Shopping with jars is easy and waste-free

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This is a picture of my glass Mason jars all filled up with the week’s supply of meat. There are chicken breasts, stewing beef, haddock, and cold cuts. My pantry shelves are stocked also with glass jars of oatmeal, sesame and chia seeds, brown rice, raw cashews, and beans. The Zero Waste experiment, as you can see, is going very well.

I’m delighted to discover that local businesses are not only willing to accommodate my strange jars, but they actually think it’s a great idea. At the butcher shop, the woman behind the counter gave me an odd look when I requested the meat in a jar. Finally she asked, “Why?” When I explained that I want to reduce my family’s plastic waste, both she and the owner, as well as two customers standing behind me in line, burst out excitedly, “What a wonderful idea! That’s really smart.” I don’t know if they’ll implement it, too, but at least I’ve put the bug in their ears.

At the grocery store, even though it’s a large chain, both the fish counter and deli are always enthusiastic about filling up jars. As the cashier was fumbling around with my dozen loose apples, which kept running off the scales, I made a comment about not having any plastic bags. She shook her head: “No, I don’t mind at all. I think it’s great that you’re avoiding plastic. Those bags are so awful, the bottom would fall out anyways.” Then she lowered her voice conspiratorially. “You wouldn’t believe the things people put in bags. Single items, or things that aren’t even produce. There’s this one lady who even puts her boxes of Kleenex in plastic! It drives me nuts.”

When I was in Toronto this past weekend, I discovered Noah’s Natural Foods at Yonge and Eglinton where there’s a big bulk section that allows reusable containers. The cashier simply weighed all my jars at the cash before I filled up, then subtracted the weight when tallying it up. No one batted an eye at my eccentric shopping habits, which was refreshing.

Bulk Barn, on the other hand, sent me a long-winded email about why reusable containers aren’t allowed. Their reason? “Not all customers sterilize their containers like they say they do.” Fair enough, but how does one expect to maintain sterility in a store that features open bins that are fully accessible to air particles, coughing children, stray hairs, and snot globules? “Sterile” is a serious word, and there’s nothing sterile about Bulk Barn’s store layout. It’s just sad that Canada’s biggest bulk chain is unwilling to embrace the basic philosophy of bulk shopping — to eliminate unnecessary packaging. As a result, it will miss out on thousands of my grocery dollars, which I’ll have to redirect elsewhere.

Happily, though, I’m discovering that there are far more bulk options out there than I ever thought. The world is changing, and people are open to alternative ways of shopping. The more people who show up at stores with jars, the more accepted it will become. So here’s my challenge to you: take jars with you to the store this week, and let me know how it goes!

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“Project Zero Waste” has officially begun!
I can’t get “Zero Waste” out of my mind
A country without enough garbage — imagine that!

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8 thoughts on “Shopping with jars is easy and waste-free

  1. Ray and I had a conversation about this the other day..both reducing our waste and starting to make our own toiletries..like toothpaste and deodorant…this weeks shopping will be to gather ingredients and trying to avoid as much plastic as possible…great post Katherine:)

    1. Hey! You should really check out the ‘Zero Waste Home’ book by Bea Johnson. I got it at the PE library. She has recipes for things like deodorant (baking soda + coconut oil) and toothpaste (baking soda + stevia). Changing one’s shopping habits can seem so daunting, but really, once you do a bit of research and try it a few times and figure out where to go, it gets easier. Good luck, and let me know if you need any more pointers for scouting out the area!

  2. Great idea! I bet that once people see that the grocery is embracing your idea, they’ll follow suit. And then, Bulk Barn (I laughed at the this, I’ve often wondered what ends up in those barrels at our local bulk store) will have no choice but to change their snotty policy.

    1. I hope so… but Ontario has weird and obsessive health policies. I doubt they’ll change anytime soon, but at least I can try to do my part. I bet out west you have far more liberal, alternative approaches to shopping!

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