By Alexa Ashley | Marketing Manager | Green Canopy
At Green Canopy, we believe living in a net zero energy home goes hand in hand with a zero waste lifestyle. Partnering with Seattle Zero Waste, Zero Waste Washington, Eco Collective Seattle and Seattle EcoWomen in welcoming zero waste activist, Bea Johnson, to Seattle was an honor.
According to research outlined in Drawdown: 100 Solutions to Reverse Global Warming, “Over the course of a century, methane has 34 times the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide. Landfills are a top source of methane emissions, releasing 12 percent of the world’s total.”
The Zero Waste Movement has been an important piece in the pursuit of greater sustainability and reducing our landfills. In 2002, The Zero Waste International Alliance was formed to tackle waste management issues globally from the front end and defines zero waste as, “designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them.” They believe that by “implementing Zero Waste we will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”
Bea Johnson — a French native living in California as a mother of two, — took this concept, and applied it to her everyday life and decisions. Johnson’s blog, Zero Waste Home, that she started in 2008, shows how to create less waste in a practical and cost-saving way.
Since 2008, her family of four has only been producing enough trash to fill one small jar every year. In the process, she’s found that a zero waste home has simplified her lifestyle and afforded her family more time together, with a priority on creating experiences and memories together. Bea has inspired a global community of Zero Waste bloggers and lifestyle adopters. Her bestselling book, Zero Waste Home named after the blog, has been translated in 20 languages, she’s given 200+ speeches in 30+ countries and been featured in publications and TV Shows around the world. The New York Times, the Today Show, BBC Breakfast.
Johnson spoke to a sold-out crowd of about 200, centered around her 5 Rs:
Refuse what you absolutely do not need — and especially disposables or plastics.
Reduce what you do have. Look at what you have and ask yourself, “Can I do with less?” Can I donate this or give it to someone else that needs it more?”
Whatever you cannot refuse or reduce then you reuse. Make the things that you do purchase, long-lasting re-usables and not single-use items. This can also look like reusing the compostables you’ve bought as many times as possible as Johnson will freeze the discarded pieces of vegetables from cooking to make vegetable stock.
Whatever you cannot refuse, whatever you cannot reduce, whatever you cannot reuse — then you recycle. Sending back the products and materials that wear out to the initial supplier or a local recycler to be turned into something else. If you absolutely cannot refuse using a laptop and it breaks, recycle it at a local business or mail it in if needed.
Whatever you cannot refuse, reduce, reuse or recycle, then you allow to rot in the compost. This is the last of her R’s because it is the last resort and typically a very small amount leftover after going through the first four Rs.
The most impactful part of Bea Johnson’s talk for me, was hearing how implementing a zero waste lifestyle has shifted her family’s focus towards giving gifts of experience instead of things, allowing for more memories and bonds to be made. Instead of new toys for Christmas, her son got to go skydiving for the first time and still talks about it.
After the presentation, Green Canopy’s Director of Investor Relations and Impact, Susan Fairchild and Zero Waste Washington’s Heather Trim, kicked off happy hour by asking, “what is the next step you want to take in living zero waste and how can you make it happen?”
All photos by Karya Schanilec
Green Canopy Cofounder, Sam Lai, was featured by Presidio Graduate School (PGS) in the article, "Net Zero Hero". Sam is an alumnus of the Sustainable MBA program at PGS — the graduate school that "educates and inspires a new generation of skilled, visionary and enterprising leaders to transform business and public policy and create a more just, prosperous and sustainable world." Presidio Graduate School has earned accreditation in the sustainability-sphere and acquired Pinchot University (formerly Bainbridge Graduate Institute).
Sam tells Shawna Cain, "I selected PGS after a process of visiting classes and interviewing students and asking what their experiences were like. I realized that what I wanted was:
Finally, the biggest impact that I think graduate school has had for me, beyond some of the hard skills, is that when you go to Presidio Graduate School you're able to look deep within yourself, and understand how to optimize our own personal growth, and I don't think any graduate school is able to do that the way PGS does."
Green Canopy's Alexa Ashley further interviewed Sam on his time at Presidio Graduate School and the value he took away from the Sustainable MBA Program:
AA: How did PGS teach you to think in systems?
SL: One of the things we did in first quarter was systems mapping, which is its own discipline, where you look at different components of how the world is structured, how businesses are structured, environmental systems are structured. You deconstruct them, allowing you to understand the components and then you can see how they’re integrated. So often in business you might be a specialist and you might have mastery in one thing — but you may be working 100% in the wrong direction because you haven’t taken that high-level, systems-level view.
AA: What is the most value that you took away from the Presidio Graduate School MBA Program?
SL: The opportunity to practice and take big risks, and explore ideas, that typically — in the business setting — there just isn’t enough bandwidth or space or willingness from everyone, to just take a wild idea, to play with it, to deconstruct it, and to go all the way with it in a risk-free environment.
I saw lots of people grow from not having much experience in public speaking to feeling comfortable with it at the end of the program. For me, I was able to take storytelling and public presentation and be able to have a very formal structure to bounce off of and play with to where now I feel very confident. I now have a process to be able to get from point A to point B in a very short amount of time because that’s what the process forces you to do. It says, “Okay you have an idea? Okay, test it. Prototype it. Get up and talk about it." That’s a lot of what we do in business. We iterate through ideas very rapidly — and that’s what’s required for progress.
It’s really encouraging and energizing to see other people that are just as passionate about sustainability and improving our world and that they are professionals engaged in business, and the curation of those two characteristics are unique to the PGS tribe.
Watch Shawna Cain's interview with Sam Lai below and read her article, "Net Zero Hero".
The Green Canopy blog is written by our CEO and Culture Curator, Aaron Fairchild, as well as our staff and a few very special guests.