You produce 376 kilos trash per year. Just go to your bathroom and have a look: your toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, body wash, all of your lotions, medicine, condoms, Q tips and Kleenex. All of that will be thrown away at some point. Just look around your apartment and do that mental gymnastics: what will you throw away? Easy, most of the things you own. You don’t need this article to know the problems linked to trash: transport, wasteland and incineration, everything about it pollutes not to mention the waste that it is.
But have you ever heard of trash-free people? A well-known figure of the “Zero Waste” movement is Bea Johnson, a French expatriated woman who lives with her family producing a small jar of trash per year. And you don’t need to go far to see such “strange people”, we have one specimen right on campus: Jessie Kroon, a lovely foreign student transitioning with her older sister to a zero waste lifestyle. You would think she would look like a clear waste free hippie… Truth is, she wears makeup, has a trendy coat and looks just like you and me.
Everything started after she watched two documentaries: Bag it and Food Inc. She always felt concerned about the big environmental issues but never thought of changing her lifestyle. The documentaries were a turning point: she connected the dots between her concerns about the environment, the articles about a zero waste lifestyle and her own way of living… and decided she should try it out. So she slowly unpeeled the layers of trash from what she was buying. Food and clothes were the easiest. Beauty products were a bit trickier. Although she believes a zero waste lifestyle as achievable, she’s well aware it will take a while before she reaches her goal. “Zero waste living is all about planning”: gathering information on her purchases is the most important – but also time consuming activity. Costly lifestyle, you think? Brief calculus: her organic bread for 3 days to do her sandwich is 4 euros whereas those at Sciences Po cost around 3 euros. With reasonable priced fillings, she wins.
But soon, she realized that living waste free is just another way of life, and is adamant: zero waste life shouldn’t mean a sad life full of deprivation. “I adapt the idea to what I want: I would not live without make up so I make mine and buy organic. I tried living with the vinegar and baking soda method instead of shampoo but that did not work out so well, so I use solid shampoo”. To my questions concerning judgments and the extremism of her lifestyle, she answered that usually people are more curious than anything else. “When I tell people I try to live waste free, they first think I am some kind of extreme activist that does not bathe or something. Then I explain to them what it’s all about. They usually argue that it would take them too much time. But it’s actually not that time consuming, I mean I’m a student, my sister has a full time job and works in an association. It is not just for housewives. Then they come to tell me when they bought something in bulk or something organic, it’s really cute .What really seems extreme to me right now is the ‘normal’ way of living, the chase of cheap prices and the consequences on our environment which are huge: just look at your garbage.”