Hi Readers, today I am featuring the first of two interviews that were very generously offered to me by Ideealistin, one of our regular readers and commenters here at 365 Less Things. When she isn’t decluttering or reading my blog Ideealistin is a journalist and recently she conducted these two short email interview that she thought would be a nice fit with my blog. I was granted permission to publish these by the two interviewees today’s being with Bee Johnson of The Zero Waste Home and the second interview with Dave Bruno from The 100 Things Challenge is scheduled for Thursday.
Without further adieu here is the interview with Bea Johnson:-
Ideealistin: Bea, voluntarily giving up things seems to become a serious lifestyle choice and it seems to have its’ origin in the super consumer culture of the USA. Do you sense the wish for less in your everyday life and neighbourhood? Or do you think we are more at a stage of talking about the concept and liking it rather than executing the “less”?
Bea Johnson: I think it’s a combination of the two. People are interested in living with less but they do not quite know how to change their accumulation habits. I think the American culture makes it too easy to accumulate. We are pounded with ads, are handed out freebies everywhere we go, and it is often easier to buy things then not buy them, (i.e, repair them or rent them). Which is why I have added the Refuse to our set of Zero Waste rules. We have been able to achieve very low waste by Refusing what we do not need (junk mail, freebies, plastic bags), but also by Reducing what we do need, Reusing by using and shopping with reusables, Recycling what we cannot refuse, reduce or reuse and Composting the rest.
Ideealistin: Your change came about with downsizing house. Did looking at the way you were living make you want to downsize or did downsizing trigger the purging and rethinking?
Bea Johnson: It is downsizing that triggered our rethinking.
Several years ago, we moved from a large home located in a bedroom community (where the car was our main mode of transportation) to a home half the size in an active downtown. We wanted to be able to walk or ride everywhere (school, stores, coffee shop, movies, theatre). But before finding the small house, we rented a small apartment for a year, with only a few necessities. We stored the rest. We immediately found out the benefits of living with less, We had more time to do the things that are important to us, such as spending time with family and friends, and explore/enjoy the outdoors. Once we moved in the small house, we let go of 80% of our belongings. It is with more time, that we also started educating ourselves on environmental issues, and decided to do something about it for the sake of our kids future. In the midst of the recession, my husband quit his job to start a sustainability consulting company, I tackled the house and our lifestyle.
Ideealistin: You gave up on something, nobody really wants in the first place: waste. Were you expecting the harsh criticism that people confronted you with for giving up something that would end in the trash five minutes later anyway?
Bea Johnson: I am not surprised by the criticism and expected it when going into it. I thought long about it before starting my blog. I live in a very consumerist society. Our story makes people reflect on their own shopping habits and sometimes shatters their way of thinking, But we’re not telling anyone how to live their lives, we’re just sharing how we live ours.
Ideealistin: You did not really have a guide into your lifestyle changes. Would you have wanted one? How did you keep yourself motivated and assured of being on the right track? How do you feel about more and more growing into the role of a sort of guide yourself for others?
Bea Johnson: Had I had a guide, I would have reached our current waste level, much faster. Not having one though, allowed me to test some extremes and find my level of comfort without compromising our trash level. It helped me evaluate and stick to changes that are sustainable, i.e. applicable to the long term. We do not consider Zero Waste as a short term project, but rather a lifestyle. All along, my motivation was, is and will be, the future of my kids.
Ideealistin: Relinquish waste also meant to give up certain things or find alternatives. Today you say you like your new way of life and the alternatives better – but how did giving up feel on the way? Did you have cravings, hard times, thoughts of giving up?
Bea Johnson: With any change, naturally comes adaptation. Washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar for 6 months, made me feel like someone else – or something else, like salad dressing ;). I realized that I had gone too far by “giving up” hair luster that comes with shampooing. I now use shampoo sold in bulk (I refill my bottle at the store). Today, I do not feel that I am “giving up” anything, as we have found a balance and have Zero Waste on auto-pilot. After all, this lifestyle has not only made our family happier, healthier, and more organized, but it has also saved us money and more importantly time! With that in mind and contrary to popular belief, I think this lifestyle gives back more than it takes away.
Ideealistin: When talking (and blogging) about your choices you’ll always get other opinions, some thinking you go too far, others thinking you do too little. How did (or do, if this is still something you think about today) you manage to find the right balance?
Bea Johnson: My balance is based on finding out what worked for me and my family, and ignoring other people’s opinions. If we worried about other people’s opinions, we would have never evolved. I think worrying about people’s opinions is what keeps many people from changing, it puts them into an action paralysis. I truly believe and live by these Gandhi words: “Be the change you want the world to be.”
Ideealistin: Many people seem to see zero waste and „less is more” not as an option because they feel their spontaneity (or even their creativity) endangered by not being able to buy things on the go (whether be it coffee or shoes they like and that maybe are on sale). Do you feel or ever felt too unspontaneous?
Bea Johnson: Spontaneity can manifest itself in many different ways. One does not have to be an ardent consumer in order to be spontaneous. It is actually with the time that we have gained from living with less that we have gained spontaneity (less time to care for things, means more time to care for people). It might not be through consuming an unneeded pair of shoes (thoughtless purchase), but rather through getting together with friends: sharing an impromptu glass of wine, or going for coffee (the coffee shops serve in reusable ceramic cups), or packing a last minute picnic … This lifestyle puts more emphasis on human interaction than it does on stuff, of course.
***End Of Interview***
I think you will agree with me that Ideealistin asked some very pertinent questions here and was given some very thoughtful and candid responses by Bea. I for one had a lot of the questions answered that I had been wondering about Bea and how the metamorphose of her and her families lifetstyle took place.
Thank you so much to Ideealistin and of course to Bea Johnson for the opportunity to release this interview here at 365 Less things.
Today’s Declutter Item
There will be a lot more Snoopy stuff passing through the Declutter Item of the Day before the end of the year. There are some to donate and some to try to sell on ebay. So expect to see a lot more of it.
Something I Am Grateful For Today
Today I would like to say how grateful I am to you all, my wonderful readers for joining me on my declutter journey and in some cases sticking with me for a very long time now. Every new reader is a blessing and any faithful reader who has stuck with me through thick and thin are considered a friend. It is great that some of you add your voices to my post through your comments. Those comments make this blog a more rounded experience for all readers as well as for me. New and differing opinions is how we learn in life and I am always grateful for the opportunity to learn. So thank you everyone, new, faithful, talkative or silent, I know you are out there listening and I am grateful for that.