Book Review: Zero Waste Home and a Pint-Sized Garbage Jar

Sharing is caring:
Follow by Email

Reading the book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson changed my life.

Not in an inspirational, idealistic, I’m a more mature person after reading this kind of way (although I guess there’s a little of that), but in a practical, this-is-how-to-make-less-trash kind of way. Zero Waste Home discusses real life ways to reduce trash and consume less.

Psst…This post contains affiliate links. If you buy something after clicking on a link I get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Do it! Then maybe I can pay off Baby L’s accidental in-app purchases from when she steals my phone.

Zero Waste Home Book Review Pin

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson chronicles the lifestyle of a woman whose family of four’s garbage for ONE YEAR fit into a quart size or smaller glass jar.

Before we jump into this book review, I should probably answer this big question.

What is Zero Waste?

Zero Waste means drastically reducing the amount of trash you generate through composting, recycling, reusing as much as possible and making package free purchasing choices. Basically it’s being aware and taking action to reduce the amount of garbage in your life.

Typical behaviors of someone who lives a zero waste lifestyle include:

  • Bringing reuseable bags to the bulk section of the grocery store.
  • Refusing single use items like paper plates and cups.
  • Evaluating every scrap of garbage tossed in order to prevent future trash of that type.
  • Buying used household goods to prevent industrial waste.
  • Shopping locally produced goods to avoid waste generated by shipping.

With Americans producing about five pounds of waste per day, it’s in everyone’s interest to change behaviors before we’re swimming in a sea of garbage. Oh wait. We already are.

Trash Jar

Book Review: Zero Waste Home

After reading the book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson, I made several changes in our daily life to reduce the amount of trash we generate.

  • I now bring reusable produce and grocery bags to the grocery store, shop in the bulk section and cloth diaper Baby L.
  • My family’s food waste gets composted.
  • I avoid kids meals at restaurants because I hate the cheap plastic toys. Note that I haven’t given up fast food completely.
  • Whenever possible I shop for “previously loved” items.

I’ve tried all of these things and much more. You can get a free PDF of 50 Ways to Go Green That I’ve Tried Personally just by entering your email below.

And while I view all of that personal change as good, I don’t agree with everything Bea Johnson recommends in her book.

  • I still use floss, toothbrushes, shampoo and makeup even though they come in plastic containers.
  • Consumption concerns have no impact on my family size.
  • I don’t expect my spouse and immediate family members to adhere to my same level of Zero Waste.

Changing Habits

Zero Waste Home advocates massive lifestyle change and a rejection of the western society’s consumer culture. It’s approach is refreshing and different.

Bea Johnson offers suggestions on how to change habits without seeming too pushy or judgmental. In fact I came away from the book judging her as “a crazy lady” in some areas, but after contemplating the problem of trash as a whole I realized perhaps our consumer culture is the real crazy thing.

While I have yet to really experiment with a Zero Waste lifestyle, I do have a blogger friend who successfully reduced her family of four’s waste to a pint-sized jar for one month. Annika Mang from is an outdoor mom of two, who fit all of her household waste for March of 2017 into a pint-sized jar.

Wanna know how going Zero Waste really works? Check out this three question interview I had with her.

Interview with

1. For the month of March your family of four committed to reducing your household’s trash to just one jar. Why did you choose that goal out of all the eco-friendly lifestyles out there?
We chose this goal for 3 main reasons:
1. I like to make changes that I can do without having to push other people to join my cause so that I can achieve my goal.
2.  I also like choosing goals that are not going to require me to spend more money. Reducing our family waste only affects our family and has no additional cost like choosing to completely change what you buy.
3. I needed the goal to be achievable for our family. I am a really big believer in creating change in your own life no matter how big or small.


Born to be adventurous family photo family photo
Our family has been trying to reduce our waste for a couple of years. Before I became a blogger and about 6 months after having my second daughter, I thought about reducing our waste to a jar for a year. I then realized that would not be possible and thought about reducing it to a month. But at the time that seemed too overwhelming with two small kids so we never did it.


Since then we have made small choices to reduce our waste to get us to the point where reducing our waste to a jar for a month was manageable. Then I started the blog Born to be Adventurous and I realized that I had readers that would motivate me to complete the challenge. I felt like I had a whole list of people I was accountable to!
2. Part of your Green Up challenge included cloth-diapering, avoiding fast food, bringing your own utensils and water bottles, even changing the shampoo you used. What was the hardest part?


It is not like we eat out often but the hardest was avoiding fast food. Food that is quick and easy to get after a big day out adventuring or driving the 3 hours to the grandparent’s house and not being able to easily stop anywhere. It required more prep and planning.


One time we got a flat tire on the way home from our friend’s cabin. Once we sorted out the flat tire we realized we would not get home in time for dinner. We had to choose carefully where we ate and it was not the fastest option so we got home late. trash jar trash jar
3. What did you learn from this challenge? Which habits will you continue? What will you stop?
Well in the days after the Green UP challenge.
  1. We have managed to remember our To Go bag most of the time when we leave the house.
  2. We will still be using reusable mugs and straws or asking for no straws when we get to a restaurant.
  3. I am still shopping bulk often and avoiding items that will create waste.
  4. Our kitchen is set up now for zero waste foods so it is easier to maintain.
  5. We are still committed to cloth-diapering although when I forgot diapers the other day I happily accepted a disposable from my friend. I also might use disposable for extended camping trips as we don’t have enough to last more than a couple of days.
After seeing a dermatologist they told me to stop the Baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinse so I have stopped using the No Poo Rinse. However, instead they told me to shower or bathe everyday and that I should not use any soap for my hair or body unless I get extremely dirty and it is really necessary. Surprisingly I don’t smell and trust me I have told my family and friends to tell me if I start! In fact, my skin has been better than ever! I will also buy the occasional bag of chips and chocolate bar. Those are my vices and I cannot say goodbye to them yet!


At restaurants I will use napkins if I need during extremely messy situations. I had a few incidences over the Green UP challenge where I had to be creative in cleaning up messes! We are also going to still try to take home any restaurant food in reusable containers to be either eaten at home or composted.
Born to be Adventurous Family Family Photo
Wow! That experiment in producing less waste is really inspiring. I also like the perspective that sometimes it’s okay to splurge on a disposable diaper now and then.
Thanks to Annika for her honest answers! Now it’s question time for all of you.

What would be the hardest waste producing convenience item to give up for you? Why?

Leave your answers in the comments below or contact me on facebook, twitter or instagram and let me know what you think.

Wanna know my answer? Meat wrappers. We eat meat at least every other day in our house. The cost and hassle of bringing my own containers to the butcher counter prevents me from going zero waste in this area.

Related Posts

Author: Mountain Mom

Hi! I'm Mountain Mom. I live with my husband and three young kids in the mountains near Sundance, Utah. When we're not hiking, biking, skiing and camping, I spend my time doing Mom stuff and reading. Summer of 2016 we traveled over 7,000 miles along the US National Park to Park Highway.

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Zero Waste Home and a Pint-Sized Garbage Jar”

  1. Honestly, I was thinking meat wrappers as I was reading the borntobeadventurous interview! Though, I do try to buy a lot of meat at once and freeze it… that’s reducing a little waste, right? If i had to pick another one, I’m a little ashamed to say, ziplock bags. I just haven’t found a cost-effective (and effort-effective) alternative that works for my family yet. We use an embarassing amount of them, so I’d really love to find other options!

    1. Food wrappers are the number one trash item my family produces. That’s interesting that ziplocs are such a big deal for your family – I haven’t missed them (we still use them, just much less than before). Have you tried ChicoBag Snack bags or even just tupperware? The cost of a reuseable snack bag would easily be made up after two or three boxes of ziplocs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *