Go Garbage-less: Meet the family that produces just one quart of trash per year.

We get it. You recycle, you use public transit, you ride your bike, you’re green—I mean, golden. However, could you do what the Johnsons did?

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Cute family, yeah? Oh, but they are just so much more. This family only produces one quart of garbage a year.

Wait, what? Is this real life?

But according to Bea Johnson, the woman in the picture above, it is extremely possible. And it’s not bad at all. She’s the author of a book called Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste.

She started completely on accident when her family was trying to purchase a new home. They were in an apartment for a little while and only kept the things they needed. They basically gave up most of their stuff. This inspired her to look into environmental friendliness, and she got the whole family in on it. Today, 99.9% of her children’s clothing is used, and most of the clothing used by her and her husband is also used. Each family member’s wardrobe can fit into one carryon. They use reusable shopping bags, make bulk bags from old sheets, and she brings jars to the supermarket for her “wet” items she purchases.

Inspired? She has some tips for you, excerpted from her book with her permission.


1. Fight junk mail. It’s not just a waste of resources, but also of time. Register to receive less at dmachoice.org, optoutprescreen.com and catalogchoice.org.

2. 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?


3. 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.

4. Reduce your shopping trips and keep a shopping list. The less you bring home, the less waste you’ll have to deal with.


5. 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.

6. 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.


7. 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.

8. 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).


9. 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).

10. 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.

Has Bea Johnson inspired you to live even more efficiently? Would you actually want to? Or do you already? Share your story with us in a comment below.

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