See how a family manages to produce only two handfuls of trash per year
Béa and Scott Johnson answer some questions about how their household works.
Q/ Do you have a car?
A/ We have two cars, which we’ve had since before we started this lifestyle. Scott needs one for his job, and I need something once a week for errands. There’s no Zipcar in Mill Valley.
Q/ Do you have a TV?
A/ We do, for movies, but no television channels. We rent through Netflix—either online or by mail. In the return envelope, I put back that little strip of plastic that is intended to be thrown away. I’ve contacted Netflix, encouraging them to find another way.
Scott: I thought I’d miss sports TV—like ESPN or college football—but I’ve figured out it’s all online and we can stream it. If the cable company did à la carte, we’d be set.
Q/ Do you get junk mail?
A/ I’ve done dmachoice.org to get off direct mail lists like credit card applications, and there’s catalogchoice.org for catalogs. For first-class mail and third-class marked “address return requested,” you can write “refuse” on the envelope. For other third-class, you must track the sender down via phone or email and tell them to take you off their list. Every time I get something, I tackle it right away.
Q/ What about when your kids are sick?
A/ Though we have a neti pot [for flushing nasal passages with saline], sometimes we do have to buy medication. It’s less wasteful to purchase a small bottle, and the containers are recyclable. Instead of Band-Aids, we mostly use peroxide, then gauze and paper tape.
Q/ Living like this must take a lot of time.
A/ I save time. While other people are zigzagging the aisles of the grocery store, I shop the perimeter. The deli and cheese departments take extra time with my jars, but then I shop the bulk-foods aisle for all dry goods. I do the farmers’ market for produce. And I go to malls only occasionally, for shoes.