Why I Won’t Keep A Zero Waste Jar


“Roughly 4.4 pounds of trash per person per day is produced by Americans.

“The world generates at least 3.5 million tons of plastic and other solid waste a day, 10 times the amount a century ago.”

“…And yet there are a growing number of people—often young millennial women—who are part of a zero-waste movement. Their yearly trash output can be small enough to fit inside an eight-ounce mason jar. These are not wannabe hippies, but people embracing a modern minimalist lifestyle. They say it saves them money and time and enriches their lives.”

touts National Geographic Article “How People Make Only a Jar of Trash a Year

Naturally, as a self-proclaimed sustainable person, I am supremely jealous of how “good” these bohemian minimalists are.

Image Courtesy of National Geographic

They’re beautiful, they’re satisfied, and if this photo of Zero Waster, Kathryn Kellogg, is any accurate, they go around cities beautifying the landscape picking up trash, despite their partners using non-recyclable plastic dog waste bags to pick up their cute dog’s poop. (just kidding. I’m not judging you.)
“Kathryn Kellogg is one of those young millennials who has downsized her trash pile—anything that hasn’t been composted or recycled—so two years’ worth literally fits inside one 16-ounce jar. Meanwhile, the average American produces 1,500 pounds of trash a year.”
Now Sandy and I sure try to do our best.

We made a couple meals out of foraged food out of the underground food court in Toronto

When we travel, we have the time and the adventurous notion to try to live off of other people’s waste.

We visit food courts and pick select items out of the trash.

We visit the back of bakeries and freeze the overflow of bread, so that we can slowly consume the waste that would otherwise rot in a dump and eventually release harmful methane to destroy our world’s ozone layer.

One of the easiest things to forage, bagels

We don’t know why more people would do this.
Or why there is not a law to stop all of this food from being wasted. It’s harmful and disgusting. Much more disgusting than us eating from the trash.
But we understand, it’s really inconvenient to be Zero waste. Who else enjoys having to constantly carry a backpack with Tupperware to either host food we’re working through eating, or to place items we find along our journey that we’d like to store and eat later?

Even our tupperware has been foraged.

It’s really not fashionable to constantly have a backpack on. It’s not fun to load it up to the point where it’s so heavy it hurts my back as I walk up 5 floors to our apartment.
And sometimes, sometimes, we like to be really wasteful.
We like to play with our food, like the time we went to a Pie Throw at the Brick Theatre to celebrate Clown Month.

Sometimes we create waste for fun

Or sometimes.. we like to order prepared food, like NYC’s best onigiri, freshly wrapped in plastic, an easy grab and go, from Harper’s Bread House in Chinatown.

The best onigiri in NYC can be found in Chinatown, not in Midoriya or some other Japanese Market.

So what would a jar of our waste look like?
I’m not sure. I’m too horrified to imagine it.
I know that in our home we generate a medium sized bag of garbage every 2 months. I’m proud of that, but horrified in comparison to what the Zero Wasters are able to accomplish.
I’m like the rest of you at the end of the day. I don’t want to drive myself mad with logistics and the guilt and I’d associate with that jar. I’m already constantly pulling the composte bag from the bridge all live long day, and it’s mentally wearing at times having to plan how to get the frozen bags to the Green Markets for composting.
So what’s my advice for those of you considering Zero Waste?
Go for it if you have the gumption. I admire you.
And if not, if it seems much too overwhelming, as it does for me, simply consider trying to do better, one step at a time.

Some steps to be better

  • Start w/ a composte bucket that once a week you bring to a Green Market (or dump in the woods or at Whole Foods).
  • Keep plastic bags in your bag or car, so you can re-use them.
  • Bring tupperware to take home restaurant leftovers or to pick up bulk food, to avoid unnecessary packaging.
  • Learn more about the waste problem, watching docs, reading articles, and joining groups that advocate for less waste. The more aware you are, the more motivated you will be to take these steps + to help others do the same. Cause at the end of the day, we can all be better, and deep down, want to be better.


NY Nomads