A few weeks back, Sunset profiled the zero-waste home of the Johnson clan, a family of four who after downsizing from a 3,000-square-foot home to more modest (1,400-square-foot) digs in the chichi Bay Area burb of Mill Valley, embarked on a serious household waste-curbing campaign. When the Sunset article was released and the Johnson story blew up all over the interwebs, I was intrigued but held off on blogging about it because, well, I didn’t know what to think.
While impressed by the commitment of blog-writing matriarch Béa Johnson — what she has accomplished truly takes foresight, restraint and adjustment — I had mixed feelings about what she had created: a green home that, in my mind, doesn't even really resemble a home. Minimalist bordering on sterile and hyper-organized to the point of being eerie, the Johnson’s zero-waste home doesn’t appear lived in. Béa, a native of France, even admits that a visiting neighbor called her home “futuristic and alien-like.”
I recently caught, via Jetson Green, a well-produced short Yahoo video segment that gives viewers an intimate glimpse inside of the Johnson zero-waste home. I thought the video might change my mind about the home.
Well, it doesn’t. While I admire Béa Johnson and certainly don’t think she is doing anything "wrong," something still doesn't sit well with me. I can only describe it as a "way to go!" but "not for me" type of reaction. I think it's mostly because of the “Patrick Bateman goes to Marin County with a compost bin out back” aesthetic of the Johnson home. Call me crazy, but I like a space to be lived in. I like stuff. But maybe I’m also feeling a bit of green-living guilt. As a waste-conscious single man living in Brooklyn, I appear to produce more waste in a single week than this family of four does in an entire year. Ouch. Maybe it’s time to start making my own tooth “powder" and become more vigilant about Netflix-related waste. Maybe I should (gasp) renew my library card.
What do you think of the Johnson family’s zero-waste lifestyle? Do you think that Béa J’s mission is so extreme it almost reaches “stunt” status? Or do you find the Johnson family's story completely inspirational? The Johnson zero-waste home has seemed to garner mixed reactions, so I'd love to know what you think.