Bea Johnson lives waste-free with her family since 2008 and is the author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home (Zéro Déchet en francais)
"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 goal is to share its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits!"

Say what? Dumpster diving?


Some dream of collecting things, I dream of collecting experiences: It might sound odd (or not, if you know me well), but one of them was "going dumpster diving with someone who knows what he/she is doing"...

So when Marie, a PhD student who interviewed me for her thesis on food waste, confided in me that she and her boyfriend dumpster dove on a regular basis, I took a plunge myself: I begged her to take me along.

Contrary to the "waste pick-up on a lovely sunny morning" at the beach that I described last month, this was a much different outing: one that took place at 10 pm, on a chilly night - a time of day when my body yearns to crawl under a fuzzy blanket alongside Scott, and my brain to watch a podcast of Tiny House Hunting ;)

In anticipation of this event, what worried me most, was not:
  1. Getting cold - I'd wear my puff jacket;
  2. Losing my enthusiasm - I had plenty of it!;
  3. Running into critters - I love nature;) or, 
  4. Getting caught - if I did and subsequently made headlines: "World famous author dumpster dives for food", it would have brought attention to food waste, which is a good thing anyways! 
But considering the particularities of my lifestyle, I was most afraid of running into the conundrum: what to do with packaging waste? (I mean... right? Only you, faithful readers, can understand.)

So I came prepared with my shopping kit, below. But maybe too much.

When I arrived at our meeting point, I looked like a complete novice, carrying large sturdy totes by my sides -my hosts sported more discreet over the shoulder cotton kinds. One thing is for sure, I looked like I was ready for business! Ready to grocery shop!

My shopping kit

I quickly realized that my kit was overkill: To my surprise, none of the food that we found came packaged, apart from the brown paper bag of bread below which I did not mind taking home for reuse -my clothes shopping day is coming up, so I'll looking for something to pack my donations.

Ooh, did I feel delinquent and right at the same time doing this! The food that I collected that night had no business being discarded: As you can tell, perfect veggies and fruit! They rightly deserved to be saved from landfill.



Veggies that I could have picked from (inside) the grocery store

A bag of french loaves in the first paper bag that I bring home from a grocery store in 6 years!

Fruits in great condition!

(Note: I was so busy worrying about packaging waste that I completely forgot to take pictures that evening).

This is not an exercise for the germaphobe, and I am clearly not one of them. But being a virgin at it, I picked items that could be peeled: I figured, that it'd make a strong argument to get my skeptic family to take a bite into the fruits of my foray, and eliminating any chance of getting sick might encourage subsequent trips.

That week became the first time that I missed the vegetable peeler that I donated 3 years ago...

Contrary to what I would have expected, it did not bother my family to eat the discarded goods, and we ate it all without fear.
 

With my bounty I made:
  • Ginger carrot soup
  • Sauteed Zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown herb mix
  • Grilled zucchinis sprinkled with homegrown mint
  • Two apple pies 
  • Snacks of apple slices topped with peanut butter
  • Sandwiches for a week's worth of lunches with the bread.
As you already know, I am a forager at heart, but I am not sure I'll have the guts to go dumpster diving in my own town. That said, I had a wonderful time and more importantly, I am grateful for Marie allowing me to cross an item off my bucket list!

---
Traduit de l'Anglais par Oriane Wawrzyniak
Comment ça ? Faire les poubelles ?
Il y en a qui rêvent de collectionner des objets, moi, ce sont les expériences que je veux accumuler : Cela peut paraître étrange (ou pas, si vous me connaissez bien), mais l’une d’elles était d’ « aller faire les poubelles avec quelqu’un qui s'y connaisse »…
Alors, quand Marie, une étudiante en doctorat qui m’a rencontrée dans le cadre de sa thèse sur le gâchis alimentaire, m’a confié qu’elle et son copain récupéraient régulièrement de la nourriture dans les poubelles, j’ai décidé de sauter le pas moi aussi : je lui ai demandé de m’emmener avec elle.
Cette sortie était très différente du « ramassage de déchets par un beau matin ensoleillé » à la plage que j’ai décrit le mois dernier : elle a eu lieu à 22h, par un soir glacial – un moment de la journée où mon corps ne demande qu’à se tapir sous une épaisse couverture aux côtés de Scott, et mon cerveau à regarder un podcast de Tiny House Hunting ☺
En attendant cet événement, ce qui m’inquiétait le plus, ce n’était pas :
  1. D’avoir froid – j’allais porter ma doudoune ;
  2. De perdre mon enthousiasme – j’en avais à revendre !;
  3. De tomber sur des bestioles – j’adore la nature ;)
  4. De me faire prendre – si cela m’arrivait et que l’histoire faisait les gros titres : « Auteure mondialement connue fait les poubelles pour trouver de la nourriture », cela aurait attiré l’attention sur le gâchis alimentaire, ce qui est une bonne chose !
Mais étant données les spécificités de mon mode de vie, ce dont j’avais le plus peur, c’était de faire face au sac de nœuds : que faire des déchets d’emballage ? (enfin… vous voyez ? Seuls vous, mes fidèles lecteurs, pouvez le comprendre.)
Je suis donc arrivée préparée, avec mon kit de courses, ci-dessous. Mais peut-être trop.
Quand je suis arrivée à notre lieu de rendez-vous, j’ai eu vraiment l’air d’une novice, avec mes grands cabas à mes côtés – mes hôtes en arboraient de plus discrets, en coton, qui se portent sur l’épaule. Une chose est sûre, j’avais l’air prête à en découdre ! Prête à faire mes courses !

J’ai vite réalisé que mon kit était plus encombrant qu’autre chose : à mon grand étonnement, aucune des denrées que nous avons trouvées n’était emballée, à part le sac en papier rempli de baguettes (ci-dessus) que je n’ai pas rechigné à rapporter à la maison pour le réutiliser – mon jour d’achat de vêtements arrive, et j’aurai besoin de quelque chose pour emballer mes dons.

Ooh, qu'est ce que je me suis sentie à la fois délinquante et juste en le faisant ! La nourriture que j’ai récupérée ce soir-là n’avait rien à faire dans les poubelles : comme vous pouvez le voir, ces légumes et ces fruits sont parfaits ! Ils avaient bien le droit d’être sauvés de la décharge.

(Légende des photos : 1- Des légumes que j’aurais pu choisir dans mon magasin; 2- Un sac de baguettes, le premier sac en papier que je ramene d'un magasin en 6 ans ! 3- Des fruits en parfait état ! J’étais si occupée à m’inquiéter des emballages que j’ai complètement oublié de prendre des photos de la soirée.)
L’exercice n’est pas à recommander au germophobe, et je n’en fais clairement pas partie. Mais comme c’était ma première fois, j’ai choisi des aliments qui pouvaient être pelés : je me suis dit que ça encouragerait ma famille à manger les fruits de mon excursion, et que d’éliminer les risques de tomber malade ne pouvait qu’encourager de futures razzias.
C’était la première fois, cette semaine, que l’épluche-légumes que j’ai donné il y a 3 ans m’a manqué…
Contrairement à ce que je m’attendais, ma famille n’a pas boudé les aliments qui avaient été jetés, et nous avons tout mangé sans inquiétude.

Avec mon butin j’ai fait :
  • Une soupe au gingembre et à la carotte
  • Des courgettes sautées accompagnées d’un mélange d’herbes du jardin
  • Des courgettes grillées saupoudrées de menthe du jardin
  • Deux tartes aux pommes
  • Des tranches de pommes recouvertes de beurre de cacahuète, comme en-cas
  • Des sandwiches pour une semaine de déjeuners avec le pain.
Je ne suis pas sûre que j’aurai le courage d’aller faire les poubelles dans ma propre ville. Ceci dit, j’ai passé un moment formidable et encore plus important, je suis reconnaissante car Marie m’a permis de rayer un des éléments de ma "liste de choses à faire au moins une fois dans ma vie" !

Wardrobe Update


Well, you've asked for it, so here it is, and in full! A close look at the contents of my current, minimalist wardrobe (it even includes intimates!).




I was recently asked if, having graduated from Fashion school, I am not tempted to buy new, add pieces to my wardrobe or shop more often than twice a year...

My answer was: Once you discover the advantages of a small wardrobe, you'll find that they are too great to give up!

Buy new? What a waste of money that would be! 
I did buy one piece of clothing new in the past two and a half years, but the rest of my wardrobe is secondhand and the prices of the pieces that I purchased are so good, I could not go back to retail! The leather combat boots cost $2.50, the leather high heeled booties $10, the strappy heels $10, the nude pumps $8.50, the navy blazer $2.50, the leather skirt $5, the sunglasses $2, etc.


My pumps still have their price marked on them ;)


Add pieces to my wardrobe? No way! I'd lose mobility.
We not only save a lot of money buying less, it's also owning less (the fact that our wardrobes fit in carry-ons) that allows us to easily rent our house while we're gone. And both of these have made some truly awesome experiences possible (see below). I would not want to give them up for a bigger closet. They are core to our happiness and well being.


My 19" Carry-On


Buy more often? What a waste of time that would be!
Life is short. Rather than shopping, I much prefer planning an adventure or living one, like kayaking overnight in the Everglades, as we did during the Holiday Season/Shopping Madness. We saw manatees, alligators, and Leo even found himself face to face with a Python. Facing the fear of his life, he never felt more alive!


Kayaking with my family: so much more memorable than clothes shopping! -and Max: being a teenager and hiding his joy;)

Buy less, waste less, live more...



Call it what you want: A New Years' Resolution?


I am not a fan of New Years' resolutions. I know myself well enough to realize that I've never really followed through with them in the past. I find them intimidating, imposing and weighing. Plus, if I truly want to do something, I don't need to wait to turn a new year. I just do it then and there!

So, for years, I resisted the temptation to take one on and announce to my entourage that I planned on doing this or that for the rest of the year, because I knew (and they too) that there was a good chance, that I wouldn't stick to it, that I would break my word... And end up looking like a flake, as most of those that take them on, do.

I entered 2015 with no resolution at all. But I did have one aspiration: To volunteer more.

I jumped on Volunteermatch.org. With a packed, but flexible, work schedule, I looked for anything within the realm of waste - if I found something super cool, I'd find a way to fit it in. But very little choice (only 6 options) came up in my area. I could help serve a hot meal in San Francisco, but the idea of commuting by bus into the city stressed me out. I could pick up extra food and deliver it to local organizations, but I don't enjoy spending time in the car. I could become an "environmental leader" for a local chapter of The Sierra Club, but I didn't want to get on their mailing list again: It took me years of calls and letters to get my name off of it in the past.

Nothing seemed to jump out at me as something exiting that would make me leap out of bed or be worth shuffling my schedule around. What I was really hoping to find was some hands-on ("dirty") work, outside, where I yearned to be; One that does not include a lengthy presentation about waste - I have been frustrated with past engagements when the organizers give a speech while I impatiently wait to get to work... What I was really hoping to find is a litter pick up.

And so I did last week, on my own.

I packed a lunch, two reusable sand bags, a pair of gloves, and the dog's leash, and headed for one of my favorite beaches in Marin County. Being a Monday, Zizou and I were on our own, well almost...

An Elephant Seal came to encourage us


The pieces (mostly plastics) that I picked up that day were so small that it took me two hours to fill up the two bags that I had brought. 

This fine point marker was in excellent, usable condition: I gave it to a cashier this week

Once home, I separated the found bits, threw some in our old trash can, others in the recycling bin. My neighbors probably thought my family had a setback, when they saw our trashcan out on the curb for the first time in five years;)





Sure, I pick up litter around town and have participated in organized cleanup events before. But this one was different. Getting some much needed solo time, breathing the fresh air, taking in some vitamin D, getting a workout (the hike back to my car, carrying the litter was 1.5 miles and included a steep ravine), walking the dog, getting the honors of the visit of a fury friend, doing good for the environment, and finding a present for my son's upcoming birthday (LOL)...


From litter to gift (don't tell Max, it's a surprise!)







...all at at once, on my own terms: now that's a rewarding experience. My kinda volunteering activity.

I can't wait to go again, and I made room in my schedule to go once a month. Would that be considered a New Year's resolution, just because I started in January and plan on continuing? Call it what you want; I call it Bliss, an activity that connects what I think, what I say and what I do.

Zizou, very much enjoying the endeavor and hoping for a next time





"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony" - Gandhi

Did you take on a New Year's Resolution that makes you happy?