A story from the checkout line

A couple of weeks ago, I was checking out at the grocery store with my usual haul: Produce in cloth sacks, bulk in glass and cloth, meat in a jar … Eric’s bread, milk in a jug, and crackers for Johanna (because she was feeling ripped off with her bye item, since she chose ice cream but we never buy it).

I don't really have art for this so here's a photo of Mount Hood.

I don’t really have art for this so here’s a photo of Mount Hood.

Anyway, the cashier, who I’ve only seen a time or two, was checking out the conveyer belt and was all, are you one of those families who are trying to cut down on their trash? And I was like, yes we are! And she was like, I thought so, I’ve talked to your husband before, and I tell people about you. You’re going to be famous because of how much I talk about you!, and then we discussed zero waste options.

You could use a plastic bag, though, right?, because you can recycle it, she said as she looked at my cloth produce bags, and I was like, well, yeah, you can recycle those, but they just get made into other plastic bags and the recycling life of plastic is limited, plus it’s down-cycled a lot, yadda yadda yadda, she was probably sorry she even went there by the time I’d finished. 😉

THEN she turns to the couple behind me and is like, this lady is part of the coolest family in town, they’ve reduced their trash to two bags a year!

And I was like, wait, what?! HOLD THE PHONE. Are you sure you talked to MY husband?

I was surprised that my first response was one of disbelief and denial. Like, no, that’s impossible, that’s crazy, who would even take something like that on? I didn’t say those things out loud, but they totally went through my mind.

When I realized what I was doing, I took a breath. Because you know what? I DO want to be that family who has reduced our trash to two bags a year. Right now we’re at one to two bags a month, which is certainly an improvement, but isn’t that the entire point of this? To see how low we can go in this small town and with a family?

(That’s even my tag line!)

So I added a, well, we’re not at two bags a year yet, but we’ve managed to get down to a couple of bags a month, and I’m trying to reduce our recycling, too. Two bags a year would be amazing. The couple behind me were looking like they weren’t really sure what to do with this information (their choices were 100 percent packaged), and to be honest, I was glad that my groceries had been bagged and it was time to pay and I could get out of there.

I don’t talk a lot about the project in real life — my coworkers don’t even know what I’m doing, although everyone knows about my reusables since that’s kind of hard to hide — because of situations like that. Like … I don’t know, the explaining, I guess, the trying not to sound too weird or preachy. Everyone can get behind reducing garbage and recycling … until they actually have to do it. A friend of mine — who, discovering they didn’t have curbside recycling, once opened a collection center in her own garage — told me when I came out as a minimalist how ridiculous it is to limit yourself when there’s just so much great stuff out there.

Everyone is definitely on their own path.

But maybe I should talk about it more in real life. Maybe I should come out as a zero waster, just like I did with minimalism. It helps to have that mantle, to remember what you’re doing and why you’re changing your life in such a drastic way.

I’m not really sure where I’m going with this, you guys. Mostly I’m just thinking out loud.

Next up: I’m making strides towards my three-month goals, at least.

5 Responses to A story from the checkout line

  1. I don’t talk about reducing waste, but my husband does. I think it’s easier for him to talk about the crazy/wonderful thing his wife came up with without sounding preachy. I just kind of hope someone will ask me about what I’m doing, and let them start the conversation. (I feel the same way about talking about religion, btw.)

    • Religion, politics, zero waste — unless someone asks me outright (or the TV is on because I can’t help snorting sometimes), I don’t either. 🙂

  2. I’ve been doing a buy nothing experiment this year and I talk about it. I’m glad I have talked about it because someone gifted me two pairs of shoes that didn’t fit her well and I can now walk my dogs in shoes that have treads! I try very hard not to preach about my process, it’s my experiment, I don’t force my values on anyone else, but I am glad when friends tell me that they are rethinking their consumer practices!

    • I just bookmarked your site! You’ve heard about the Non Consumer Advocate, I’m assuming — Katy is in your town, too.

      I’ve talked to some family and friends … and if I get asked a question, I can talk all day. But yeah — my experiment, you do what you need to do, and those periodic updates I get? I love that!

      Score on the shoes! I got a skirt from one of my best friends earlier this summer and every time I wear that thing, I feel like a rock star AND get a ton of compliments. Hand me downs are the best! (As is walking without worrying if you’ll fall down due to a lack of tread.)

  3. Yay! Yes, I do read Katy’s updates. I think it’s so interesting how we can come at these issues from such different perapectives! I will be glad to allow myself to buy some new under things and shoes that really fit. I’ve been v fortunate to receive the shoes I have, but they don’t fit *quite right*. Maybe when this is all over, you, me, and katy could have a zero-waste, minimalist, second hand only get together! 🙂

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