'101 Ways To Go Zero Waste' (Book Review)

Zero waste expert Kathryn Kellogg pulls together all her advice in one handy book.

zero waste shopping
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If you want to reduce the amount of waste in your life, then pick up a copy of "101 Ways to Go Zero Waste" by Kathryn Kellogg (The Countryman Press, 2019). Kellogg is the founder of Going Zero Waste, a well-known blog with hundreds of thousands of followers that has a goal of teaching people how to minimize trash and use more natural products. "101 Ways" is Kellogg's first book.

What's appealing about a book, as opposed to perusing a blog or a collection of informative Instagram posts, is that it pulls together important information into a single place and makes it easily accessible to readers. By reading the book cover to cover, you come away with knowledge that would take much longer to amass if doing piecemeal research. (I know that reading Bea Johnson's seminal "Zero Waste Home" had a profound effect on me back in 2014.) 

"101 Ways To Go Zero Waste" book cover

Kellogg does a good job of covering the basics. The book is divided into categories – kitchen, bathroom, cleaning, conscious consumerism, work and school, travel, special events – and the 101 tips span across these categories. Much of the information will be familiar to readers who have already dabbled in zero waste, such as taking your own clean containers to the store for refill and avoiding disposable straws, but even I, who've read more books and written more articles on this topic than I can count, came away with some great new tips I'd never heard before. For example, when asking a restaurant to pack food to go in your own container, Kellogg advises:

"If someone seems super confused by your request, you can also order your food to stay. Once you get your food, pack it in a to-go container and leave. I try to avoid doing this because I hate dirtying up extra dishes even if I'm not the one washing them. But sometimes it's the only way." (Tip 74)

Kellogg gives excellent detailed advice on food – storing it to minimize waste, packing lunches and planning meals, and feeding large groups of people when entertaining. She's a fan of using formulas to make the job easier. For example, when hosting a party with finger foods, she plans two drinks (one alcoholic, one not), five foods that don't need to be prepared (i.e. crudités, charcuterie, olives, nuts, breads), two foods that are made (i.e. sliders, taco cups, vegggie meatballs), and two desserts (fruit and a sweet). It sounds so easy!

The book has extensive lists for gift ideas that fall into three categories – consumables, experiences, and things. Kellogg encourages people not to fill their homes with random stuff, but to think about what they actually need; if your family exchanges Christmas gifts, she recommends preparing a list of items you need and sending it to family members months in advance. It makes their job easier and makes your home less cluttered.

I appreciated the section on how to be a more conscious consumer; this is a topic that merits far more discussion in our consumeristic society. Kellogg echoes many of the points I've made on Treehugger, about striving to buy nothing (or to delay purchasing for 30 days to confirm you truly want/need something), buy secondhand, swap or rent, support local, and look for ethically-produced items. She writes,

"Zero waste is a tool you can use to frame your purchasing decisions ... When making a purchase, ask yourself: Who made this? Do I support that? Where did this come from? Can I repair this? What's going to happen to this after I'm through with it?"

"101 Ways To Go Zero Waste" is useful for people starting out on their zero waste journey, as well as those wanting to learn additional tips and tricks to take their personal trash reduction even further. You can order a copy online or get it from your local library or bookstore. Visit Going Zero Waste for more information on Kellogg's work.