Is Zero Waste Right for You? Ask Your Trash Can

lots of jars

Do you feel overwhelmed by your stuff? Stressed? Anxious? Does the sight of plastic strewn about the streets send you into convulsions or bouts of uncontrollable swearing? Do you want to eat more vegetables but just don’t know where to start? It’s time to try Zero Waste™.

Zero Waste is a lifestyle that begins to alleviate these symptoms upon the first dosage: ditching plastic water bottles. As you continue down the zero-waste path, you continually increase your dosage, following a plan customized to your situation and tolerance level: switching to a bamboo toothbrush, shopping with cloth produce bags, shaving with a safety razor, searching for a kombucha SCOBY and running an efficient kitchen.

Some of the side effects of Zero Waste include:

1. Sudden intense jar-hoarding urges

When you try Zero Waste, you may find yourself wanting to put everything into jars. Studies show that people on Zero Waste use jars for:

  • Shopping at bulk bins and hot food bars
  • Drinking hot and cold drinks
  • Storing pantry staples and leftovers
  • Freezing food—you’ll have the urge to use wide-mouth jars with flush sides for this
  • Packing lunches
  • Bringing home compost from work or school
  • Fermenting food like sauerkraut and kombucha
  • Storing utensils on the counter
  • Arranging fresh flowers
  • Rolling out dough in a pinch…

Do not be alarmed by these perfectly normal urges. And if you run into a dilemma while on Zero Waste, a jar will likely solve it.

lots of jars
You can never have too many jars

2. Improved health

When you ditch the waste, you ditch the junk food. That’s because manufacturers package their food-like substances in shiny plastic packages in order to not only preserve their highly processed ingredients indefinitely but also to provide real estate onto which they can imprint their health claims such as “No Preservatives!” or “Heart Healthy!” or “Now with Real Meat!” 

On Zero Waste, you’ll eat more fresh fruit and vegetables because many of these foods come with their own biodegradable package called a “skin” or “peel.”

3. Elevated hummus intake

How much hummus you eat is inversely proportionate to how much waste you cut from your life. Homemade hummus not only tastes delicious, but can be made without tossing into the trash plastic tub after plastic tub as with store-bought. 

homemade hummus with crackers
Pumpkin hummus with sourdough crackers

4. Eating lower on the food chain

As you reduce your waste, you soon realize that a plant-rich diet is much more compatible with Zero Waste than a meat-centered one. You will likely have trouble finding cheese and meat package-free. Apples and kale and beans and nuts, much less so.

zero waste farmers market produce
Zero-waste farmers’ market haul

5. Heightened sense of purpose

When you start on Zero Waste, you may feel as though you’ve just awakened from a consumerism-induced coma of oblivion. You’ll see plastic everywhere because it is everywhere. You’ll learn about how plastic waste in the oceans harms and kills fish, birds, turtles, whales, dolphins, seals and many, many other animals and you’ll want to help by cutting your trash. This gives you a sense of purpose and the motivation to stay with the program.

6. Incessant searching for secondhand or free items

With Zero Waste, you’ll also learn about just how many resources go into consumer goods. You’ll likely start to look for at least some items secondhand. When you begin to add up all the money you save shopping this way, don’t be surprised if you begin searching obsessively for estate sales and planning swaps with friends and coworkers. As you continue with Zero Waste, you may start looking through recycling bins for jars, or through piles of items people have left outside of their homes on the curb—all perfectly normal behavior.

amount of water to make jeans
Thirsty jeans

7. Higher levels of cash in the bank

Yes, some Zero Waste paraphernalia can cost much more than its shoddy throwaway counterparts. Resist the urge to buy all the new stuff—this urge is another, separate side effect of Zero Waste. Overall, you will likely save money with Zero Waste. Why? Because you buy less stuff. When you buy less stuff, you spend less money. It’s that simple.

8. Sense of elation over the sight of loose cranberries

Some foods are incompatible with Zero Waste, such as cranberries. If you find them loose, you may suddenly feel a sense of euphoria wash over you. Do not panic! Finding one of the holy grails of Zero Waste induces these kinds of strong feelings.

9. Desire to chop and salt cabbages and stuff into jars

As you increase your Zero Waste dosage, you’ll likely make more foods for yourself. You may dabble in sauerkraut making—the gateway ferment of Zero Waste. Next you may make scrap vinegar or pasta or sourdough bread. Be warned! After you taste these homemade versions, if you decide to get off of Zero Waste, you will find it extremely difficult, if not impossible to eat store-bought versions. You may undergo terrible withdrawal and wander the streets looking for an open bakery that sells sourdough bread loose and unpackaged. 

10. Kombucha cravings

Your family may begin to worry about you at this stage. You may start to brew several jars of kombucha all at once. You may even name your SCOBYs or sew clothes for your jars. Your loved ones may also wonder why you would ever put anything into your body that has sat in a jar with what they call your “revolting” SCOBYs. Give them a glass of your kombucha to make them come to their senses.

jars of kombucha scobys
SCOBYs (top) and tea (below)

11. Lining your shelves with the jars and posting many pictures of them on social media

Congratulations! Taking to Instagram to show off your beautiful jars filled with staples such as nuts, seeds and flour, fermented foods, ginger beer and more is a Zero Waste rite of passage. Think of these pics as the Bat Mitzvah of Zero Waste.

zero waste shopping with jars
Zero waste shopping with jars filled up at the bulk bins

12. Improved sex life

When you reduce your waste, you ultimately simplify your life. You buy less stuff, you spend less time earning the money necessary for buying the stuff. You spend less time maintaining the stuff because, well, you didn’t buy it. In other words, you have more time for the important things in life, such as spending time with your loved ones and nurturing your relationships. When you improve your relationships—including the one with your partner—you improve your sex life.

jars of sourdough starter for zero waste bread
Zero waste improves your sex life

13. Contagion

When people around you see that you carry a zero-waste kit around with you at all times and notice you using it, they’ll want to know what you’re up to—unless you preach constantly, in which case you will irradicate any possible Zero Waste outbreak within a wide radius of yourself. Not having given much thought to the idea that there might be a better way to live rather than trashing the planet, they will see that you’ve found a better way to live rather than trashing the planet! Many will adopt some of your habits.

Ask your trash can if Zero Waste is right for you. Not sure where to start? Start here.

19 Replies to “Is Zero Waste Right for You? Ask Your Trash Can”

  1. Thank You again, this time for letting me know that I’m not the lone weird person. Not so sure about the cranberries.

  2. Thank you!
    After reading your text I am no longer feeling an E.T.
    Here at home we already reach level 10! For us it really feels like we’ve woken up from the coma and we’re seeing the world with other eyes!

  3. Thank you AM for your continual amazing commentary on (striving toward) a zero waste lifestyle! My two best online discoveries of 2018 (I know, late to the game), were 1. searching for a sour-dough bread-making and starter recipe, which 2. led me to your site! Austin has developed into quite the farmers’ markets hotbed, so all the jars and cloth bags are used on the reg. Happy New Year!

  4. Oh my goodness – how hysterical! Thank you for a great laugh and YES to all the ZeroWaste side-effects! There are still mismatched jars of bulk cranberries in the freezer 😀

  5. I love this!! 😂 Thank you!!

  6. Little Plastic Footprint says: Reply

    I laughed at the hummus one, so true!

  7. Oh! I love this so funny and so true.

  8. I always love the tone of your blog posts. Your posts are useful information humorously presented. Thank you for making me smile.

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you Chandra 🙂

  9. …and these symptoms only increase over time 😀

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Hahaha! That’s true! 😀

  10. Madeleine Lawrence says: Reply

    Number 12 had us laughing out loud! I cannot think of anything less sexy-looking than a jar of sourdough starter!


    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      I’m happy to hear I made you laugh out loud Madeleine 😀
      ~ Anne Marie

  11. […] via Is Zero Waste Right for You? Ask Your Trash Can — The Zero-Waste Chef […]

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Thank you!

  12. The obsession with jars thing is so real lmao

  13. Yes! I can attest to many of these, but I laughed out loud at the cranberries because you transported me immediately to the moment in the (sadly now-closed) organic produce store where I found my first plastic-free, fresh cranberries. I nearly jumped up and down with glee.

    1. I’ve only seen them once and I think I reacted pretty much the same way Kathryn 😀

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