Meeting Béa Johnson, Best-Selling Author of “Zero Waste Home”

If you are reading this article, it’s probably because you have been inspired by Béa Johnson or by Lauren Singer. And as far as I know even Lauren Singer was inspired by Béa Johnson! Still, if you happen to not know Béa Johnson – shame on you! LOL, just kidding 😉 ! She is the very first person to prevent waste up to cutting the waste her family of four generates to only a quart sized jar full of waste per year!

She started to share her experience and many useful tips 2010 on her blog Zero Waste Home. In 2013, she published the bestselling book Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste. Only five years later, Zero Waste has become a movement, and Béa the spokesperson for the zero waste lifestyle.

Right now she is on her second international speaking tour covering Canada, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and of course, her native country France. We went to her only stop in Germany on November 19, 2015, in Kiel (aaaaall the way up north) in Germany.

It goes without saying that we traveled by train 😉 (we sold our car 2009 for environmental reasons and because we got tired of caring for it). We even got up inhumanely early to catch our train leaving at 7:10 AM 😝! Good thing you can sleep on a train ride! However, due to a tree falling onto the tracks in Hamburg (WTF?) we got stuck in the middle of nowhere, freezing in the rain waiting for another train to Kiel that might or might not come. Finally, we arrived in Kiel 2 1/2 hours later than we should have, and hurried to the book signing event without even being able to grab a quick bite on the way. At that point I was cold, stressed out, very very hungry…!

Bea Johnson, Zero Waste Home, bei der Signierstunde im Unverpackt Kiel

However, when we arrived in Marie Delapierre’s super pretty package-free health food store my mood changed instantly! The atmosphere was warm and cosy, the coffee was great, and I mean, hello, Béa was there!

It was only our second time we set foot in a package-free store, but it was actually Béa’s very first time! She was blown away by the selection, taking pictures with her phone. It’s funny, because a lot of people keep telling me that they couldn’t live zero waste like we do, because they don’t have a package-free health food store where they live. I usually point out that neither do we, and obviously there are ways 😉 !

Béa also addressed these objections: “I don’t have a selection like this where I live! You guys are very lucky! I live in the county with the highest amount of garbage per capita in the US. If I can live zero waste there, you can too! Bulk is everywhere. You just need to learn how to spot it!”

Marie Delapierre und Bea Johnson im Unverpackt Kiel

Béa Johnson and Marie Delapierre, owner of Unverpackt Kiel, the very first package-free health food store in Germany

After she answered all of our questions everyone could get their book signed. Béa only signs her name (no dedications!) to not hinder the reuse of the book – isn’t this a great idea! We did not get our copy signed by the way – that would have been a bit difficult considering that we went for the ebook version 😉 .

Hanno (mein Mann ❤️) und Béa am schnacken

Hanno (my hubby ❤️) and Béa talking about Japanese toilets 😝 (or “future toiles”, as the Buzzfeed crew calls them 😀 )

While I was happily chatting away with other like-minded peeps about where to look for bulk and the financial benefits of a zero waste lifestyle, Hanno tried to warm Béa up to those Japanese toilets with integrated bidets. It cracked me up when I overheard them :D! But frankly, those toilets are indeed wicked and brilliant at the same time – I love them! Not only can you adjust the angle, the temperature, the pressure of the jet of water, and let it massage your tushy if you feel like it (yes, I’m serious!) – no, there’s even an integrated dryer that blow-dries your butt! Yup, it transforms your regular no. 2 routine into a complete spa treatment (while eliminating the need for toilet paper)! Anyway, Béa had tried a Japanese toilet before – and found it disappointing. However, she did say she only tried one particular brand in the States. After the passionate speech on high-tech toilets she definitely wanted to give those another try when she speaks in Japan next year.

Foodsharing Kiel is an organization that fights food waste – “Don’t toss – share!”. It started with Raphael Fellmer, a dumpster diver and freegan asking his local supermarket if instead of throwing the perfectly fine food into the dumpster and him rummaging through the said dumpster to get it, they could just let him have it at the end of the day. The supermarket liked the idea and agreed. Now all over Germany there are volunteers (“food savers”) and stores fighting the immense food waste. The food savers collect the food that would have been tossed and distribute it. Usually by donating some to shelters and putting some into the foodsharing stations (called “Fairteiler”, usually it’s simply a fridge standing somewhere public much like a vending machine) where every one – regardless of social status, age, or gender – is encouraged to take food out.

It was so much fun to talk to like-minded people that we lost track of time. And again, we didn’t get to grab anything to eat. Even more hungry than before we went to the Kiel University, where Béa was about to speak to a larger audience (200 people, most of which were college students). Luckily, had a booth there, and the nice foodsharing volunteers fed us with the perfectly fine food they had saved from the dumpster that day. All the food at their booth was up for grabs. Because that’s what the volunteers do – they fight food waste by collecting food that would end up in dumpsters and re-distributing it (for free of course). Kind of like Robin Hood 😉. They had brand-name soy milk, spices, fruit and veggies, buns and bread, pastries and even cookies! None of it deserved to be trashed – it just shows how wasteful we are!

Bea Johnson im Audimax der Christian-Albrechts-Universität in Kiel

Béa is a great speaker, and you could tell the audience was listening to her every word. It was informative, yet very entertaining and personal. There were more questions than she could answer in the little time after her talk. Questions like: What about the tv dinner style food on long-distance flights? Answer: She eats before boarding, and buys a sandwich or pastry to eat on the plane. When she eats an apple or a banana at the airport, she will find a live plant and bury the banana peel or the apple core in its soil. Her go-to live plant at the airport in L.A. is thriving quite impressively :D.

I did devour a danish and a bread bun during Béa’s talk (as respectfully as one can chew with a mouth full of carbs – I did feel bad about it but I was starving), while Hanno had some tangerines (all “sponsored” by 😜). After the talk my husband rushed off and I couldn’t find him anywhere! Turned out he was outside burying his tangerine peels in the dark (in a flower bed) 😀 …

1 Comment

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