself saving time and money, as well as (having) better health."

Johnson, a French native living in California, explains all this and more in her book Zero Waste Home, a guide to reducing waste and simplifying one's life. I read the book a few years ago and tried to follow her 5R's: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Rot (in that order).

But my motivation and self-discipline didn't last. After a few weeks, I'd lapsed into my old habits of buying packaged goods. It was especially hard for me to resist potato chips and stationery. I also found it hard to say no to well-meaning gifts from family and friends. What I've managed to do successfully is to say no to plastic bags and to use my own utensils instead of disposables when eating out. But the amount of trash I produce is still way more than ideal.

But after Johnson's talk, I decided I would give the zero-waste lifestyle another go. I'm not sure if I can be as successful as she has been in reducing waste, but I can definitely try to do more.

Johnson said it was important to start small, and to ensure that the changes were sustainable. She also emphasized that it is impossible to change your lifestyle overnight.

I thought about what I could do immediately. I could use my own containers when I buy takeaway food. I could shop less at the supermarket and more at the wet markets, which allow customers to purchase fresh food without packaging. Besides, the wet markets offer fresher food at better prices, and friendly stall owners often give away stuff for free, like chilies or garlic with the vegetables you buy.

Will I succeed in cutting my waste as dramatically as Bea Johnson did? It may be too early to tell, but I will definitely try.

ごみを出さない生活

ごみをほとんど出さない暮らしの提唱者、ビー・ジョンソンさんの講演を聞いて、自分が出すごみを減らそうと決意した筆者。一度同じチャレンジをして挫折した経験もあるが、今回の決意は固い。

The Japan Times ST: January 26, 2018

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート

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