One of our favorite customers at the shop is a delightful professional cellist and proud owner of many, many jars. Jars of all shapes and sizes. Jars in which she keeps and transports the food she buys at the shop.
It wasn’t that long ago that many shoppers recognized the folly in amassing a dozen plastic bags every time they went to the supermarket. Many of us decided to take our own reusable bags. The plastic ones are convenient, and they’re not terrible for dog-walk cleanup (except when they have a hole in the bottom you didn’t notice until you went for the scoop), but they also happen to be an environmental nightmare. Plastic shopping bags decompose at a rate of never-in-a-million-years and you’ve probably already used enough of them to fill your own personal landfill. So even if you couldn’t care less about environmental damage, they’re simply a pain to deal with–you stockpile bags into other bags or stuff them into the trash, where they expand and fall out, then make a beeline toward the nearest child’s esophagus. Malicious things, they are!
Anyway, this customer’s solution is jars. We fill her jars with chicken, with steaks, with glorious cheese. Another customer came in today, actually, with metal containers she wanted us to fill with delicious foods. “They won’t touch my containers at [insert corporate grocery store here],” she complained. Would we be willing to use her containers instead of paper and plastic? Of freaking course we would.
Look, I take a pretty mainstream view of global warming and pollution: it’s very real and very bad. But I also take a pretty mainstream approach to dealing with it–one best described as lazy and hypocritical. I reduce (when convenient), reuse (when convenient), and recycle (when convenient). I don’t justify my behavior, but I admit to it.
But our beloved customer with the jars takes action. And you know what? It doesn’t look very inconvenient. Her jars are lovely, especially when filled with beautiful cheese. She can use them over and over without filling her trashcan (and our planet) with plastic. When she gets home, she simply puts her jars in the fridge–no unpacking necessary. They keep her food safe and air-tight as well as visible. She tells me that her food keeps quite well and resists spoilage in the jars better than it would in the butcher paper or plastic she’d get otherwise. Even the blue cheese she buys does just fine in the jars–it doesn’t dry out, nor does it turn soupy. Her meat holds up much better than it would in butcher paper. And when she wants to marinate her beef she simply pours the liquid into the jar–couldn’t be easier.
Is it a pain for us to use her jars instead of doing what we normally do? Not really. Maybe a little. But not really. We tend to delight in the opportunity to support her efforts and please a customer and be one of the few places in town willing to take an extra few seconds to cut cheese to fit or roll a skirt steak to fill a jar.
I don’t really know what the health department would have to say. But ethically, we couldn’t be more well-assured. We run a pretty low waste operation. I’ve worked at corporate groceries, so I’ve seen how disgusting waste can be, throwing away multiple garbage cans of food and plastic garbage every day, pretending I’m not outraged. Even now, I wish we could reduce waste further, but food safety requires disposable gloves and plastic sheet barriers and so on–and safety is certainly a priority. But when jar woman gives us an opportunity to *not* waste another paper bag, another sheet of plastic, another swath of butcher paper or cheese paper? We’re in. And what’s the cost to us? Well, it’s lower than the status quo, isn’t it? We spend a boatload on paper bags and plastic. In fact, she’s unfortunately paying for those items even though she doesn’t use them. If more customers brought their own jars, I bet costs would come down as our expenses decreased. And the jars cost her nothing. Jars come into our lives all the time–she simply uses them rather than hauling them to the recycling center. From all angles–practical, financial, and environmental–it would seem that jar woman is on to something.
I also just love the aesthetics of it–a home display of glass jars filled with beautiful food. Every refrigerator a museum of lovely foodstuffs! Bring me your jars! I will put luscious cheeses into them!