Once upon a time when I was ignorant, I used to think that Mason Jars’ only purpose was to serve as fancy cocktail holders at trendy restaurants. Then I moved to Seattle where I learned mason jars are actually used for utility *GASP*
At one of my simplicity and minimalism meetup groups, we discussed the sheer amount of waste humans produce and the detrimental consequences it has for our planet. A report out of Duke University stated that the average person generates 4.3 pounds of waste per day. If that number is hard for you to wrap your head around, think about it this way: An American female weighing 130 pounds produces her weight in trash every month. Needless to say, this conversation opened my eyes to an enormous problem that will only continue to worsen if action is not taken, now!
Lauren Singer, author of the blog, “Trash is for Tossers” was in large part my inspiration to begin adopting more eco-friendly practices. Lauren lives a zero-waste life in New York City and has fit TWO year’s worth of trash into a 16oz Mason Jar (yes, you read that right)! She does most of her food shopping at local farmer’s markets, brings her mason jars with her when buying in bulk, composts, recycles and makes all of her own cleaning and household products. She doesn’t even own a trashcan. In this day and age, that’s hard to believe, right? If you haven’t seen the incredible video of how Lauren fit two years of her trash into a tiny mason jar, do yourself a favor and watch it! I swear it will be the motivation you need for living a more sustainable life.
One really simple way to reduce your amount of waste is to begin buying food in bulk. Take a minute to look through your cupboard, refrigerator and freezer. How many things can you identify that are packaged in plastic or styrofoam and cannot be recycled or composted? I’m going to take a wild guess and say a lot! I only know because I cleaned out my pantry and was perplexed to find how much excess packaging some of my favorite foods had. So what can you do to have a plastic-free pantry? The answer: Invest in some good ol’fashion mason jars and shop at supermarkets that have bulk-food sections. (Side note: In this case, buying in bulk does mean buying in large quantities – it is referring to the store’s presentation).
There are so many advantages to buying in bulk, but I’ll just focus on the two reasons it appeals to me most.
- Shopping in bulk saves the environment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans generate over 80 million tons of waste in packing and containers each year. Most of that waste goes directly into landfills where it just sits for years on end, in its exact form.
- Buying in bulk can actually save you money. Much of what you pay for when you buy a food product is the packaging, labeling and advertising.
Case and point: It cost me .71 to almost fill this half gallon mason jar with regular oats. 71 CENTS! That’s significantly less than a pack of gum (not to mention, oatmeal has a lot more fiber than gum…) If you’re like me and cook all of your meals at home, buying your food in bulk will amount in a huge cost-savings. Over the past month, I’ve probably saved close to $50 just using this method…and when you’re living in a city as expensive as Seattle, every penny counts.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Alex where do you go to get killer deals while also saving the environment?” I’m glad you asked. I recently discovered the amazing-ness that is Winco. Winco is a supermarket here in the Pacific Northwest that has one of the largest bulk-food sections I have ever seen. I swear, it’s like bulk-food heaven for environmentally conscious & frugal people. They have everything you could ever want including tens of different nut varieties, granolas, candies, flours, rices, pastas, spices, seeds, coffee, nut butters. You name it – they have it. I could go on and on about my love affair with Winco but I’ll leave you with these pictures so you can see for yourself. Note: These pictures only represent two aisles…What you don’t see are the 10 other aisles that I wasn’t able to capture on my iphone.
*Pro tip: Don’t forget to weigh your empty jars ahead of time! You don’t want to be charged for the weight of the food PLUS the weight of the jar!
Now once you fill up your mason jars with the different varieties of nuts, granolas, candies, flours, rices, pastas, spices, seeds, coffee, nut butters that tickle your fancy, you’ll have a wonderful cupboard that looks something like this:
Hopefully you’ve learned that mason jars are a great investment for a number of reasons (let’s not forget that they still make great cocktail holders too). Anywho, let me know your favorite products to buy in bulk! Winco has a pumpkin flax seed granola that is to die for….