At the September 23 Township of Wilmot council meeting, October was designated “Zero Waste Month”, so I decided to take the Mason Jar Challenge. Fitting a month’s worth of my personal garbage into a mason jar didn’t seem unattainable for me. After all, I pride myself on being environmentally conscious and don’t think I do a lot of the things that create waste.
In my home, we have separate streams of compost to make the most of food scraps. Coffee grounds, some vegetable scraps and eggshells go to a worm composter that produces the best houseplant fertiliser ever! Most veggie scraps, such as peels and trimmings, go to feed our small flock of chickens. The rest – bones, meat scraps, tissues, bits of paper – goes into the green bin. We have a wood furnace for heat, so any wood bits or waxed cardboard helps to provide heat. We always rinse and carefully sort our blue box items.
For me, this was a lesson in how recycling soothes my conscience about consumption and helps me gloss over things I know I should do better on.
In my jar at the end of October, there was
- an old credit card
- a quarter of a Styrofoam tray from frozen chicken thighs
- a coffee bag – layers of foil and plastic welded together may keep the coffee fresh, but are a terrible waste as they can’t be recycled
- a sock with a hole in it – the polyester makes the sock garbage, cotton would be compostable
- tags and stickers from produce – plastic stickers stay looking clean on the produce, but they’re making a mess for our world
- plastic bits from clothing tags – at least the cardstock tags are recyclable
- the foil-lined plastic back of a cookie bag
- a plastic mesh onion bag
All told, my personal consumption for the month fit into the jar, as I found myself thinking harder about choices. I postponed getting meat from the butcher shop because I forgot my own containers at home while running errands in town, for example, thus avoiding the plastic-coated paper meat is wrapped in.
As I was preparing meals and going about my routine, I had a sharper lens on the ways my choices generate garbage. I have cracker bags and meat wrappers from a friend’s birthday party that I hosted. I suffered a moment of horror and panic seeing the garbage created from just one small event. It couldn’t fit in my jar!
So, what did I learn, other than making friends have their parties in their own homes?
From now on I’ll be choosing snacks that are packaged in something recyclable. Bread is a good alternative. Home baked vegetable crisps are easy to make and completely waste free. Meat is easy to buy waste-free by going to the local butcher shop and asking them to use my own containers. Wine presents a challenge: corks are recyclable, and you can drop them off at an appropriate recycler, but the foil or plastic wrapped on it is not. Choose bottles that are screw top as those caps are usually recyclable.
Even though the Mason Jar Challenge has ended, I’ll continue to reduce my household’s waste by making better choices.