An Eco-minded Family Produces a Small Jar of Trash in a Year Thanks to a 5-Step Principle

Nowadays humanity throws away 3 million tons of garbage a day. This is almost 4000 times more than 100 years ago. And even though scientists keep racking their brains over the methods of utilizing the trash that poisons our planet, they still haven’t managed to stop these sad statistics. Bea Johnson and her family actually solved this issue a long time ago. If each of us follows their example, tomorrow we could wake up in a world one can only dream about.

Bright Side got inspired by Bea Johnson’s example and her ’zero waste’ philosophy and that’s the reason why we decided to tell you about this amazing woman.

Bea Johnson lives in California with her husband and 2 kids. In 2008, they moved to a new house and that’s when Bea started to think about the number of things they had to carry with them. She realized that they actually needed much less than they were carrying around. That’s how she got interested in minimalism and ecology, and it was then that she started to change her home and lifestyle so that she and her family would do as little harm to this planet as possible. Bea Johnson wrote about her experience in her book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste, which instantly became a bestseller.

Meet Bea Johnson

All the trash produced by the Johnson family fits into a small glass jar.

They managed to achieve such phenomenal results thanks to the 5R principle which consists of 5 steps:


The main rule for people caring about ecology is to avoid buying extra things. Excess consumption is a serious problem of the 21st century. We can start with avoiding plastic and trying to replace disposable items with reusable ones. Bea recommends getting your own personal: water bottle; to-go coffee mug; lunch box; fabric bags for buying fruits and vegetables; cotton bags for grocery shopping. It’s better to try to buy products for your family at local markets and remember to take your eco-bags with you. Use fabric bags (for dry products), jars (for cheese, butter, meat and other wet products) and bottles (for liquids). Many people will probably say that sorting trash and throwing plastic into a special container is enough. But when we buy products in plastic packages, we support non-environmentally friendly producers and, thereby, help them produce even more garbage.


Bea calls for reducing consumption in all areas of your life. For example, Bea herself only has 15 items of clothing. But she can easily create 50 nice outfits out of them. Before buying a new item, ask yourself “Do I really lack this in my wardrobe? Is it good quality? Will I still like this item in a year?” This approach will help you to avoid unnecessary purchases. This method also relates to cosmetics and home cleaning items. Dozens of small tubes and jars, that we’ve been brainwashed by marketing into thinking that we need, can easily be replaced by coconut oil (for skin) or by vinegar and soda (for cleaning). A solid piece of soap without a package is good for taking care of your face and body. Shampoo can also be bought from a tap at certain markets. Reduce the amount of cosmetics you use and consider self-made alternatives. For example, Bea recommends using lemon water instead of hairspray.

Sensible purchases helped Bea reduce her expenses by 40%. The Johnsons don’t buy anything one-off and are confident that if everyone does the same, then manufacturers will have to rethink their attitude toward their products. Always use fabric napkins and ceramic pottery. Use reusable pens and buy recycled paper. When you absolutely need something with packaging, always ask for a recyclable package. Worn out clothes can be used as house rags. Choose a reusable razor and soap for shaving.

Recycling is an activity that gives a second life to our garbage. Its goal is to transform waste into secondary raw materials, energy, and other various products. However, using several plastic bags daily and relying on recycling is also not the most ecological option. The issue is that most recycling extends the life cycle of things for only a short period of time and soon those things will turn up at the dump again. That’s why it’s important to minimize what you take to recycling. Try limiting it to things that you can’t find a use for.

One-third of our everyday trash is organic and this trash should be composted instead of being thrown away. By doing this, you can turn your trash into fertilizer for your plants. It’s possible to do this one of 2 ways: dig a compost hole in the ground in your yard or get a compact composter suitable for city apartments. A big trash bin at home should be used for compost. For other types of trash, use a glass jar. Very often people do it vice versa. Don’t throw garbage into a common garbage bin at work, instead use your own containers for compost or recycling.

Of course, not all of us are ready to live like Bea Johnson. But you should remember that even small steps matter. You probably won’t be able to reduce your trash to a one liter jar instantly, but you should keep trying. Start with these simple steps: refuse a straw in a cafe; enjoy your coffee at the coffee shop instead of taking a plastic to-go cup; refuse plastic bags at the supermarket; remember to take a cotton or fabric bag with you when going grocery shopping; recycle your batteries; choose a personal, comfortable, and beautiful glass bottle for water; give away unnecessary things to those who need them; shift from tea bags to loose-leaf tea; switch off the water when brushing your teeth; watch Bea Johnson’s presentation at TEDx Talks and get inspired by it. If each of us does this, we could change the world.

Which of these pieces of advice are you going to follow? Please tell us about it in the comments!

Preview photo credit zerowastehome / instagram, zerowastehome / instagram