Pitch clinic, week 5

Lauren Singer of Trash is for tossers. Via her website.

I am reviewing pitches sent by freelancers. As a reminder, if you want to send one my way to get feedback, please email jessica dot reed at theguardian dot com with the subject PITCH CLINIC. Or write it here on Medium and tag it #PITCHCLINIC. Your submission will remain anonymous.


The Rise of the Zero Waste Lifestyle

The rise of the zero waster in the Global North is best symbolized by a mason jar filled with trash.

That’s a confusing opening line but carry on …

For zero waste bloggers, You-Tubers, and Instagrammers, this pint-sized jar is the signifier of their commitment to a waste-free lifestyle. Fashionable, twenty-something bloggers clad in second-hand clothing, like Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers and Kathryn K. of Going Zero Waste, plus dozens of others, represent a new generation of waste-free living — one that embraces a sleek, neutral and modern aesthetic over the crunchy earth mama stereotype of the past.

So that’s a trend piece. Trend pieces do well. Young people trying to change the world, aw, that’s nice, yes, OK…

Talk to any of these women (it’s nearly impossible to find male zero waste lifestyle bloggers), and you can trace their lightning bolt moment to Bea Johnson, a 40-year-old Mill Valley, California mother of two, author of The Zero Waste Home, and anointed priestess of the zero waste lifestyle.

Why no male zero waste bloggers? That’s a nice gendered angle to explore perhaps — in the piece. I like “anointed priestesses” of all kind too. Those people are always fun to write about.

In 2013, I visited Bea Johnson’s home for a feature story. Two years later, I remain intrigued by Johnson’s stark, white, virtually empty home; her homemade make-up and body care products; and her commitment to only creating one jar of waste per year for her entire family (in this case, a Le Parfait — the upscale cousin of the humble mason jar).

How on earth is it even possible? OK, moving on, great…

After my feature on Johnson was published in [REDACTED], one angry letter writer accused me of glorifying a “material anorexic.” Others told me they thought Johnson was OCD to the extreme. Despite the critiques lobbed at Johnson, I’ve watched with fascinating the rise of a legion of bloggers that aspire to live like the Johnsons do.

Those are decent criticisms, too. That’s a nice counterpoint to consider for the piece.

In a feature story for [TK] I will spend the day with and profile two zero waste bloggers, Kathryn K. who lives in the Bay Area, and [Find another one] to uncover how and why they live a zero waste lifestyle. What drives them to these extremes? Are these zero wasters really impacting the environment, or is this a way to exert a sense of domestic control in a time when climate change has made the world feel unruly and unpredictable?

I think you’d probably need to profile three. In different ways.

With the Paris Climate Deal, might we see these lifestyle choices growing as people begin to recognize the toll that trash and waste takes on the planet? I will also include the history of zero waste, I will revisit Bea Johnson to get her take on her zero waste fan-girls, and I will interview sustainability and/or environmental studies experts who might speak to whether these lifestyle efforts actually have an impact.

Interested in a story about the rise of the zero waste lifestyle in the United States?

About me: I am freelance journalist located in the San Francisco Bay Area. My writing has been published online at [REDACTED]. I’m a former staff writer at [REDACTED].


What I liked about this pitch: I actually commissioned something about Lauren Singer earlier this year, which did well with readers. I know you are on fertile grounds for this reason. Also, let’s not kid ourselves, this is such a good Guardian theme.

What I didn’t like about this pitch: not much, but you need to convince me further that this is a proper trend.

Would I publish: Yes. I’ll email you right now, in fact.

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