The first red flag that told me that this book is not quite right, was the header at the back:
Feel fabulous? Such a phrase reduces the environment to something trite, like a trendy jacket that you can throw on. It sounds like a phrase that an Instagram influencer would spout out, not an environmentalist.
And as I continued reading, these red flags just kept coming up. Another sign was this disclaimer at the front of the book:
Why would this book need a disclaimer? Well, Bea tells us that she has not included any references in the book. Her excuse for this is that “statistics and hard data are not my expertise”. But references are so important–they hold people accountable, and they help readers find further threads of information. This instantly lowered Bea’s credibility for me. Her excuse was a cop-out, a cop-out that seems to have allowed her to write anything she wants under this tidy disclaimer.
Because many of Bea’s tips are questionable. Bea indeed references the five R’s: refuse what you do not need, reduce what you do need, reuse what you consume, recycle what you cannot refuse, and rot (compost) the rest. However she ruthlessly applies this to all her sections even if they are not relevant. Rot is obviously important for the kitchen–you compost your food scraps. But for holidays and gifts? Well you can compost your Easter egg shells and your pumpkin tureen. This tip is so oddly specific that I’m not sure if it is even a tip. Another example of a similar ‘tip’ is that you can “empty leftover drinking water into your plant”.
Bea also uses strange alphabet lists to present her tips, but these just feel like attempts to make the book longer. The interest of using each letter of the alphabet wore off quickly, as lists became long-winded and unnecessary. The “Bathroom, Toiletries, and Wellness” list is a good example of this:
More questionable ‘tips’! Bea tells us that “near sighted folks can get their eyes lasered” to avoid contacts and glasses. And her recipe for gold eyeshadow is just turmeric powder. Yes, just turmeric powder. I don’t see how this can work successfully.
There were some moments where I could relate to Bea. She talks about the strange looks she gets from employees and onlookers when she brings her own containers, which is definitely something that happens to me. Bea also makes the important distinction that living zero waste is not about having no waste at all. It is by aiming for zero that we can get as close to it as possible.
But still there were many times when Bea fell out of depth. The selfish focus reflected in the header at the back of the book came up again. Bea tells us that “it is my moral obligation to spread the word about zero waste”. This sentence centres Bea herself as the subject and turns her into some sort of saviour, rather than focusing on the environment that needs to be saved.
Bea’s voice was also incredibly patronising. She provides a recipe for Kohl eyeliner, but only if “you are too chicken for permanent makeup”. This annoyed me especially because you can’t encourage learning if you are belittling your students. This kind of attitude is not going to make me, or many others, more likely to carry out her practices.
It is later in the book, after paragraphs of tips on how to declutter, that Bea states that she implements these alternatives because of her “environmental dedication”. I had to stop for moment and think, what? Because honestly, at that point, I’d forgotten that the book was even about the environment. Maybe Bea really does care for the environment, and maybe she just got caught up turning zero waste into a lifestyle. But I think Bea got confused writing this book, and has taken stabs at writing as an environmentalist and an influencer. The result is a book that doesn’t know what it’s trying to be. And consequently, it doesn’t ring true as either a book about the environment or a book about lifestyle.
Many of Bea’s best tips have been better explained in other books (other books that provide references, of course). And even though Bea helped popularise the term “Zero Waste”, I think she has a lot more learning to do, including figuring out what she herself is trying to put forward.