• Dane Stark

Sustainability Lesson From

Imagine living for an entire year and producing enough waste… and I mean things that you throw away, that go to the land and garbage…. To only fill a mason jar…. Let that sink in…. live your life for a year and only throw away a mason jar of stuff…That’s how Bea Johnson lives her life. I was introduced to Bea by Erica Hermsen, Livermore resident and zero waste crusader, consultant and blogger.

I met Erica at Espresso Rossetta, because where better to talk about sustainability than over a porcelain cup of perfectly drawn espresso. She’s young and a new mother, has a degree in environmental studies and a masters in conservation biology. She has spent 8 years consulting on conservation for companies big and small and looks to encourage our community of Livermore to continue down our path towards sustainability. 

Erica also works internationally, with the conservation organization Action for Cheetahs in Kenya, helping them work towards preserving Cheetahs through research, awareness and community participation.

Erica is quite engaging, very enthusiastic and has a history of making changes in her own life to live the ideals she espouses. When her daughter was a baby, she and her husband used cloth diapers…. For all you parents out there I know you just widened your eyes a bit, set your tea down and said a small prayer for them. Anyone who goes the cloth diaper route has gone to a whole other level in my book!!! So we know she’s serious!

So where does Bea Johnson fit into this?

Erica decided that she and her family were going to take it to the next level, to go zero waste. I mean, if she can do cloth diapers, then she can do anything, right?!?! So she started doing research online and quickly found Zero Waste guru and local author/activist/crusader Bea Johnson. Bea is on the speaking circuit around Europe, and has a website called where you can look up ways in your local community to shop and live your life in a zero waste way…. Here’s where Erica and Page Mill cross paths…. If you enter Livermore into Bea Johnson’s search engine, the first company on the list is Page Mill Winery. Why? Because every third Sunday we have our BYOB!!! Bring your own bottle to the winery and fill it up with yummy wine for 10 bucks. Our moto at Page Mill is…. recycling is good, but reusing is better!!!

Actually this is where Erica pointed out to me that the three R’s, reduce, reuse, recycle need to be improved upon… it’s now 5 r’s … refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle, rot…. So BYOB still lands in the middle of the spectrum.

The “refuse” part of the equation is something she pointed out to me and that has me thinking every time I go to the Ale House (which is often with my kids). Erica asked me, “What if, every time you went to a restaurant, rather than just accepting that drink or glass of water with a straw, you just said ‘I don’t want the straw’, think how much plastic we could all keep from going into the environment!”

This struck me close to home, because it’s been my rallying point for years. When speaking about bottle closures, people ask why we don’t go from cork to plastic cork, as an intermediate step on the road to screw caps. My response has always been centered on sustainability. I’d rather have a small percentage of my bottles be affected by a bad cork than add yet another piece of plastic to the environment that will never break down, never return to nature.

Page Mill Winery does its part. We recycle everything we can making a trip per week to the recycling plant in order to keep it out of our garbage stream. The vineyard is organic and our living soil efforts have meant that we haven’t’ added fertilizer in over 10 years to our vineyard. Our BYOB program has been going monthly since January 2009, we have bottled more wine in reused bottles than any other winery in the history of Livermore Valley, but is it enough? I want the air to be as clean, the water to still be drinkable, and the soil to still be alive when my daughters are running the winery lo

ng after I’ve gone. I want to know that I made decisions to improve the way I live and the way Page Mill is a community partner, even when it was hard. It’s only hard right now because we seemingly still have a choice, but do we? When is the right time to start thinking about the interconnectedness of us, our lives, our country, and the rest of the world?

To answer some of these questions, and to continue down the path of sustainability I’ll be following Erica’s journey as she implements a zero waste lifestyle, not in an abstract way, but as a Livermore community member, running a household just like yours and mine. If you want to follow along to see what changes you can make and learn about how her adventure is going you can read her blog at

See you all at BYOB third Sunday of each month!


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