Monday, November 16, 2015

Zero waste!


Oh, you guys, I've made some great strides on the zero waste front that I am so happy about. I'm officially that weird tall lady with all the jars. I've been very frustrated in the past with my zero waste efforts because honestly, sometimes it just feels pointless. Zero waste is impossible -- there's no way to get to zero! -- and the world is kind of against us when it comes to packaging. Packages come in packages! It's insanity on a stick, and it's been easy for me to lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Whatever that means.

But then I interviewed a woman for the newspaper who has been in town for just about a year, and she is such a zero waste advocate that she even organized a zero waste meet-up group. I was like, I want to join that group, and was soothed by her philosophy that you just do what you can do. Every bit helps and all that.

So yes, there's all this stuff I cannot buy without packaging, but look at all this other stuff that I can!

That's just been good on my mental stability.

So here's the thing about my new friend Inge: She is kind of great about making you believe you can actually succeed in your zero waste objectives. She is inspirational because she's so honest and open about the pros and cons, AND she's got two little kids and a husband -- meaning she knows the struggles that brings to the table, too.

So after our first zero waste meet-up (which I was kind of disappointed in because a couple of people hijacked the meeting with their own agendas, so it was less about learning options to reduce your own waste and more about how they wanted to control everyone else's waste, if that makes sense), I was ready to step up my game. It was nice to see that I'm not the only one interested in the concept, and reassuring that people from all walks of life were there: Young, old, rich, poor, but, weirdly, only one guy out of the 12 of us.


It's really just a matter of organization. Which, confession, I am not an organized person (I only look like I would be), so this is where shit gets real in the Walker household's waste reduction efforts. I have a thousand jars (that is probably not really true; it's more like 500), and it's just me taking the time to see what we need and make a list and match needs to jars.

P.S. I heard Bea Johnson, the queen of zero waste, say that the biggest mistake her family made in the beginning of their journey was trying to find bulk alternatives to the things they were used to buying instead of embracing what is actually available package-free. That was a light bulb kind of moment for me, but I'm still working on the execution. It's mentally challenging to go at it from a different perspective when you're used to getting whatever you want in a package.

I've kind of lost track where I was going with this.

...Oh, right: I have managed to collect a decent jar collection, and have gotten into the habit of making sure I take them with me to the store. Since some trips are unplanned, I make sure I have a smaller kit in the car for those occasions, as those are the times I'm just going in for, like, a couple things for lunch or whatever. I also have an old orange Tupperware container that I bought from my grandma when we were cleaning out her house. This thing is perfect for the meat counter:

Like this, minus the cute decal and wooden fence.

Bonus shot: Jars!

So it's easy to get stuff from the bulk bins, obviously, because you're just helping yourself. Ours has everything from shampoo and conditioner to chocolate chips to maple syrup and herbs.

The meat counter is another story: You're basically asking someone to do you a favor. I've done this five whole times now, and I've had different people each time -- the lady that didn't give it a thought, the teenager who thought it was insane, the guy who got flustered and forgot to take off tare, the girl who gave me the paper wrapper used to get the meat into the containers, and then this last guy who plopped Grandma's Tupperware on the scale, loaded it up, and said there were a lot of us who do this and he wishes more did because it's easier on his end.

So that made me happy. I always feel like I'm causing unnecessary work. But if I'm making it easier, yay!

I've also had lunch meat put into a jar at the deli counter and taken cloth bags to my favorite bakery for bread. The latter was when Eric was hunting -- he likes a certain kind of packaged bread, but I knew the girls wouldn't care either way.

Actually, when he was hunting I had my best zero waste cart ever (too bad I forgot to take a photo), having only milk, eggs and a bar of soap that were packaged out of everything I'd purchased for that week. I learned the hard way, though, that just because veggie chips look like they'd be comparable to regular chips, they are not and my kids won't eat them.

So back to packages for that kind of thing is what I'm saying.

It's been kind of ... well, not exactly fun, but it's been good for my self-esteem and my frustration level to see that I can have such successes. Our grocery store is awesome about tare, though, and I pick checkers who have been there a while and I know won't get flustered when a wave of jars et al comes down the line. Most of them say that they wish more people would bring their own jars.

I think that's kind of unexpected and also nice to hear.

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