In my on-going attempts to be green, I am inspired by one family in particular: The Johnsons of Mill Valley, California. This family of four has slowly eliminated almost all of their trash generating habits and now produces about one handful of trash every six months. Thanks to the bloggers at Earth911 for the synopsis of the Johnson Family’s Zero Waste Success Story.

Here are some of their tricks:

Grocery Shopping:
Mrs. Johnson brings cloth bags to the grocery store and buys as much as she possibly can in bulk. She also brings cloth bags for produce and glass jars for things like meat, fish and cheese. She brings her own re-fillable plastic containers and buys shampoos and soaps that can be bought in bulk. If she has to buy plastic, she makes sure it can be recycled but if possible, she’ll avoid buying it in the first place.

Around the House:
The Johnson family uses baking soda to brush their teeth (with a few drops of Tea Tree Oil) and her husband uses a real razor to shave, which he keeps sharpened and oiled. She says one razor lasts him about five years. Mrs. Johnson also makes her own condiments (a big batch about once a year) and uses vinegar to make her own cleaning products. Her two sons are allowed have as many toys as will fit into four bins. (Wow, imagine the lack of clutter–I may be encouraging the girls to donate some toys tomorrow!) She has also gone to certain websites to opt of receiving junk mail. This is also on my To Do List: ASAP. If you want to do this go to and/or And of course, the Johnsons compost all of their food waste.

Organization is the Answer:
This may sound like it would take a major over-haul to do and do well but Mrs. Johnson makes it sound simple. They’ve got their system down to an organized science and now it’s second nature. She says a good place to start is with re-usable produce sacks and to go from there.ย  And she also says that in addition to the three R’s (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) she has added two more R’s–and first in the order–Refuse, and another at the end: Rot. Her first choice is to refuse to buy things that are packaged in plastic or worse, non-recyclable trash material.

For more on this amazing and inspirational family check out their blog at


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