Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson: Summary & Notes

Rated: 9/10

Available at: Amazon

ISBN: 1451697686

Related: Sustainable Home, 101 Ways to Go Zero Waste


The best book I have read on how to implement the zero waste lifestyle. A must-read for anyone interested in the topic.

Perhaps the best part about the book is how specific and actionable the advice is. You will both understand what the zero-waste lifestyle is about, and have a long, detailed list of how to implement it.


Chapter 1: The 5 Rs and the Benefits of the Zero Waste Lifestyle

Step 1: Refuse (What We Do Not Need)

  1. Single-use plastics (SUPs):
  2. Freebies
  3. Junk mail
  4. Unsustainable practices like: accepting receipts or business cards that we will never consult, buying excessive packaging and discarding it without urging the manufacturer to change.

Step 2: Reduce (What We Do Need and Cannot Refuse)

  • Here are three practices we have implemented to actively reduce in our home:
  • Evaluate past consumption: Assess the true use and need for everything in the home and let go of the unnecessary through the process of paring down:
  • Curb current and future consumption in amount and in size
  • Decrease activities that support or lead to consumption

Step 3: Reuse (What We Consume and Cannot Refuse or Reduce)

  • "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." —Ancient proverb
  • Eliminate wasteful consumption and shop with reusables.
  • Alleviate resource depletion by: collaborative consumption (sharing), buying used, buying smart.
  • Extend useful life of necessities through: repairing, rethinking, returning, rescuing.
  • Basic Reusables Checklist
  • Totes
  • Widemouthed insulated cups
  • Jars
  • Bottles
  • Cloth bags
  • Rags
  • Kitchen towels
  • Cloth napkins
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Rechargeable batteries

Step 4: Recycle (What We Cannot Refuse, Reduce, or Reuse)

  • If the purpose of recycling is to close our waste loops responsibly, then the processes need to be simplified to support this goal. In a Zero Waste world, recycling would be standardized across the globe, or even better, products would be designed for reuse and repair so that recycling would not even be necessary or at least would be greatly reduced.
  • When buying new, we should choose products that not only support reuse but also are made of materials that have a high postconsumer content, are compatible with our community’s recycling program, and are likely to get recycled over and over (e.g., steel, aluminum, glass, or paper) versus downcycled (e.g., plastics).
  • Home Recycling Checklist
  • Know by heart what your community can or cannot recycle at the curb.
  • Consider visiting your local MRF (materials recovery facility) or gain knowledge of plastics recyclability. Don’t simply trust the chasing arrow. Some products with it are not recyclable, others without are recyclable.
  • Allocate convenient recycling locations in the kitchen (under the counter is best) and home office.
  • Find collection sites for hard-to-recycle items (corks, worn-out shoes and clothes) and hazardous materials (batteries, paint, and motor oil). and its iRecycle app are a great resource.
  • Allocate separate containers as per drop-off locations.

Step 5: Rot (Compost the Rest)

Chapter 2: Kitchen and Grocery Shopping

Kitchen Setup:


  • in order to reap the benefits, you need to make your kitchen a clutter-free zone.
  • Most kitchens are filled with gadgets that claim to make cooking and entertaining easier: sorbet makers, waffle irons, panini presses. . . . But are these really being used? If so, how often?
  • A less aggressive way is to set aside a day (maybe two, depending on the speed of your decision making) to take everything out of your cupboards (including food) and put back only those items that survive the following questions:
  • Is it in working condition? Is it expired?
  • Do I use it regularly?
  • Is it a duplicate?
  • Does it put my family’s health in danger?
  • For example, Teflon (nonstick), aluminum, and plastics have proved to be health hazards
  • Do I keep it out of guilt?
  • Do I keep it because everyone has one? Is it too specialized? Does it truly save time, as promised?
  • Could another item achieve the same task?
  • Is it worth my precious time cleaning?
  • Could I use this space for something else?
  • Is it reusable?
  • Don’t be afraid of letting go: focus on the benefits that you will gain from living with less.
  • But for illustrative purposes, I will list the kitchen items (I will cover the pantry later) we have chosen to keep in order to live a comfortable (rather than a wastefully lavish) life:
  • Dishes: Twelve dinner plates, twelve small plates, twelve cups, and twelve bowls. We bought quality ware from a local ceramic studio. I have twelve because we can sit ten people at our table and I need a couple of extras for serving.
  • Glassware: A shelf full of wineglasses, a shelf full of tumblers (about twenty-four each). These two shelves cover our party needs and eliminate resorting to disposables. We also use these glasses to serve cold soups and appetizers and to hold a variety of things, from loose salt to toothbrushes.
  • Flatware: Setting for twelve
  • Cooking: Three sizes of pans, three sizes of pots, one stockpot, three lids, a teakettle (all stainless)
  • Preparing and serving: Three bowls and one platter
  • Baking: Two pie dishes, one large casserole dish, one loaf pan, two baking sheets
  • Utensils: Stainless ladle, spoon, spatula, tongs, and whisk, and one wooden spatula
  • Cutting: One paring knife, one chef knife, one serrated knife, one pair of scissors, and one cutting board
  • Accessories: Stainless colander, sieve, grater, steamer, funnel, one set of measuring spoons, a measuring cup, a scale, a bottle opener, a pepper grinder, two pot holders, two trivets
  • Small appliances: An all-in-one blender and a toaster.


  • If your disposables somehow survived this decluttering process, let me tell you right now: you can reclaim the space that they take up, you don’t need them. Keep your money where it belongs: in your pocket and out of the landfill! Throwaways can easily be replaced with reusable versions.
  • Our family has replaced paper towels with microfiber cloths, and we never run out.
  • We have eliminated the need for trash liners with composting. We have swapped plastic sandwich bags for kitchen towels, which I already had on hand.
  • Again, everyone’s needs are different, but for illustrative purposes, here is a list of the disposables that my family has replaced with reusables:
  • Paper towels: A pile of rags for wiping the counters and a pile of kitchen towels (made from an old sheet) for wiping hands
  • Water bottles: A stainless bottle for each member of our family; two regular (kids), two insulated (Scott and me
  • Cling wrap/sandwich and freezer bags: A collection of canning jars. I have about a hundred in different sizes because I use them for canning, storing, freezing, and transporting food, and I store about ten empty ones in a cupboard for leftovers
  • Paper napkins: A pile of cloth napkins. I have about thirty, to accommodate our home’s guest capacity. I chose medium size for versatility (they work for both cocktails and dinners) and patterned to hide the hard-to-clean grease stains. Each family member uses a monogrammed ring to identify and reuse his napkin between washes
  • Tea bags: A tea strainer. I chose a medium-size ball strainer based on the opening and capacity of our insulated stainless bottles
  • Coffee filters: A coffee press. Reusable coffee filters are also available for those using coffee machines.
  • Toothpicks: Turkey lacers. About thirty, based on the maximum amount of guests that we can host at our house. You could also purchase reusable stainless-steel or titanium cocktail picks
  • Reusability is not only about eliminating disposables, it’s also about buying durable quality when replacements are needed.


  • Appointing receptacles for the segregation of discards is another key element to a Zero Waste kitchen. It might help you, your family, and your visitors to post a list of what each container collects on each receptacle lid.
  • Depending on your composting system, the list that you affix on your receptacle might include:
  • Bamboo or rosemary skewers
  • Cellophane bags (make sure it’s cellophane and not plastic!)
  • Coffee filters
  • Coffee grounds
  • Egg cartons
  • Eggshells
  • Expired food
  • Leftovers
  • Loose tea (tea bags, most of which are coated with polypropylene plastic, will not fully decompose)
  • Matches
  • Meat and fish bones
  • Nutshells
  • Paper napkins
  • Paper plates
  • Paper towels
  • Shellfish (crustacean)
  • Soiled paper and cardboard such as pizza boxes
  • Stale bread
  • Toothpicks
  • Vegetables/fruits
  • Wax paper, including butter wrappers


  • We have a small container to collect cork corks, for taking to my grocery store, which upcycles them. We also have another for the sneaky plastic corks and the rare candy wrappers that make their way into our home. When it’s full, I can ship the contents to TerraCycle to be upcycled.


  • Now that you are using your old trash can to collect compostable materials, you can use your old compost receptacle (usually the size of a small bucket) to collect landfill waste. No need for trash liners since the wet items that usually make them necessary are compostable.

Grocery Shopping:

Grocery and Errands Lists

  • Through my business, I was surprised to find that three-quarters of the households that I consulted did not have an ongoing list, resulting in frequent grocery runs (sometimes daily) and impulse buys (sometimes buying what they forgot they already had).
  • We keep two shopping lists: one for groceries, one for errands. Both lists are conveniently located adjacent to our pantry and are made of strips of used paper (typically homework printed on a single side). I’ve clipped them together and attached a pencil. We fill the sheets from bottom up, so we can tear off the bottom and bring it to the store. Cell phones are good paperless alternatives but not as suitable for the participation of the whole family or on-a-whim jotting.
  • When we want to get something from another store, we write it on the errands list.
  • Overall, these lists have been great tools for saving time and money and reducing.

Bulk vs. Bulk

  • In fact, we have been able to shave a third off our grocery bill by shopping this way. If you stay away from prepared foods, cut down your meat consumption, and are careful in picking affordable choices, just as you would when purchasing packaged goods from a supermarket, you’ll see your grocery bill decrease significantly.
  • We will be referring to bulk from now on as unpackaged goods of any type, including but not limited to groceries.

Locating Bulk Stores

  • I have created a bulk locating app, named Bulk, so you, too, can enjoy the benefits of shopping the package-free aisles.

Putting Together a Zero Waste Shopping Kit

  • To reduce packaging waste as much as possible while shopping in bulk, you will need:
  • Totes
  • Cloth bags (two sizes)
  • Mesh bags (optional)
  • Glass jars (two sizes): The same reusable mason jars mentioned above under Reusability work great. I use one-liter (one quart) and five-hundred-milliliter (pint) sizes
  • Bottles (optional): Empty glass white vinegar bottles work well as they generally have a large screw top opening, but you can also reuse wine or lemonade (flip-top) bottles
  • Washable crayon: A washable crayon to note the item number directly on your bag or jar will eliminate the need for disposable labels commonly used in bulk stores
  • Pillowcase: Or a large bread bag made from an old sheet.
  • Your grocery list!

At the Store and at Home

  • Once you’ve got your kit, here’s how to use it:
  • Use the cloth bags to stock up on dry bulk, such as flour, sugar, beans, cereal, cookies, spices, etc
  • These bags also work well for packing bread rolls from the bakery bins
  • At home: Transfer your dry goods into airtight containers. I use French canning jars of varying sizes for this purpose
  • Use the mesh bags (or cloth bags) to fill with produce
  • Use the small-size jars for “wet" bulk, such as honey, peanut butter, pickles, etc
  • Use the pillowcase to transport bread from the bakery
  • Use bottles to fill with liquids, such as olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, etc
  • Use the large-size jars for “counter" items, such as meat, fish, cheese, and deli
  • Running all your errands on the same day, once a week, and with a list, will not only save you from impulse shopping, it will allow you to build a relationship with staff members.

Beyond the Grocery Store

  • Bulk is not limited to health food stores: CSAs (community supported agriculture), farmer’s markets, and specialty vendors can be a great source of package-free products, when their sustainable efforts are consistent.
  • Here are further package-free food options to consider beyond the store:
  • Buy eggs from the farmer’s market.
  • Bring a jar or cloth bag to a specialty store for a refill, such as ice cream or candy.
  • Refill clean, empty wine bottles during a winery “bottling event."
  • Refill a beer jug (i.e., growler) at a local brewery.
  • Note: this method works only when you are ready to drink one gallon of beer at once; it will start to lose its carbonation overnight
  • Consider canning the products that you are used to buying in cans. Home canning is a great alternative to store-bought cans, most of which are loaded with MSG and can leach BPA.
  • Grow your own.

Meal Planning:

Recipe Overhaul

  • New kitchen and shopping habits need new recipes to match:
  • Breakfast: pancakes, bread pudding
  • Finger Foods/Appetizers: deviled eggs, pâté, stuffed mushrooms
  • First Courses: individual goat cheese soufflés, leek flan
  • Soups: cauliflower soup, garlic soup, gazpacho
  • Grains: rice, quinoa, couscous
  • Pasta
  • Legumes: white-bean stew, lentil curry
  • Potatoes
  • Dough: pizza, tortilla
  • Fish and Shellfish: sardine carpaccio, crusted salmon, trout meunière
  • Chicken: the “eco” and affordable meat gets its own tab!
  • Meat: lamb keftas, beef bourguignon, cherry duck
  • Veggies: recipes not containing starch or meat
  • Desserts: chocolate mousse, lemon soufflé
  • Cookies/Sweet Snacks: biscotti, butter cookies, candied pecans
  • Wild/Foraging: manzanita cider, thistle pesto
  • Pantry: jam, mustard, vanilla extract
  • Menus: a set of three to four well-coordinated recipes around a theme—Moroccan dinner or summer brunch
  • Home/Body: hairspray, laundry detergent, glue, tooth powder.

Pantry Staples

  • Permanent staples will vary from family to family. Ours include:
  • Flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, cornstarch, baking powder, yeast, oatmeal, coffee, dry corn, powdered sugar
  • Jam, butter, peanut butter, honey, mustard, canned tomatoes, pickles, olives, capers
  • Olive oil, vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, wine vinegar, tamari, vanilla extract
  • A selection of spices and herbs
  • Rotational staples represent groups of foods that we used to buy in many different forms. In the past, our legume collection consisted of chickpeas, lentils, peas, red beans, fava beans, pinto beans, etc.
  • Today, instead of storing many versions of a staple, we have dedicated one specific jar and adopted a system of rotation.

Reducing Food Waste

  • We’ve talked about arming yourself with grocery lists before you hit the market, but by serving small portions, reheating leftovers, and utilizing freezing methods, you can further minimize the amount of unused/spoiled food that goes into the compost.


  • What should you consider when expecting company?
  • The most important aspect of entertaining in a waste-free manner is to be proactive.

5 Rs Checklist: 5 Tips for the Kitchen

  • Refuse: Resist food packaging and disposable plastic bags.
  • Reduce: Pare down kitchen accessories and define pantry staples.
  • Reuse: Shop for groceries with reusables and rethink your leftovers.
  • Recycle: Appoint separate containers tailored to your recycling needs.
  • Rot: Compost food scraps

Chapter 3: Bathroom, Toiletries, and Wellness

Bathroom Setup:

  • The bathroom is probably the second-biggest source of recurring waste in the home, but here, too, it can easily be avoided with decluttering, implementing reusables, and deploying collection receptacles.
  • Simplification is the second step to a Zen-like bathroom, and it starts with emptying cabinets and drawers and evaluating what is truly necessary.
  • Clearing out horizontal surfaces (counters, floors) and eliminating them when possible (shelving, over-the-toilet stand) not only make a bathroom peaceful and spacious but also simplify your cleaning routine!


  • Other than toilet paper, we no longer buy single-use products; we have adopted either reusable or package-free alternatives for them instead.

Grooming & Hygiene:

  • Hand/Body/Face Soaps
  • Bar: Solid soap is the best option in terms of waste if you can find it sold loose or in recyclable paper (to see if the packaging is entirely made of paper, tear a small piece and look for a plastic layer)
  • If you absolutely must use liquid soap, Castile soap is multipurpose and works great.
  • Deodorant
  • Alum stone/crystal deodorant is easy to use. Wet the stone, apply it, and dry it after use. Works on healing razor nicks too.
  • Dental
  • In theory, toothpaste is not necessary to effectively brush your teeth. The act of brushing alone is what really matters in avoiding cavities
  • Tooth powder: Just use baking soda (add 1 teaspoon white stevia to 1 cup baking soda if needed).
  • TP: find 100% recycled, unbleached TP, individually wrapped in paper.
  • Home Remedies
  • Allergies: Consume local honey daily.
  • Bruises: Apply half an onion on the area for fifteen minutes.
  • Coughs and sore throats: Gargle salt water and suck on a lozenge (recipe).
  • Digestion: Chew on fennel seeds or drink an anise tea.
  • Eczema: Take an oatmeal bath and apply olive oil.
  • Foot odors: Spray apple cider vinegar on your feet and sprinkle baking soda in your shoes.
  • Gout: Drink coffee or eat cherries.
  • Headache: Drink an espresso, rub mint on the temples, or roll a fresh California bay leaf into your nostril. (I agree, it’s not a great look, but it works for me!)
  • Insect bites: Apply white vinegar to the bites.
  • Jellyfish stings: Apply white vinegar to the stings.
  • Kidney stones: Mix 1/4 cup olive oil with 1/4 cup lemon juice and drink at once, followed by a large glass of water.
  • Lacerations: Use honey to heal small cuts.
  • Menstrual cramps: Drink chamomile or yarrow tea and apply a warm pad on the belly (i.e., a bottle filled with hot water, sealed tight, and placed in a sock).
  • Nausea: Consume ginger candied or in the form of a tea.
  • Oral thrush: Gargle a saltwater solution.
  • Prostate problems: Drink a tea of corn silk and eat tomatoes.
  • Quick heartburn relief: Drink 1 teaspoon baking soda in a glass of water (use only on occasion) or consume 1/2 teaspoon mustard.
  • Runny nose: Use a sea salt solution in a Neti pot.
  • Sunburn: Apply a generous amount of apple cider vinegar or olive oil.
  • Toothache: Gargle a chamomile tea or apply ice to the area.
  • Urinary tract infection: Eat cranberries.
  • Vaginal yeast infection: Eat yogurt.
  • Warts: Fix a piece of orange or lemon skin soaked in white vinegar to the affected area and repeat until gone.
  • XYZ: Etc. . . . google it!

Chapter 4: Bedroom & Wardrobe


  • While the eco-market pushes the consumption of organic mattresses and sheets in order to green a bedroom, I believe that the most important step you can take is to reduce clutter.


  • Yves Saint Laurent: "Fashions fade, style is eternal."


  • A Zero Waste wardrobe should not only be minimal, it should support reusability through: (1) buying secondhand, (2) buying versatile pieces, and (3) repurposing.
  • Favor natural fibers. If you must buy synthetic, seek the Patagonia brand (see Recycling).


  • At home, our efforts are limited to repurposing worn-out T-shirts into rags, grown-out socks into convenient dusters, old nylons into efficient shoe shines, etc.

Shoe Care:

  • To dust, use a worn-out sock.
  • To remove salt marks, use the Basic Mix cleaner (1 cup water, 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar, citrus peels in vinegar for smell)
  • To polish, use worn-out nylons.
  • To protect, use the Multipurpose Balm recipe (see Bathroom, Toiletries, and Wellness).


  1. Melt 2 tablespoons beeswax and 11/2 teaspoons oil in a double boiler (I use a small glass jar in an inch of water).
  2. Brush onto leather. (The wax will streak the shoe as it cools during application. It might look scary but don’t be alarmed. The streaks will disappear when you dry the shoe.)
  3. Use a blow dryer and an old sock to work the wax into the shoe or boot.

5 Rs Checklist: 5 Tips for the Bedroom

  • Refuse: Resist trends, embrace style.
  • Reduce: Stick to minimal furnishings and a small, versatile wardrobe.
  • Reuse: Buy secondhand clothes and repurpose to extend their useful life.
  • Recycle: Donate worn-out clothing to participating recyclers.
  • Rot: Compost your wool sweater’s pills.

Chapter 5: Housekeeping and Maintenance

The Magic of Vinegar

  • Although I have not been able to find vinegar in bulk (I purchase it in a glass bottle), I believe it to be an essential for the home and the garden. I use the following mix for most applications.
  • Basic Mix: Fill a spray bottle with 1 cup water and 1/4 cup white distilled vinegar.
  • Note: For added scent, you can infuse the vinegar with citrus peels in a jar for a couple of weeks, prior to diluting it.
  • Here are examples of cleaning, laundry, pest, and gardening products that you can eliminate from your home by using vinegar instead:
  • Adhesive remover: Remove stickers by soaking them with warm vinegar. For gum, use an ice cube to remove the bulk of it, then warm vinegar to clean off residues.
  • Bathroom cleaner: Use the Basic Mix to dissolve soap scum and hard-water stains and simultaneously shine counters, floors, sinks, showers, mirrors, and fixtures. You can also dip a toothbrush in the cleaner to scrub grout joints and soak your showerhead in a bowl of vinegar overnight to remove lime buildup.
  • Color set: If a garment has proved to bleed in the wash, let it soak in vinegar before laundering.
  • Drain cleaner: Use a drain snake and plunger to clear pipes, then pour 1/4 cup baking soda followed by 1/2 cup white vinegar. Cover until bubbling stops and flush with boiling water.
  • Eraser sponge (also known as Magic Eraser): Remove pen, pencil, or crayon marks from walls using a cloth or toothbrush dipped in straight vinegar.
  • Flower food: To extend the life of cut flowers, add a tablespoon of both vinegar and sugar to their water. You can also remove the white buildup on your vases by soaking them in undiluted vinegar.
  • Glass cleaner: Use a microfiber cloth if you have one—it does not require any other product but water. As a default, you can spray the Basic Mix onto windows, mirrors, and glass surfaces, then polish with cloth rags.
  • Herbicide (also known as weed killer): Simply kill weeds by spraying full-strength vinegar onto them.
  • Insect repellent: Spray where you do not want ants to come into your house (windowsills or door thresholds, for example). also recommends adding a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar for each quart bowl of your pet’s drinking water to keep it free of fleas and ticks. The ratio of one teaspoon to one quart is for a forty-pound animal.
  • Jewelry/metal cleaner: To clean tarnished bronze, brass, and copper, apply a mixture of 1 tablespoon salt and 1/4 cup vinegar, rinse with warm water, and polish with a soft cloth. For silver, soak the piece in 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1 tablespoon baking soda, then rinse and polish with a soft cloth. For gold, simply cover with vinegar for one hour and rinse. Do not use on pearls.
  • Kitchen cleaner: Use full-strength vinegar to disinfect cutting boards. Use in lieu of your stainless cleaner or dishwasher rinse aid (simply substitute it in the dishwasher rinsing compartment). Use the Basic Mix to clean the sink, counter, and refrigerator (use a toothbrush to clean moldy joints). To clean the microwave, pour some Basic Mix into a cup and bring to a boil to cut odors and loosen food bits. To clean the oven, generously spray with vinegar, then sprinkle with baking soda and let sit overnight, scrape with a spatula, and wipe clean. To remove lime buildups in the coffeemaker, fill its water reservoir with water and 1/4 cup vinegar, run it through, empty, and rinse. To remove unpleasant odors from the garbage disposal, your hands, or food jars, use straight vinegar. To remove tea or coffee stains from ceramic cups, soak in vinegar for a few hours, then scrub stubborn stains with baking soda.
  • Laundry booster: Adding 1/2 cup of undiluted vinegar to your rinse cycle will prevent soap buildup and yellowing, act as a fabric softener and a color booster, and reduce static cling.
  • Mildew remover and prevention: Use full-strength vinegar to remove mildew off most surfaces. To prevent mildew on a shower curtain, spray vinegar on the problem areas or add vinegar to your rinse cycle when you wash it.
  • Nicotine stain remover: Clean walls stained by nicotine with straight vinegar.
  • Odor neutralizer: Instead of covering up an unpleasant smell with toxic fragrances, address the source and air the space out. Then place a bowl of vinegar in the room to absorb persistent odors (e.g., in a newly painted room to remove paint odors, in a car to remove vomit stench, or in a kitchen to remove smoke odors).
  • Pet repellent: Spray vinegar where you do not want your dog or cat to chew, scratch, or urinate.
  • Quick mop: No need for disposable floor wipes; simply spray a microfiber mop with the Basic Mix and mop.
  • Rust remover: To remove rust from small items, soak them in undiluted vinegar for a few hours, scrub with a toothbrush, and rinse thoroughly. Rub steel wool on stubborn residues.
  • Stain remover: Pour vinegar on mustard, pen, pencil, or crayon marks, then scrub with a toothbrush to remove the stain and launder as usual.
  • Toilet cleaner: Spray vinegar, then scrub. For tough jobs, you can“spray vinegar, sprinkle with baking soda, let sit, and then scrub.
  • Upholstery freshener: Lightly spray the Basic Mix on a cloth and wipe upholstery to neutralize odors, remove surface dirt, and boost color (first test in an inconspicuous area). The vinegar smell will subside, leaving a fresh scent. Wiping with a microfiber helps pick up pet hair.
  • Vinyl cleaner: Clean and shine no-wax vinyl linoleum floors with 1 gallon of water supplemented with 1 cup of vinegar.
  • Wood renewer: Mix equal parts vinegar and oil, and rub in the direction of the grain to remove water rings and scratches. You can also use the Multipurpose Balm (see recipe) as wood polish!
  • XYZ: eXamine Your Zipper. If a zipper does not run smoothly, spray vinegar onto it and run the zipper a few times to clear any blocking gunk.

Embrace Low Maintenance

  • Simplicity can be addicting.
  • Cleaning Methods
  • Let plants cleanse the air for you. According to NASA research, the ten most effective plants are: bamboo palm, Chinese evergreen, English ivy, gerbera daisy, Janet Craig, marginata, mass cane/corn plant, Mother-in-Law’s tongue, pot mum, peace lily, Warneckii.
  • Liquid soap:
  • Castile soap is wonderful, and apart from dishwasher and laundry detergents, it can satisfy all your soap needs in the house!

5 Rs Checklist: 5 Tips for Housekeeping and Home Maintenance

  • Refuse: Reject single-use and antibacterial cleaning products.
  • Reduce: Use vinegar and baking soda to clean.
  • Reuse: Adopt reusable cleaning rags, and make repairs with a borrowed tool.
  • Recycle: Purchase white vinegar in glass bottles for their recyclability.
  • Rot: Compost your dust bunnies!

Chapter 6: Workspace and Junk Mail

  • Turn off my cell phone when I work and use Google Voice to send voice mail transcripts to my email inbox.

5 Rs Checklist: 5 Tips for the Workspace

  • Refuse: Say no to the business cards, goodie bags, free pens or pencils, junk mail, and wasteful shipping materials.
  • Reduce: Choose quality writing utensils; you will more likely keep track of them.
  • Reuse: Repurpose shipping material and single-printed paper.
  • Recycle: Throw into the recycling bin only paper that is printed on both sides.
  • Rot: Compost shredded paper and pencil shavings.

Chapter 7: Kids and School

5 Rs Checklist: 5 Tips for Kids & School

  • Refuse: Reject freebies, extra school papers, and lamination.
  • Reduce: Streamline toys and after-school activities.
  • Reuse: Buy secondhand clothes and school supplies.
  • Recycle: Make crafts out of compostable or landfill materials.
  • Rot: Compost your crafts.

Chapter 8: Holidays and Gifts

5 Rs Checklist: 5 Tips for Holidays & Gifts

  • Refuse: Reject Halloween trinkets when trick-or-treating; pick consumables instead.
  • Reduce: Streamline your holiday decor; embrace edible decorating.
  • Reuse: Trade, borrow, rent, or buy a used Halloween costume.
  • Recycle: Send holiday cards and Halloween candy wrappers for recycling.
  • Rot: Compost your Easter eggshells and your pumpkin tureen

Chapter 9: Out and About

Here is what to consider if you have restaurant leftovers or if you order takeout:

  • Bring your own containers: we keep a jar in the car for this purpose.
  • Favor wax paper, cardboard, or aluminum if you failed to bring your own container.

Camping Products Alternatives

  • Mosquito repellent: Spray vinegar or rub lavender flowers onto your skin.
  • Earplugs: Soften a marble-size ball of cheese wax.
  • Travel
  • Reduce the frequency of trips. Videoconferencing can substitute for business meetings, for example.
  • Reduce the distance traveled. Can you stay local?
  • Consider transportation alternatives to get to your destination. In many countries traveling by train is faster than flying.
  • Choose direct flights, if you must fly.
  • Pack light. With the tips that we covered for a Zero Waste wardrobe, it should be easy.
  • Stay in central locations within walking distance of amenities.

Here is what to pack to minimize your flight’s solid waste:

  • A reusable stainless-steel canteen (insulated, if you plan on consuming hot drinks).
  • Your phone’s earphones.
  • A wrap to use as a blanket or pillow.
  • Dry snack in a cloth bag.
  • Reading material: A library book, an e-book, or preowned magazines from the local thrift store.
  • A clear, reusable, waterproof pouch to store toiletries for their journey through safety checks (durable alternatives to flimsy ziplock bags are available).

For long-haul flights, add:

  • A meal in a jar or stainless-steel container (or a sandwich in a towel).
  • Your picnic bamboo flatware wrapped in a cloth napkin.
  • Optional: pillow (a neatly rolled jacket can serve as an alternative).

5 Rs Checklist: 5 Tips for Outings

  • Refuse: Be proactive in rejecting the pizza stacker, the restaurant straw, and the airline earphones.
  • Reduce: Fly only when no other option is available.
  • Reuse: Bring your own shampoo and conditioner when staying in a hotel.
  • Recycle: Make your camping stove’s butane can recyclable by puncturing it when completely empty.
  • Rot: Embrace trench composting when camping or traveling.

Chapter 10: Getting Involved

  • Adopting Zero Waste alternatives does not happen overnight; as a matter of fact, the overall journey is likely to follow a progression:
  • Obliviousness
  • Awareness
  • Action
  • Isolation
  • Confidence: Perseverance prevails; you move beyond frustration as family and friends gradually accept your lifestyle change
  • Involvement: Now that you have Zero Waste all figured out and optimized for your household, you can fully enjoy the benefits of the lifestyle. Eat healthy, save money, and feel good about your environmental endeavors.


The 5 Rs

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