Conscious Living in a World that Throws Everything Away

A few months back while doing research for gardening and composting on YouTube,  a video showed up featuring Bea Johnson, discussing her lifestyle called “Zero Waste”.

Those two words say it all and my mind quickly began simmering the idea of zero waste and soon after I became obsessed!

Johnson’s blog and book, “Zero Waste Home”  began a movement that has spread across the globe, inspiring other environmentally conscious individuals like myself.  Johnson has brought back a lifestyle that our ancestors have lived for thousands of years that include canning, making vinegar, cooking without waste, reusing what is available.

Bea Johnson believes you can live simply by following these simple guidelines, the 5R’s:

Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (Not only in that order)

Johnson believes all habits can be adapted to this lifestyle, but a lot of regular habits may have to be sacrificed.

I’ve continued my research into this lifestyle by joining the Zero Waste Reddit community, researching books at the library, and by watching YouTube videos discussing their attempts at this lifestyle along with the frustration that comes with it.


Some frustration that I’ve personally experienced includes:

Feeling Overwhelmed

  • How do I even begin living this lifestyle?
  • What do I do with the things I currently waste?
  • Everyone I watch in public is so wasteful!  ARRGGHHH!
  • I have pets and taking care of them is wasteful.
  • The numbers game – Learning how much is wasted makes the heart feel heavy.

These are all complications I’ve come across and still struggle with during my journey.

To cope with the overwhelming amount of wastefulness I try to be non-judgemental of others, continuously restructure my habits until I find a system that works, and communicate my feelings to others and try to teach others about easy habits to reduce waste.

One of the key factors for adjusting to this lifestyle is the realization that I cannot expect to be waste-free overnight, it will take time and effort to attain a completely zero waste lifestyle.  

Being Unknowledgeable

  • What is considered to be waste?
  • Is recycling worth it?
  • What products are available for this lifestyle?
  • Needs Vs. wants.

I’ve delved deep into learning as much as I can about zero waste within the past couple of months and there is still much more to learn.

One dilemma I’ve experienced is how to get rid of the wasteful things I currently own.  I have nail polish, plastic wrap, plastic Tupperware, personal care products, toilet paper, random kitchen gadgets, and more.  

I currently just have these items sitting around, waiting for its life purpose to be fulfilled.  I still need to figure a solution for most of these items, but until then, I do the following:
  • Use or recycle the Tupperware.
  • Do not buy anything that has wasteful packaging or that is not recyclable.
  • Create family cloth. (A reusable cloth for wiping your bum)
  • Donate these items to a thrift store.
Bea Johnson points out an important detail:

Don’t buy anything new, you can find almost anything used at a local thrift store or on eBay.  Buy your food in bulk form and locally and in season.  Be conscious of what you are buying and think to yourself “Do I really NEED this?”

Get out of your comfort zone and try new things like crafts, growing herbs/other produce, cook more or try making your own almond milk or cheeses–You’ll be impressed with what you are capable of and honestly, you’ll probably enjoy being self-sufficient in these areas.

Being Lazy or Reverting to Old Habits

  • Making excuses.
  • Putting leisure before productivity.
  • Eating out because “I’m hungry now”.
  • Feelings of frustration resulting in inactivity

Altering decades of old habits is challenging and require constant motivation, determination, and effort.  I’ve realized that planning ahead and organization is crucial to success and includes daily journaling, meal planning, and attainable weekly goals.

Eating Out

  • Ordering takeout.
  • Avoiding straws.
  • Over-ordering.
  • Utensils
  • Refusing plastic bags

Eating out is difficult when you are trying to be zero waste.  You have to deal with disposable cups and utensils, becoming full before finishing so you are stuck with either food waste or a wasted container, straws being forced to you, and ordering takeout is completely out of the picture unless you bring your own reusable container.

I have a past addiction to Mitsuwa’s pastries, ice cream, shaved ice, and other desserts featured at Ry-Leaf.  In my continuous effort to be less wasteful, I now bring reusable cups, containers, choose a cone Vs. a cup, and request no disposable straw/utensils.

My first attempt at bringing a reusable container to Ry-Leaf started off without a struggle until the cup I had brought was too large for their machine.  The employee decided to use a styrofoam cup to transfer the ice, so without thinking, I reacted with anguish expressing that the cup was not necessary and the whole experience became awkward.

Now when I ask for a business to use my own container I instantly say “I know, I’m crazy–Don’t worry about it!” and usually go on to explain WHY I am asking them to accommodate my strange requests.



I’d like to end this post with my Earth Day messaged which was shared on Facebook:

Today is Earth Day, and while every day should focus on our precious Earth we need to all take a moment to reflect on our actions.

We all group up wasteful, we are wasteful as a species and the neglect needs to stop.

Take a moment today think of ONE thing that you can do to help Earth and all the life that struggling with it.

500 MILLION plastic straws are wasted EACH DAY. This is an easy habit to break and it all begins with REFUSING. Do you really NEED a straw? Think about it.

Plastic is killing the remaining wildlife and the oceans. If you love animals and/or love seafood, help protect them! It is our responsibility to reverse our destruction to this planet!

Thank you for reading. 

Included in the post was a button for friends to donate to the Earth Day Network.  I raised $95 including my donation of $20!