Earlier today during Special Programming Day, juniors seniors had the incredible opportunity to hear from Bea Johnson, founder of the Zero Waste movement and author of the bestselling Zero Waste Home, as part of the annual Robert H. Dedman Endowed Lecture Series for Leadership.
After class of 2006 alumni Amy Zamora Kennedy received Johnson’s book from a friend, she was inspired and thought ESD would benefit from hearing this story. Amy (far left) discovered Johnson was on a North American tour and worked closely with ESD’s Development team to bring her to campus for today’s lecture.
Johnson, who was introduced by Junior Class President Ellie Bass ’21, spoke to students about her journey to a zero-waste lifestyle that began in 2008. When she first heard the term “zero waste,” it was only used in a manufacturing waste context, not in reference to single households. After living with most of their belongings in storage due to a housing move, the Johnson family realized they didn’t miss most of their items and decided to pursue a “less is more” lifestyle. “When you live with less, you have more time for things that are important,” said Johnson. The Johnson family has lived waste-free for well over a decade. In 2019, her family of four produced just one pint of trash.
Johnson claims the key to living with less and managing a zero-waste lifestyle lies in the five Rs:
- Refuse: just say no to what you do not need (i.e. promotional pamphlets, etc)
- Reduce: declutter what you have, try to buy second-hand things
- Reuse: search for reusable alternatives, like refillable glass jars for storing food items and reusable cloth bags for grocery shopping
- Recycle: recycle what you cannot reuse, like plastics #1 and #2, cardboard, paper
- Rot: compost food scraps, hair, etc.
After adopting these five rules, Johnson was able to live a life based on experience instead of stuff, focused on being instead of having. “We never expected that what one family does could have such a huge impact or that it could influence a global movement,” she said. The zero-waste movement has not only caused others to live waste-free but also inspired people to start their own organizations, open bulk shops, conceive reusable products and more to make waste-free living more accessible.
Students were able to ask questions on how her process applied to several other key areas of life, like prescriptions, transportation, technology, and more. The most common thread of the questions centered around the feasibility of adopting a waste-free lifestyle. Johnson’s response was, “What do you have to lose?”
To learn more about Bea Johnson and the zero waste movement, visit her website here.
Started in 2002, the Robert H. Dedman Endowed Lecture Series provides students opportunities to learn lessons in leadership from outstanding achievers across many industries. Guests have included captains of many industries, heroes, and champions of philanthropy and service. For more information, please contact Carol Bergman (firstname.lastname@example.org).