Friday, April 12, 2013

Zero waste-ish

I've been attempting to write this post for months now, but I never seem to get anywhere. Mostly because I'm afraid I'll sound all preachy, I guess, and also because I'm still trying to get it all figured out.

Here's the crux of the thing: I've started taking quart and pint canning jars (with plastic screw on lids, I won't lie) to the grocery store when I do our weekly shopping. I've been a fan of reusable produce bags too, although that's kind of hit and miss, depending on how organized I am. I'm not opposed to just tossing produce in my cart unbagged, though, so.

A couple of weeks ago, I about took a picture of my cart because it was a thing of Zero Waste beauty: Fresh feta and mozzarella cheeses, trail mix, thyme and quinoa in my jars, apples and pears and salad stuff in my cloth sacks. I was feeling like a pioneer of minimalism.

And then I hit the rest of the store.

Pretzels for the girls' lunch (Johanna likes hers with mustard, who am I to judge?), cheddar cheese, loaf of bread. Probably other prepackaged crap, I don't know, it was two weeks ago.

But it was a high. I'd done what I could. You could argue, I suppose, whether or not we needed the pretzels, but overall, I felt like I'd made progress with my kitchen waste battle.

The next week, we went shopping after Mass, which means the whole fam was involved. I went to the customer service counter to get tare on a jar*, and by the time I made it back to the cart, Eric had put plastic bags of pears and apples into the cart, and was going for another plastic bag of carrots. I handed him a reusable sack, and he put the new plastic bag he'd just taken off the roll into the cart, empty.

Not really zero waste. And my fault because I'd taken the whole shopping kit with me and left him nothing to use.

Maybe it didn't matter, because I hadn't brought enough reusable sacks for all our produce needs anyway. And I certainly didn't bring enough jars to get everything I wanted from the bulk sections.

So my high was followed by a deep, deep low.

But! Abby is getting Confirmed this weekend, so I had an opportunity to redeem myself while shopping for her party yesterday. And I mostly did. I made sure I had plenty of jars and cloth sacks.  I've pre-ordered ciabatta rolls from a local bakery that uses recyclable packaging (my grocery store says it can't put bread from behind the counter into one of my sacks, which confuses me since no one seems to care what else I'm putting into them, but whatevs). And I decided that instead of buying packaged cookies for a cheesecake crust, I'd just make Mom's sugar cookie recipe. Bonus: I only need 1/2 cup of crumbs, so eat up, family!

Um, and then I threw in two bags of potato chips, some strawberries in clam shell, grapes in their own plastic bag, and packaged mozzarella and lunch meat.

I'm not sure if I did better or not is what I'm saying.

It's kind of depressing because there is no way I will ever be able to eliminate packaging completely. For a little town, our grocery store has a great selection of bulk items, but it doesn't have everything, and obviously, I'm not perfect. But the whole concept of Zero Waste fascinates me. Maybe that's just my OCD talking. But doesn't that sound nice, less trash and recycling to deal with at home because you didn't bring any home in the first place?

Well, I like the idea very much. It seems a natural extension of my minimalistic tendencies. Our house could be an oasis of peace! Um, what, too cheesy? You've got a point there, sorry. But do you get what I'm trying to explain here? Less stuff makes me feel better, so it follows that less waste would, too.

Oh, here's a victory, though, and it was all Eric's idea. He's a home-brewer, but he hasn't had time to brew anything lately, what with all the painting he's been doing. He priced it out and discovered that he could take one of his kegs (five gallon, what, it lasts a while) to a local microbrewery and fill it up for $62, which is, in his words, pretty close to what he'd pay for bottled beer. I was like, no bottles, bottle caps or packaging and supporting a local business? That's Zero Waste! And he was all, um, that's better beer, and I was like, well, you get credit anyway. He totally does, too.

Hey, did you know my grocery store has bulk maple syrup and bakers yeast? Yeah, me neither, until yesterday. I am totally jacked. I don't need either of those things now... but I will someday.

*When you bring in a reusable jar, you can go to the customer service desk--or anyone, really--and have them weigh the thing for you. That's the tare. Then, after you've filled your jar and brought it to the checkout, they subtract the tare from the weight so you're not paying extra. It's kind of genius and sort of fun to be all poser up there, throwing words like "tare" around.

I don't know, everyone brings in reusable grocery sacks for bagging purposes--it's to the point that it's almost weird to see paper or plastic in a cart going out the door--so maybe someday it'll be common place for people to bring in cloth sacks for produce and jars for bulk. Which is kind of the point for writing all this, now that I think about it... to let you know it's possible. What you do with that is up to you.

P.S. I've been following The Zero Waste Home blog for a long time now, and I find it completely inspirational. I've also just purchased Bea's book by the same name (on my Kindle, of course) and am finding it to be a great resource--she goes into much more depth in the book than she does on the blog. Recommend both if you're thinking about dipping your toes in the Zero Waste or minimalism waters.

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