3 Reasons the Trash Jar is Bullsh*t

It's officially been two years since I started this blog. I wrote a great post about five lessons I've learned over the course of my two-year journey. It was really uplifting focusing on positivity and unity. (And, then you guys wound up with this post instead. ;)

Three reasons the trash jar, the zero waste icon, is bullshit from www.goingzerowaste.com

As I was photographing my two year's worth of trash for my celebration post, it didn't feel right. I haven't done a trash update since last year because I've felt weird about it.

The longer I looked at the jar of trash, I felt like a phony. The trash jar really isn't an accurate representation of the trash I've made at all. Almost anyone who has a trash jar has some sort of exception they don't put in there whether it be condoms, contacts, broken glass, receipts, etc. It feels like you can justify keeping almost anything out of it. And, when you're constantly picking and choosing between what goes in the jar and what doesn't, you get a skewed perspective.

The trash jar is supposed to be awe-inspiring or a WOW factor to get people interested in the movement. It shouldn't be an end all be all. 

So, today I'm telling you all about what you don't see in this photo. I've tried really hard to be transparent in the past, and the future will be no different. Being truthful and honest is the only way to guarantee that this movement flourishes and resonates with people. 

No one is going to be perfect, and that's A-OK! I am far, far from perfect. 

Three reasons the trash jar, the zero waste icon, is bullshit from www.goingzerowaste.com

I cringe every time I hear someone say, "Zero waste fail." I, myself, was guilty of it in the beginning. I was holding myself up to ridiculous standards. I want you to know there is no failure here. 

This isn't a test. You aren't going to be graded. 

In fact, when The Guardian came to my house they were very fixated on my trash jar. I tried to dissuade them from paying much attention to it. When they asked why, I told them, "The trash jar is merely a dick comparing contest. I'm more concerned with the big picture."

They asked me if they could quote that, and because my grandma would probably read the article, I told them no. 

Grandma, if you're reading this now (I don't think you are, but....) I'm sorry. I'll go put soap in my mouth. Video evidence here

1. ignores waste upstream:

The trash jar is a physical representation of trash from *my* home. It's trash that I have brought into my house. 

What about all of the trash created in the waste upstream? There's no way to see all of that. Everything we do produces trash or waste because we don't live in a circular society. 

We don't value our belongings. We don't value our earth. We just assume that she'll keep pumping resources to fuel our consumption habits. But, she won't; she can't. 

The trash jar focuses on a tiny, little portion of our/my consumer waste. For every pound of trash we throw away, 7 pounds is thrown away in the waste upstream. 

If a trash jar intimidates you, don't do it. Just do the best you can and buy less. Just because our visual trash is small, doesn't mean our behind the scenes trash is small too. 

Three reasons the trash jar, the zero waste icon, is bullshit from www.goingzerowaste.com

2. out of your control: 

Life's too short to get hung up on something out of your control.  

  • You asked for something to go in your own container and they included a plastic fork.

  • The grocery store clerk put it in a plastic bag before you could hand them your own.

  • They printed a receipt, even though you requested an email

  • Your laptop dies.

  • Your hot water heater bites the dust.

  • You asked for no straw.

  • You're given a gift that doesn't have zero waste packaging.

Things happen. Life isn't always perfect and there's no reason you should feel bad about extenuating circumstances. Just do the best you can! 

I can guarantee you, I have asked for no straw in my drink and one has arrived anyways. Most likely I'm not going to carry that straw all the way home to store it in my trash jar. I just let it go. 

Most places I go email receipts. If they don't, and they print one, I won't touch it. Receipts are lined with BPA and I don't feel comfortable touching receipts. The BPA is absorbed into your blood stream after being in contact with your skin for seconds. 

That's why there are no receipts in my trash jar. Doesn't mean I didn't produce them. It just means I didn't take them. 

3. rewarding bad habits: 

When starting the zero waste lifestyle, I bought common grocery items in glass jars like pasta sauce with the intention of reusing the jars. 

If I were going to recycle the jars, I could put them in the bin with the label on. The labels is incinerated when the glass is melted down to form new glass. If I were going to reuse the jars, I'd need to peel the label off. 

But if I peeled the label off, I'd be stuck with the trash. If I were focused on my "image," I probably would have recycled the jars instead of reusing them. 

But, like I said, I'm more focused on the big picture. I reused the jars. 

I'm really torn on whether or not I should continue to keep track of my trash in a jar for the coming year. The benefits of keeping one feel pretty superficial. 

After keeping a jar for two years, I know what type of trash goes in there. What was once educational and intriguing is now normal. On the other hand, it is a pretty cool little diary. I know what I'm throwing away. I know what presents problems to me in my everyday life, and I'm interested in finding solutions.

What do you think? Do you think I should still keep track of my trash? Do you find it helpful? Do you find it inspiring? Or do you find it annoying and false advertising? 

P.S. I promise my happy, unity, super positive post is coming up soon. I just felt this need to be said. 

10 Tips to Go Zero Waste When You Live with Your Parents

I went zero waste after I left home. I was in charge of my own space, and I was the main purchaser. 

Can you go zero waste when you live with your parents? Here are 10 tips to help you reduce your waste while you're still living at home from www.goingzerowaste.com

If you're living at home, you probably don't have that option. You're probably not the main purchaser for your household. You aren't going to have control over what is bought and especially how it's bought. 

Zero waste is very much a consumer lifestyle choice. I get asked all the time by teens and pre-teens what they can do since they don't have the power. I've thought about it for a while, and here are my top 10 tips for what you can do! 

1. reusable water bottle

Do you have any extracurricular activities? Do you go places on the weekends with your friends? Instead of buying a bottle of water from a snack stand, why not bring a reusable water bottle with you when you leave?

Growing up my extracurricular activities were golf and theatre. I'd always have a reusable bottle at the theatre that I filled up at the water fountain. On the golf course, there's a cooler every three holes where you can fill your bottle up. 

This is a place where you don't have to purchase anything, and you can easily prevent waste. In fact, you'd be saving your parents money.

2. leftovers

Do you go out to eat with family or with your friends? Try bringing your own containers. I have tips for eating out and for getting food to-go without creating any trash. 

If you have leftover food, pop it into your own container to avoid the styrofoam clamshell. And, don't forget to ask for no straw in your drink! 

3. lunch

Do you pack your lunch? I am not embarrassed to say that my mom packed my lunch every day for school from kindergarten to my senior year of high school. 

I wasn't a picky kid. In fact, I had a pb&j every day. Every. Single. Day. And, I loved every moment of it. My mom would always pack my lunch in reusables, until I told her I didn't think it was "cool." All the other kids had disposables, and I wanted to fit in. 

She switched to a brown bag, which I, unfortunately, threw away every day. If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself - reusables are bad ass. 

So, if you're packing your lunch or your parent, opt for a reusable instead of disposables. I have 10 tips for packing a zero waste lunch here

4. experiences

My mom still makes me write out a wish list. My Christmas list must be turned in by June first. My Christmas list is typically a combination of things I really, really need (typically zero waste items) and experiences. 

I would recommend that you write out a wish list and give it to your family. You can get really specific in what you want and how you want it. It is your wishlist after all. 

You can write out all sorts of experiences you'd like and focus on items to help you on your zero waste journey. Maybe one of your wishes is to get your family composting, or a zero waste meal, a new stainless lunch box or water bottle.

Ask for tickets to the movies, a gift certificate, maybe an art class or museum passes. Get some zero waste gift ideas here and a zero waste guide to receiving gifts here.

related post: Back to School Snacks

5. thrift shop

Instead of heading to the mall with your friends, why not head down to the thrift shop? My friends and I were always down to dig through Goodwill or the local antique shop for vintage clothing. 

My favorite piece of clothing I've ever had was an $8 dress from the 60's found at an antique store. It fit like a glove. It was a long sleeve, black lace pencil dress, with a high neck and a low cut back. 

It was perfect in every way. If only hips didn't develop, I'd still have that little baby. This was long before you took pictures for every event, so I don't think I have a single photo of it, but believe me... it was perfect. 

Also, keep an eye out for school supplies like binders at the thrift store too. 

6. beauty products

I don't remember ever requesting food growing up, but I was always able to request my beauty products. I could choose my shampoo, make-up, soap etc. 

Try to go for package free or green products if possible. My number one swap would be for a bamboo toothbrush, but check out my post on 15 zero waste bathroom swaps here

Lush also has a number of awesome beauty products you can buy plastic-free. I remember having a lot of bath bombs in high school. As a bonus, those products are also perfect gifts for friends. 

7. rent formal wear

Let me tell you something. From experience, you will not wear your prom dress again. You won't do it. It will sit in your childhood closet until you donate it.

You will grow hips... probably boobs too. You will become a woman and that dress won't fit. Most of the guys I know rented their tuxes. Take a cue from the gentlemen and give renting a try.

Nowadays there are TONS of websites like Rent the Runway that will let you rent gorgeous designer dresses for a fraction of the price of owning a dress, and you'll save valuable closet space.

8. get involved

See if there's a local organization you can get plugged into around your town or school. Volunteer for a beach clean up or pick up trash around town. Get involved! 

Make the environment, picking up trash, fighting climate change as one of your extracurricular activities. Not only will it look good on that college resume, but your parents are more likely to get involved too just by association. 

related post: Zero Waste School Supplies

9. take responsibility

Take the initiative. Ask if you can cook dinner one night. Ask if you can go and buy the groceries. Ask if you go to the farmers market. Ask if you can handle the cleaning for the week. I'm going to guess your parents would probably be more than happy to let you try your hand at a new task, if they can remove it from their to-do list. 

If you're allowed to take control of an aspect, then you can try it out zero waste. If it goes successfully, maybe your parents will give it a try! But, be warned you might also wind up with a new weekly chore. 

10. talk to your parents

The most important thing you can do is educate your family. Be careful that you don't preach to your parents. Nagging won't get you anywhere. But, when you're truly interested and excited about something, you want to share it. 

Maybe pick a documentary on trash like "The True Cost" or "The Minimalists" or "The Clean Bin Project," when it's your turn to pick the movie on movie night. Always be kind, but make sure that you tell your parents how you feel and why you feel that way. 

They may or may not accept it, but it is important to try and talk to them. 

Your parents, also want to spend time with you. They want to be a part of your life. As you get older, your relationship tends to grow apart. Maybe even try to suggest some family outings like a family trip to the farmers market, to the local co-op or bulk store.

Try a mother-daughter date where you try and make your own cosmetics like mascara, a face mask, lotion, or mouthwash. Get your dad into composting, talk about how zero waste can save your money, or teach him how easy it is to make household cleaners. The average American family spends $42 a month on cleaners! Eek! 

Those are some of the tips I have on how you can go zero waste if you still live at home. I hope you have found them helpful.

Do you have any other tips? Do you live with your parents and there's something else you do to reduce your waste? 

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