On a residential street in mid-San Diego lined with attractive mid-rise homes with well-maintained facades, the property of former Encinitas residents Fredrika and James Syren stands out.
Like a green thumb.
From front to back, the open space that surrounds their property in San Diego’s Talmadge neighborhood flourishes with food-producing flora.
They grow 17 kinds of fruits and berries and 33 different vegetables and herbs, but not all of them at the same time.
“Grass has been a thorn in my side since I got here,” Fredrika said. “You can’t eat the grass, but you can eat the garden.”
The parents and their three children grow much of what they eat, which does not include meat. They supplement their vegetable production with purchases at local farmers’ markets and in stores where they can buy grain in bulk.
All the interest of their approach? Zero waste. They run a household with no reliance on materials that will end up in landfill and contribute to environmental contamination.
It’s one of the reasons they moved from northern coastal county, where James grew up, to live in a more urbanized community in San Diego.
“We thought we had a little more space and lived closer to downtown and farmers markets,” James said. “We go to the farmers markets weekly to buy what we don’t grow here and the Hillcrest Farmer’s Market is one of the best in town.”
The family’s pursuit of this lifestyle led to a book, “A Practical Guide to Zero Waste for Families”, written by Fredrika Syren, a professional writer specializing in the environment.
The second edition of the book was published by BBL Publishing, an imprint of Build.Buzz.Launch, based in Dallas, Texas. Media and publishing.
A book launch and signing was scheduled for Sunday, May 1 at the Warwick Bookstore in La Jolla.
Another appearance follows on May 15, from 2-4 p.m., at the Mighty Bin, 2855 El Cajon Blvd., Suite 4, San Diego.
Information on how to obtain the book as well as other Syrens products and advice on topics such as zero waste, composting and gardening can be found on their website, zerowastefamily.com.
The 191-page volume covers many topics in detail, including how to go zero waste with shopping, cooking and cleaning, parties, laundry, school supplies and travel.
“It’s the guide I wish I had when I started that would have helped me,” said Fredrika Syren. “I want to help others reduce their waste. This way they have a reference book to consult and research anything.
It features one chapter, “Zero Waste: Confessions of a Teenager”, written by Isabella Syren, their eldest child. She and her brothers Noah and Liam play key roles in the mini-farm.
“Our garden is a classroom for our children,” said Fredrika Syren. “They learn math and science there and they learn patience. If you want to teach a child to do miracles, start a garden.
James Syren added: “It’s amazing when they’re planting the seeds how much more committed they are to the watering. And when it springs from the ground, they are so excited.
Holding a book signing at the Mighty Bin, which bills itself as San Diego’s Zero Waste grocery store, is a great example of why the Syrens chose to leave North County.
The bustling El Cajon Boulevard store is about 10 minutes from their home.
Also, at the time, there was better access to foods sold in bulk so that they could be purchased and collected in reusable cloth bags rather than plastic bags and containers.
In recent years, North County has seen more and more opportunities for households to strive for zero waste.
The Syrens, however, remain grounded in San Diego, not only because it better enabled their eco-friendly outlook. Their children attend the Waldorf School of San Diego, an independent institution with campuses located near their homes.
However, even the school’s program is in line with the family approach since it offers courses on the environment and gardening.
Their lifestyle and ultimately the book are the culmination of a quest started by Fredrika Syren in 2006, when she decided the family should start reducing their carbon footprint.
“Once I became a mom, I realized that climate change is an issue that actually needs a lot of attention because it affects my children’s future,” said Fredrika, a professional environmental writer. . “It made me do a lot of research and I realized that individual action is actually very important.
“So I slowly started making some changes because I became a stay-at-home mom and had a bit more free time. I decided I would do this no matter what.
In 2015, while living in Sweden, where she was born and raised, the couple found the changes saved money. James Syren pioneered the idea of going completely zero waste.
“That’s when we started finding alternatives for whatever we were buying or just stopped buying so we could go on this journey,” he said. “It took several years, but we finally got there.”
Returning to other United States and settling in San Diego, they continued to refine their methods, increasing their independence from mass production culture.
Family techniques have evolved. They use several different methods of composting, including worms and yard waste, while fertilizing with chicken manure and eggshells.
“Composting is so important,” said James Syren, who works in the software industry. “When you throw food scraps in the trash, people think that when they go to landfill, they’re composted and it’s not. It turns into methane gas, which is a terrible greenhouse gas.
Chicken waste comes from about half a dozen poultry that share the outdoor space with a rabbit and a pet dog, and various other creatures attracted to the garden ambiance, such as bees, hummingbirds, lizards, praying mantises, butterflies and garden snakes.
“We coexist with nature,” said Fredrika Syren. “They always say if you don’t have snakes, lizards or bees in your garden, you’re gardening the wrong way.”
Neighbors supported their gardening, they said. Residents bring in their yard waste for composting, while the Syrens and other gardeners swap out excess produce.
The Syrens hope that the book, their example and their awareness encourage others to pursue zero waste.
As Fredrika Syren states in the introduction to her book, “Although zero waste was challenging and often required creativity, we always knew the outcome would be worth it. I knew reducing our waste to next to nothing would benefit the planet, but we were surprised at how much money our zero waste lifestyle saved us.