The Trash Jar

If you’ve been in the zero waste tags on social media, I’m sure you’ve seen those posts where people claim they can fit a year’s worth (or more) of their trash in a mason jar. I understand why they use it – it’s a very effective, shocking picture to most people who don’t think about how much trash they’re actually producing.

But, it’s bullshit!

For one, there is always a reason you could come up with to leave a certain piece out of the jar. Many I’ve seen say they only use the jar for their ‘actual’ trash, and that it doesn’t count their recycling, or food waste. And what about glass jars, or other plastic containers they’re reusing?

It can also make zero waste seem unattainable. Hell, even the term ‘zero waste’ makes it sound impossible! But, here’s the real scoop: you don’t actually have to produce zero waste to live a zero waste lifestyle. In this day and age, it’s virtually impossible to have absolutely no waste, anyways, so trying to make that your goal will just drive you crazy at best, and at worse, make you quit before you even get started.

I understand that waste is a big problem we’re facing globally. When we throw something away, it doesn’t magically disappear – it has to still go somewhere. Kind of like when you finish eating and you do the dishes. You say you put the dishes ‘away’ after washing them, but they’re not actually ‘away’, they’re still there. You just put them in a different spot.

Driving ourselves crazy trying to reduce our own waste is not and should not be the goal for zero waste living. Companies and manufacturers should be the ones trying to implement zero waste initiatives. If every company produces food in plastic packaging, what are we as consumers expected to do, not eat? No, instead, we should be voting with our dollars.

A company can only exist if there are people buying their products. So instead of placing all the burden on us to completely fix the waste problem (which is virtually, if not entirely impossible), we should be using our collective voices to tell companies what we will – and won’t – buy from them. If enough customers tell a company something, they will change how they offer their products to meet demand.

This is literally how supply and demand works!

Now, you may be thinking, ‘okay, well what if I just grow my own food? Then I wouldn’t have to worry about plastic/waste packaging from companies’. Well, that’s only about half right. Yes, you wouldn’t have to buy plastic wrapped food, but growing your own food still produces waste. There’s seed packets, pots/plant beds, soil, watering products, special lights (if wanting to grow inside), gardening tools, etc.

You would have to go to a store and purchase all of the above, many of which would at least have a barcode sticker or some sort of tag, and at most, come in a (most probable) plastic bag. All those little bits of trash would still have to go in the jar. And sure, you could leave the barcode sticker on the product (depending on what it is), but that wouldn’t mean it’s not still a piece of trash.

And that’s not even mentioning how difficult it can be to try and start growing your own food. Also, not everyone lives in a climate that would allow them to do this, and their living situations may be too small to do so inside. Or, they may be too busy to start a home garden. It takes a lot of time and commitment to attempt growing your own food, and for many people, it’s just not a viable option.

While showing a picture of trash in a jar may be a cool aesthetic for social media purposes, it’s really not attainable, but that’s okay! As long as you are a person who is actively trying to produce less waste, then you are doing just fine.

I know it can be hard, but try not to be too hard on yourself. You cannot single-handedly solve the waste issues of the entire world!

Just… try your best.

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