December 23, 2016


I often feel as if I am pedaling against the wind, but giving talks about the zero waste lifestyle during the holiday season feels more like pedaling in a hurricane 
My carry-on packed (with my whole wardrobe),

 I set out to undertake my fifth international tour: 20 events over 10 days.

First stop upon landing was a place close to my heart, DaybyDay in Lille. Three years ago, Alice was inspired by my book to open a bulk store. Last time I came to the store was for the opening: I cried like a baby and could barely deliver the inauguration speech that I had prepared (Canal+ filmed the whole thing!).  So this time, we celebrated our reunion with a live Facebook event.

While they were setting up, I took pictures of the store for you: 700 products in bulk -that’s way way more than is available to me!…

That night I also gave two talks, including one at the Catholic University of Lille -And for the first time, I spoke about how zero waste has reaffirmed my faith (it even made me teary!)

The next morning, I took a train to Luxembourg for a speech at the European Union (Court of Auditors) – wearing a wrinkled silk top

Then, it was onto a stop at the United Nations in Geneva, for a talk…

and book signings.

-And yes, I do realize that I am extremely blessed to have being given the opportunity to share my lifestyle there -especially given that I had take a 2 hr, 565 euros Uber ride to make it there on time because of train strikes! (ah France, will you ever change?)

That same day, I went to Munich for a gathering and book signings of the German version of my book, at Ohne. It was a delight meeting the founders of this beautiful bulk store, especially since Hannah (on my left) told me that its reading my book that inspired them to open it!

photo credit: Conny Mirbach
But wait! there is more to the portrait above than meets the eye…  let’s take a closer look:

To stay true to my book’s philosophy, they made the store as plastic-free as possible. Carlo designed the dispensers himself, out of glass, metal and wood.

These are truly genius. If you plan on opening an un-packaged store, I highly recommend that you check out his website and get in touch with him. He’ll custom-make them for you!

They also use metal containers throughout the store, like these cans:

These liquid dispensers:

and this peanut butter grinder:

Carlo even made this nifty bulk bar -I wish my husband were this crafty!

The next day, I took a train to Prague. I gave a radio interview upon my arrival.

And then headed to a Live Facebook event organized by my publisher and Bezobalu,

photo credit: Nikola Bruncova
 and book signings of course.

photo credit: Nikola Bruncova
On my way out of town, I was reminded that bulk is everywhere, i.e, even at the Prague train station!

In Berlin I spoke in two locations, one hosted by Original Unverpackt, the other by Markishe Grundshule, a French-German school, where my talk was translated from French to German and then German to sign language.

What I did not expect to take away from my visit to Berlin, is the beautiful story behind the recent publication of the German translation of my book… After reading the french version of Zero Waste Home, Marie Delapierre decided to open Unverpackt Kiel, Germany’s first bulk store. Last year, she contacted me to have me come to Kiel for a speech and I gladly accepted. In the meantime, a 12 yr old girl was writing a school report on plastic pollution… When she found out that I was coming to her town for a talk, she asked her dad to bring her. But the night of the event, the dad was exhausted from work and told his daughter that it would not be possible. She insisted, finally dragging him to the event. The dad ended up loving my speech and was surprised to find out that my book had not yet been translated to German. He happened to be a publisher… and a year later, he would publish Glucklich Leben Ohne Mull!

The following morning, I took a long train ride for Warsaw (my first time in Poland!). I gave a talk and attended a panel organized by Little Greenfinity. The unforeseen size and enthusiasm of my audience -random people jumped into our selfie ;-), showed that the zero waste lifestyle is about to take over the country!

Back in Switzerland the next day, I made a stop for book signings at a very special store. Remember the couple that was inspired by my book to open Chez Mamie, in Switzerland? Well, they’ve now become a franchise! These two moms opened a branch in Lausanne, and Christelle (on my left) confided in me that my segment on Les Maternelles (on French TV program) is what inspired her to open the store!

That night, I also took part in a talk show at La Dimension Mobiliere (my segment starts at 59’45”)

I give them kuddos for the zero waste buffet that followed the event: All was served in reusables, which included these nifty bamboo trays.

In the morning, I made a stop at a high school (Ecole de Culture Générale Henry Dunant) in Geneva,

and then in Arbaz,(right across the valley from Nax, where I spoke last June). Waking up to this is something I could get used… I can’t get enough of this scenery so I’ll be back in the region in March for another talk!

Then I had a full day of book signings in three different bulk stores.
And another recently launched branch of Chez Mamie, in Bagnes

As you’ll find looking at these pictures, a background in Interior Design has been most useful in creating a fantasy land of bulk: If these displays don’t draw you into buying unpackaged, I don’t know what will!

I went from one fantasy to another that day, ending my day in Bern, with a talk here:

I preach about the zero waste lifestyle all over the world, but I never expected to do so in an actual church!

Walking to my train’s platform the next morning, I was again reminded that bulk is everywhere -and Bern’s main station is no exception.

Oh, and being in Switzerland, there is loose chocolate everywhere…

even sheets of it!

A beautiful winterland unfolded from my train window,

as I enjoyed my tea and sandwich on the last leg of my tour.

What I did not know is that I’d be about to face one of my most delicate refusals yet. That night, at the end of my talk in Sollies-Pont, the mayor came to the microphone. As he reached in his pocket, I knew that he was about to hand me a something. I quickly jumped in to say that I do not accept material gifts. This is not the first time that I refuse a gift in public, but the tough part here was making a top elected official uncomfortable in front of his people, and turning something down that’s considered a sign of honor in a political setting. 
(The Medal Reads: Warm Thank You’s From The Mayor Of Sollies Pont To Bea Johnson, International Ambassador Of The Zero Waste Movement)

I went on to explain that my gift is “to be able to share my lifestyle in such a beautiful part of the world; that no material gift could possibly be better”.
What made this tour so special are the stories I collected, the people I met, the work of the those that organized my talks, translated and published my book, opened bulk stores… moments.
I now realize that the awkward situation made for the perfect conclusion to my tour, for the essence of the message that I try to convey through my work, travels and speaking engagements, is this: what makes life rich are not the things that surrounded us, but the simple pleasures and the human connections that fill our living hours… moments.
So may you enjoy a holiday season and a new year, filled with… moments.