Hooray for jars!

Johanna and I were at the check out counter of the grocery store recently when the woman behind us asked, “How do you get the weight of your jars?”

It’s actually been a while since anyone has asked me a question about my jar use, though not uncommon. I’ve got a while spiel memorized.

So I explained the concept of tare, how I go to customer service and have them weigh each jar, and then write the weight on the lid. (The cashier helpfully added that any checker would do the same.) And then it’s just a matter of filling them up with whatever you want.

Jars can also be used to hold items around the house. Here’s my “reusable cotton ball” collection.

“That’s really the way to go,” the man with her said later as she pointed to my jars and told him what she’d learned.

You guys! IT TOTALLY IS!

In April 2016, our family began our zero waste project for The Simple Year (I’m up there on the Year 5 tab if you want specifics), and one of the habits we formed was to use our own jars to purchase bulk items at the store or farm stand. Getting tare take seconds, and then you’re on your way.

From a lazy person’s standpoint (look, I’m too tired to make a go of the road less traveled, just give me the highway), using jars is much less work: There’s no guessing how much of a product you’re buying because you can see just how much is in the jar, and when you get home, you simply put said jar in the cupboard — there’s nothing to decant, no messes to clean, no bags to deal with later.

From an environmental standpoint (yep, also me. My favorite color might be navy, but I’m all green), it’s also the way to go: Plastics are clogging our landfills, and because of how landfills are designed to work, even those items that could break down, like cardboard, don’t. And it takes a lot of oil to create these products. I could go on a whole rant about plastics, actually, but I’m going to spare you that here and point you below, where I’ve linked a few articles if you’re interested in further reading.

But the magic of jars doesn’t just extend to the bulk aisle of my grocery store. I use jars pretty much everywhere in the house: In the bathroom to store my unpackaged facial bar; in my wardrobe to hold my fairly pathetic jewelry collection; on top of the wardrobe to hold our hankies (which I made during my Simple Year — post HERE); and in the kitchen basically everywhere, including under the sink, where I store our castile soap, and in the fridge, where they hold leftovers, prepped fruit and veggies, and homemade dressings. They’re also in the standing freezer, holding this year’s crop of blueberries and some other yummies I found at local markets.

A small sampling of my jar collection. This photo was taken during my Simple Year; I no longer purchase the plastic lids, having learned the hard way that the “traditional” canning lids and rings work much better.

My jar collection is certainly not minimalist, but as I have space to store them out of sight, no harm done, not to mention that the fact they’re so useful makes me want to keep them around anyway. I have inherited a LOT of jars from people who have given up on the canning front, but I also keep the jars that come with some of the products we buy, like the tiny mayos that Johanna requires for her tuna sandwiches. Those tiny jars are FANTASTIC for holding lunch items or for freezing small portions of pesto or other sauces. And because of food sensitivities, I’ve been buying sunflower seed butter for my granola bar (I also learned how to make that during my year — it’s a lifesaver, and you can find it HERE). Another glass jar that’s a great size for storing leftovers or, again, freezing items.

What I’m saying is that you should DEFINITELY NOT go out and buy a bunch of new glass jars. One mistake I made during my Simple Year (and I’m still embarrassed about this because you’d think I’d have known better, being a minimalist and all) was that I thought I needed to buy certain products to be “zero waste enough.” Um, you really don’t. It’s way more zero waste/minimalist/environmental to go through your house and see what you have first, then to check out local buy nothing groups or secondhand stores, or, in my experience, just mention that you’re looking for jars and have them find you.

And then all that’s left is to start using them.

Further reading:

How Plastics Are Made

What Happens Inside a Landfill?

Plastic Recycling Facts and Figures

China’s Import Ban Broke Plastic Recycling. Here’s How to Fix It.