What We Learned from Our Dinner with Bea Johnson

On Sunday, Marimar and I had the privilege of sponsoring Bea Johnson’s talk at the Riveter, and we’ve never felt more starstruck in our lives.  Not only did we have our booth right next to her book signing, but we sat down to dinner with her after the event!

We thought we’d take this opportunity to share what we learned from the woman who started the entire Zero Waste movement.

First and foremost, I can’t begin to express how lucky we feel every single day to have you, our wonderful Collective of like-minded eco warriors.  Our amazing friends over at Seattle Zero Waste put on the event and made the whole thing happen.  We’d like to give a shoutout to Kat, Lexy, Stacy and Stephanie for hosting such a fun and inspiring afternoon.

To give you a little context, these were the looks on our faces when we first met Bea.

Genevieve, when Bea signed her book, with a personal inscription no less!

 Genevieve Eco Collective Bea Johnson

And Marimar, when Bea casually helped us load Eco Collective’s boxes back into our car.

We are still so starstruck.

Bea Johnson is the mother of the zero waste movement, and her approach to minimalism and the zero waste lifestyle is so inspiring and compelling.  Not only was she a leader without having a fraction of the resources we have today, but she spends her time showing people how easily they can do it, too.

She admits going zero waste was time consuming at first, but Bea and her family have found a wonderful balance in doing everything they can to produce close to no trash, in a way that allows them the freedom to do the things they love like enjoying the outdoors and the occasional family vacation.  They’ve settled into a rhythm that lets them have guests over without worrying about what they bring, because their friends are familiar with their lifestyle.

We have so much respect for her sustainable lifestyle and her mantra, "living with less is living more."  She said recently that it’s not about making every single thing yourself...  You also have to support the local economy and vote with your money for products that are natural and come package free.

She has a wardrobe so small she can fit it in a carry-on, yet she has found a mere 15 items of clothing are flexible enough to put together over 50 outfits, and versatile enough for any occasion, from snowboarding to speaking at the UN.  She still wears makeup, it’s just made of things like spices and natural powders.  And she still drinks wine, in refillable bottles from a local winery.

Over dinner, she told us about the simple ways she plans ahead and finds solutions to avoid plastic and single-use items every situation.  Here’s some of the things we learned from our dinner with Bea Johnson:

1. Always bring a cloth napkin

You seriously never know when you’re going to need a handkerchief!  It can be a tissue, a napkin, or a way to wrap up leftovers in a pinch.  The moment we sat down, she brought out her cloth napkin and asked the waiter to take away our paper napkins; she said the best way to make sure they get reused is to not touch them yourself.

During her presentation, Bea mentioned our Furoshiki cloths and how her kids wrap their lunches in them every day.  It is truly such a beautiful tradition!  The cloths are so versatile, from a handkerchief to a napkin.

2. Tell waiters you’re on a “plastic-free challenge”

Often times, waiters forget that you asked for no straw or don’t understand when you refuse paper napkins.  She says the easiest way to bypass all the questions while still inspiring conversation is to tell them you’ve taken a waste-free challenge.  This is such a great tip because it also relieves them from any guilt while still provoking some thought.

3. Bea is even more badass than we thought

As we were leaving, she mentioned offhand some of her mountain biking competitions.  We were so honored to spend time with the amazing woman who inspired both of our journeys towards zero waste.  What a wonderful evening of inspiration, laughter, and great advice.

4. Almost anything can be stored in a glass jar

Bea believes that your zero waste kit should be simple.  It might even start with some things you already have in your home.  She has a few tote bags and reusable produce/bulk food bags for her grocery shopping kit.  But the majority of her kit consists of jars.  Jars for meat, jars for nuts, jars for grains, even jars for dog food bowls.  That and a pillowcase for baguettes, because duh, the French need their baguettes ; )

Check out our selection of jars here.

5. Do your research before you leave for a trip.

One of our biggest questions for her was how to stay low impact when you’re traveling.  It can be so hard when you travel somewhere with no curbside recycling - I’ve literally been known to fly home from a sailing regatta with an empty wine bottle or two in my suitcase.

Her response was to research before you go.  Find a center that accepts recycling or compost, and know what the town recycles before you start packing so you know what you need to bring.  Maybe you’ll decide to bring your own reusable food container or an extra jar or two and avoid all that much more waste by doing so.

6. Live light, pack light

You can make your travels even easier when you have a simple wardrobe.  My personal rule is for every one new piece of clothing that comes in, one has to go out.  It makes me buy less, plus when I do choose to bring in a new piece, it has to go with at least 5 outfits I already have.  Living aboard has made me very purposeful about the clothing I keep in my little closet.

When Bea travels, she basically packs up her wardrobe into her carry on and off she goes.  Lifestyle goals!


Thanks for reading our recap.  Missed this talk?  Join us at one of our upcoming events or workshops!  Be sure to check out our Events Calendar here.