I really want to be one of those people who can put all her waste for the month in a small canning jar. I dream of shopping in zero-waste or nearly-zero-waste stores, y’know, schlepping my containers in there to buy the hemp soap and whole grains like barley and farro and fill my olive oil jar from the big drums with little spigots and perfect funnels. Those people are so crunchy granola, and I think they are awesome.
But, I don’t know what hemp soap is, actually.
And I buy barley and farro…and then I throw them away 3 years later because, well, because they are not rice, I suppose.
And I buy a giant bottle of olive oil at a ridiculously huge store that I love, love, love…and when I’m done with it, I recycle it.
See, I’d like to be a zero-waster, but it’s probably a good idea for me to just learn to waste less things. Like it would be super easy not to waste farro by throwing it away when it is ancient and has made me feel weird every time I clean out the cupboards and find it in there…again. I could actually be honest with myself at the store and say, “Jennifer. You have bought farro twice. The first time was because that Italian couple on the Food Network was funny and clever, and they were cooking with farro, which they told you was super healthful for you (oh, they likely said it was healthy for you, but grammatically, that makes no sense, so…), so you Googled it, and they were super right. Farro is packed with healthful nutrients. So you bought it, cooked it, wished you liked it, but you didn’t, but you weren’t going to give up on it, so you put it away in the cupboard…until you threw it away years later. You bought it; you tried to like it; you threw it away. We are going to give you that wasteful move as a freebie – because you didn’t KNOW that you weren’t going to like it when you bought it. (Oh, you could have given it to someone who likes it, but you didn’t even try to find that person, mostly because you are not certain that Italian couple would take your calls…or your partly used bag of farro.)”
But the second time you bought it? (and waited a while) And threw it away? WASTE.
And the gluttony in your freezer that you don’t eat, gets freezer burned, and you throw it away? WASTE.
So, you see, there are one million ways I can reduce my waste without learning about hemp soap or whatever. And actually, I’m becoming more convicted that focusing on one small and fairly odd way to reduce my waste is, in fact, just a distraction from what I already know is true.
Sometimes I waste things (including money) because I don’t remember that I already bought them.
Shampoo is on sale.
Do I have a bottle in the cupboard?
I can’t remember, so probably not.
I’ll just get a bottle because it’s not like I don’t need shampoo.
It’s not a splurge or anything.
*sighs while shoving the new shampoo bottle in the crowded cupboard under the bathroom sink…next to the other 4 bottles of shampoo.*
I could put three bandages on my body every day for the next year…and still likely have some to share with you. Though I’m completely uncertain that you would like to use Rugrats Band-Aids which are for-the-most-part still sealed for sterile use. I’m pretty sure Sage picked those out in elementary school.
I have more Chapstick and Visine and aspirin than I can use in 5 years. Not because I feel like I need more, but because I do not have a real sense of what I have.
I. Have. That. Much.
So, last January, I started something new. Now, starting something new is nothing new for me. I am always trying a new system or pattern because I always feel scattered, and if just one part of a system or pattern will stick to me and help me out, it’s worth it all.
Last January, I took a little measuring cup into the shower, and when I washed my hair with two pumps of shampoo (for my long hair), I pumped it into that little measuring cup first and discovered that I used 1 ounce of shampoo each time I washed my hair. Then, I looked at the giant pump container of shampoo from the giant store I love and saw it contained 70 ounces. Then, I calculated how many ounces of shampoo I would need for the year, and I went to my ridiculous shampoo stash and calculated that it would last me the rest of the year.
I did the same for body wash, discovered I would need to buy 1 more container to last the year, AND I BOUGHT IT.
I checked out my toothpaste and mouthwash and floss.
I figured out how many dishwasher detergent pods I use in a year.
I calculated how many kitchen trash bags I use, how much laundry detergent and hand soap and dish soap and paper towels and AA batteries and Qtips and deodorant and multivitamins and …you get the idea.
I figured out how much/many I need for a year, inventoried what I already had, and bought the rest of it.
Here’s what this means for me and my distractible mind that struggles to sort and remember things:
Shampoo is on sale.
(unless it is currently December) I don’t need any.
I did it in 2017 and learned a lot about myself and my needs.
I’m doing it again in 2018, and while it is an initial outlay of extra cash, I am beyond certain that I’m saving money.
And I know I’m not wasting as much. I buy in bulk, so there is a bit less packaging. I’m not buying so much of something, so I may spend a bit more on a brand that treats the planet better in their processes and packaging.
One of my favorite purchases was/is toilet paper. I found a great company that shipped a box of 48 rolls of toilet paper to my house. (I know there is a huge ecological footprint in the shipping industry, but the TP I buy in the store down the street is shipped there, so, I’m not sure what to do about that.) It’s made out of bamboo, so it’s not depleting forests. The company spends much of its profit on bringing sanitation supplies and toilets to the developing world.
And it has the best name:
And this toilet paper comes in paper wrappers in a cardboard box, so while that is still packaging, and we still have to process it, it is recyclable – unlike the plastic wrapping on the TP from the store. So, there’s one tiny way to create less waste.
I’m not that girl who can put all her month’s trash in a little jar, but I’m learning to do things better.
I have a compost pile, and I just bought a bar of shampoo to use after I finish the bottle of shampoo in my shower. I know, right?! A bar of shampoo? Yep. I’m going to try it. It would mean buying less plastic bottles, which would be fantastic.
But, it could be that I have a partially used bar of shampoo to go with that partially full bag of farro.
Thomas Merton etched something on my heart when I was in college. I read and memorized this prayer of his, and the sentences I have highlighted below echo through my life in many ways. In this case, I may not be going about reducing my waste in the best way possible, but I believe that my desire to do so, and my actions to that end, matter and are good.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”