Bulk aisle musings

As we’ve discussed numerous times here, I have been doing my zero waste project pretty much undetected by the majority of people I know in real life. Or even by strangers. I’m more of a lead by example kind of girl than a shove-it-down-your-throat type, and I’m just not comfortable talking about it in a general sort of way. (Ironic, since this is my 67th post on the subject.)

I don't actually have art for this post so here's a photo of carrots and onions from my favorite farm stand.

I don’t have art for this post so here’s a photo of carrots and onions from my favorite farm stand.

Unless someone asks me about it. Then just try to shut me up.

But I’ve been working at being more open about it. I’ve initiated a conversation about going zero waste with coworker (well, it’s not like he’s never seen my reusable containers and cloth napkins), I met a friend’s boyfriend in the bulk aisle and told him I was a zero waster, and … um, okay, just those two times.

I’m trying. Owning the title is a big part of being successful — that’s what I discovered when I started my minimalist journey. It’s a lesson that spills over into this area of my life, too.

That’s a long intro for a short story:

This weekend, I was in the bulk aisle, filling my jars and minding my own business when an older lady spied what I was doing. That’s a really good idea, she said, and I said, oh, yeah, it’s much easier too when I get home — I just have to put it away. She nodded (grabbing another plastic bag) and said, I have a friend who does that, but I’ve never SEEN her do it. That’s interesting.

So here’s the part where I could just nod and walk away, but instead I said, well, I’m trying to reduce my trash, so being able to use jars really helps with that, and she was like, YES, that’s what my friend is doing! I’ve just never made the connection.

Then she was like, you should put something in the paper about that, which took me by surprise at first (I’m sure she didn’t know I actually work for our newspaper) but then I realized she meant a letter to the editor or a press release.

So I was just like, well, I could, I guess, and she started saying things I couldn’t hear, so I asked her to clarify (my hearing is terrible, I really should not have blasted New Kids on the Block on my walkman in 1988. You were right, Mom!), but she just waved me off. No, she said, I’m just taking to myself. You’ve made a connection for me. I’m getting it now.

And I was like, oh. Awesome!

So that made me happy. Maybe we’ve got someone else on board now.

It seems like a little thing, I’m sure, but I was proud of myself, for continuing to talk and helping this nice lady make the connection between what her friend has been saying, and what she’s been actually doing.

(And what would I write about the topic for the newspaper? She did make me think about that. Imagine the irony of writing about a minimalist, zero waste lifestyle in, say, a home and garden tab … where the emphasis is getting people to buy stuff. I’m not sure how that would go down at a staff meeting, to be honest.)

How do you initiate zero waste conversations? Or do you take a similar backdoor approach? Do your friends and family know what you’re doing … or are you trying to let it sink in through osmosis?

Next up: Start thinking about your zero waste holiday gift plans now, because I’m going to ask that you share them with the group on Friday. 🙂

9 Responses to Bulk aisle musings

  1. I’m not as in-depth in this as you, but I do use reusable containers for lunches, cloth napkins, my own produce bags, my own bag at stores, and have a metal straw. (Maybe I’m not that far off?) When I take my own container to a restaurant for leftovers, most of my many siblings just think that I am strange, but maybe one day they will get it.

  2. I like this story. Sometimes talking to people about this seems uncomfortably close to proselytizing, at least for me. But here are a couple of instances in which you just nudged the osmosis along a bit, which seems more doable. I especially appreciate your recognition of the point at which you could have just walked away, but didn’t…going to try to keep that in mind when a similar situation comes up. Thanks for this food for thought. I also think the idea of an occasional zero-waste column or whatever in your newspaper sounds lovely.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head — being a zealot is uncomfortable and hard. Osmosis is way more doable!

  3. Some of my regular cashiers at my grocery store have taken notice of my bags especially the reusable produce ones. 🙂 Normally, though, the other customers are too busy trying to get in and out to notice.

    • There are certain checkers I seek out because they’re such tare pros and I know I’m not going to stress them out. The other day there was a new kid, and I was like, are you comfortable with tare? And he just rolled his eyes — because I’d offended him, OF COURSE he was! That made me laugh. (Sorry, kid.)

      We’ll hope that people are paying more attention in the checkout line than we think they are. 🙂

  4. I think a zero-waste column in the newspaper would be a great idea. I’m quite happy to tell people that I’m trying to cut down on my plastic use, or trying to reduce how much rubbish I generate, but I wouldn’t actually use the phrase “zero waste”, for two reasons – first, because I don’t think people would know what I meant, and second because that somehow makes me feel more like I’m lecturing someone (perhaps because I would then expect to have to explain it).

    Most people use reusable bags in shops here in the UK since shops became required to charge for them. It is very rare now that you don’t get asked whether or not you want a bag, and that seems to have translated over to apply to lots of different kinds of packaging in shops and restaurants. You might not be asked whether you want it, but I have never had anyone be surprised when I say I don’t want/need it. I could definitely stand to be more hardcore about zero waste, but all the reactions I have had are positive. The checkout operators and other customers in my grocery store are always fascinated by my reusable produce bags. One woman very excitedly told me that she had seen someone else using them a few minutes before, and seemed pretty disappointed when I said that it was probably my mum!

    • You make a good point — “zero waste” and “cutting down on plastic/trash” conjure up two very different images, the latter seeming much more doable and less austere. I haven’t really thought about a column, mostly because that sets me up as an expert and I am far from that — there’s a difference between my house and experience and what, say, Bea Johnson is doing (she’s a rockstar, and I’m still trying to figure this whole thing out). I’ll have to think about this more seriously. My only other reservation is that my role at the paper is to present all sides of a story, not tell people what to think. Although columns are different than stories, I guess.

      Some U.S. cities and states have plastic bag bans, and I think that’s so awesome. We have a really progressive mayor who is trying to institute a bag ban AND meatless Mondays. (He’s fantastic.) But as it is, local stores generally ask if you need a bag before placing items into one, which I appreciate. LOVE that someone was so excited to tell you about another shopper — and the fact that your mom uses them too!

      • I think it would be awesome if you wrote an article for your local paper. You can write about the journey (like you do here!) instead of “setting yourself up as an expert.” Many people could benefit from the steps, instead of being intimidated by someone like Bea Johnson who has her act together.

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