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The zero-waste home

See how a family manages to produce only two handfuls of trash per year

Kitchen; Zero-waste home
Thomas J. Story


The kitchen looks eerily unlived in, yet Béa cooks every day.

What’s missing?

  • Packaging in the pantry: The Johnsons go to the grocery store with their own jars and buy bulk snacks and other pantry supplies. “Some of the kids’ friends came over recently and said, ‘You have no food here,’ ” says Béa. “They didn’t recognize this as food since there weren’t any boxes.”
  • Packaging in the fridge: The family shops with glass jars, fabric bags, and canvas totes, and returns containers for a deposit. Even cheese and meat go in jars. Cheese is purchased when it is cut, to avoid plastic wrap.
  • Packaging in the freezer: Béa buys loaves of bread by the dozen from her grocer, carrying them in a pillowcase, which she then transfers to her freezer.
  • Cluttered drawers: Cooking equipment is kept to a minimum and is multipurpose, like a cheese grater doubling as a zester.
  • Paper towels: Clean up is done with microfiber cloths. “People are really attached to paper towels,” Béa says. “But they’re the easiest thing to give up.”
Try it

  • The natural-foods aisle is great for dry-good staples and refillable shampoo, conditioner, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap.
  • To use glass jars, ensure that your store has a scale to measure their tare (empty) weight.
  • Tips for wine: Scout for best local sources. Near San Jose, Guglielmo Winery offers refillable bottles for red wine.


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