Everyone knows how notoriously bad for the environment packaging plastic is. In many places the plastic bags we use to transport goods cannot be recycled and even impede the process by getting caught in the machinery that separates solid recyclables. Every time we consume a candy bar, bag of rice, or any other item that is packaged in plastic, we support the processes that resulted in that packaging’s creation and will also end up supporting the ones responsible for its disposal.
A few years ago I decided that I did not want to contribute to the mass manufacture of any plastic packaging or the immense pollution and environmental destruction that inevitably results from its disposal, so I set out to find another method of purchasing items that would allow me to sleep at night without having to think about what I just contributed to.
As a vegan a significant portion of my diet is comprised of unpackaged produce from The Veggie Bin and Farmer’s Market, but there are items that are typically wrapped in packaging that I consume on a regular basis. These include: beans (of which there are 12 kinds I consume regularly), lentils, grains (quinoa, amaranth, rice, and so forth), baking supplies such as flour and sugar, teas, seeds, granolas, specialty items such as chia seeds, nuts (my favorite), etc. The amount of plastic needed to buy all of these items in a traditional supermarket is JARring to say the least.
One day I discovered that all of these items could be bought in bulk from stores such as Whole Foods, Earth Fare, and even the Veggie Bin now! Unfortunately all of the bulk sections I’ve been to have plastic bags to put items in, so I still wasn’t getting away from the packaging! Enough was enough, so I turned and reached for the Jars!
Wide-mouth Bell mason jars to be exact! Over the years I have accumulated a stockpile of somewhere around 50-60 jars. About once every semester I head to Whole Foods and raid their bulk section for all of the items I mentioned above.
The process is simple: bring jars to store, weigh jar at front and write down weight, fill jars up in bulk section making sure to record the item number in each one, and then go to check-out and have them deduct the weight of the jar with each item. At the end you will have tons of food and will have incurred ZERO waste from your purchase. Once you have eaten everything, just wash your jars and repeat; it’s that easy!
There are many benefits to shopping in this manner. There are the obvious ones such as not contributing to the manufacturing of plastics and the environmental destruction they cause, but there are also the not so obvious ones. For instance, using mason jars is immensely satisfying! Aside from that which comes from curbing your impact on the environment, there is also a strong social gratification. No matter where you shop, if you walk in with 50 mason jars you will instantly become a rock star! Every single time I have been to Whole Foods I have been met with a sense of admiration. People say things like, “Oh, that is a really good idea!” or “That is definitely something I should try sometime!” The majority of people don’t realize the effect their consumption has, so it always feels good to introduce them to alternative methods that are less damaging.
I have talked before about how important spreading ideas and awareness is to sustainability. If you find some way to live more sustainably let others know about it! My mason jars are one way that I help to raise awareness about the consequences of plastic consumption and how I avoid it. It’s a matter of reduction, the first of the famous three R’s that is, unfortunately, often the most overlooked. There are ways to reduce your impact in every part of your life, a shining example of which is the Uterine Linings Playbook blog post (which I can’t praise enough) that preceded this one. It’s the little changes, like using mason jars instead of bags, that add up to have an appreciable effect in the long term.
-William Hester, Webpage Designer at the Office of Sustainability