Updated: Apr 14
I can't bear to contain my love for jars, boxes, canisters, vessels, bottles, bags, capsules...
If you got that mom pun, good on you.
Before I went zero waste, I had an appreciation for uniquely and beautifully designed packaging. My husband can confirm what he calls "your odd obsession". When we were dating, every time he would get me a present, he would often point out how much more excited I was about the packaging, (especially boxes) than the actual gift. At first I think he taught he must be buying me the wrong gifts, till he finally got it. I am simply obsessed with things that can hold other things.
It was no surprise that I fell in love with the zero waste movement partly due to its reusable and sustainable packaging approach to eliminating waste. Plus the lack of branding, and the minimalist aesthetic is simply fulfilling.
I recently joined a fb group called "Zero Waste Startup Zürich". Today, I received a (what seems generic) message from one of the group members. I thought I`d scroll through the groups wall and pinned at the top was a "Food container Challenge". " Post a picture of your containers if you dare and let us know how you managed to set yourself up for a more sustainable lifestyle!"- Daniel Kunz, food container challenge description.
It inspired me to do an altered version of that challenge here on my blog as well.
Where do you get your containers from?
Everywhere. I bought my meat, cheese, larger dry produce jars, fruit and veggie bags, snack boxes and take away containers when I first went zero waste.
I get the majority of my purchased containers from:
With smaller containers I tend to simply up-cycle from baby food jars, oil bottles, essential oil bottles, coffee beans canisters, cookie boxes, yogurt pots, drink bottles, cough drop capsules, etc. I also hold on to juice, sirup, ice tea bottles and Weck jars from low waste restaurants or at my local bakery https://www.johnbaker.ch/ .
Including this I reuse smaller paper bags from bulk, bio and zero waste stores.
Whats the right size of containers?
My container sizes range from:
2L to 20g.
In detail it does depend on the quantity and size of food.
So for spaghetti for example, I need higher glass jars. For me the 1,5- 2L le parfait super jars work best. I purchase or keep containers based on my quantity needs. So I typically go shopping for dry produce at my local zero waste store or while on holiday in France once a month. This is based on three factors:
My local zero waste store is quiet a distance from where I live.
If I go with public transport, there is only soo much I can carry back home (expect for liquids, I do not purchase in jars.)
I like to purchase in monthly bulk anyway, just so that its easier to plan ahead and I don't run out too fast.
During these shopping visits I tend to purchase in 250g, 500g, 1kg, 1L formats, this is based on the above mentioned factors. For example with nuts, I purchase either 500g/1Kg per month.
In this case, I would take along a cloth bag that can contain that amount and have a jar at home that can store the full amount.
With DIYs I can determine the amount of product I make based on the size containers I have available.
My meat is purchased and stored in 1L (1000g) Le parfait super terrines jars.
DIY body butter, prep or disinfectant wipes, dish washing powder, get stored in 500g Le parfait super terrines jars.
I also have 385 ml le parfait jam jars which I use for left over dry foods, store prep veggie cuts or left over açai.
In the case of my spices, they are stored in up-cycled yogurt/mustard pots (230/180g), baby food jars old (100G) spice containers, coffee canisters (160/250g) and purchased glass bottles (90g).
0,5L,1L and 2L up cycled oil bottles that I reuse to purchase oils or dish soap, cleaning and cooking (apple) vinegar.
Fabric bags I sourced from Sin Splástico, Chez Mamie Zurich and once regrettably from Mirgos (nylon bags). My fruit and veggie bags sizing includes: 20, 30 and 40g bags. Shopping bags sizing: 41x 38 cm (w x h) and 38 x 40 cm (w x h).
Our Egg cartons are reused (4,6 and 16 sets).
Stasher bags 450ml and 239.5ml.
What is your favourite container material and why?
Beyond everything, glass. I love how minimalist they are, clean they look and I enjoy being able to see what food I have where by just opening up my cabinets and taking a peak. Glass is not only natural, and returns back to the earth, but it is most importantly non toxic. It is aesthetically beautiful and can be stained.
Greatest disadvantage with glass is that it breaks. Ive had jars break from being dropped as well as just from unfreezing irresponsibly. I must say though, also most people would be hesitant about glass around kids, the majority of broken glass hasn't come from my kids, and it isn't because they don't handle them- they do, freely. The truth is I am a natural klutz, but I am still ironically attracted to one of the two fragile sustainable materials (ceramic being the other).
Here are some other container materials I do have and their vantages and disadvantages:
Ceramics/ Pottery: includes earthware, terracotta (earthware), stoneware and porcelain. Advantage: made of natural elements, thus biodegradable. If unglazed with toxic chemicals, is non toxic. Disadvantage: Breaks easily. Higher initial cost.
Stainless Steel: God sent metal. Advantage: No rust. Extremely durable. Non toxic. Made of naturally occurring elements. Highly recyclable. Disadvantage: generally more expensive (initial cost) due to higher cost of manufacturing.
Wood: I have wood container covers and container and boxes I use for cosmetics, toileties and first aid items. Advantage: naturally occurring material. Can be toxic if lacquered with toxic treatments. Quiet durable. Disadvantage: Can cause deforestation, if not sustainably sourced and replaced. Expands and falls apart when too exposed to water or both hard and naturally occurring chemicals.
Silicone: Plastics better half.
I personally don't like purchasing silicone though. For more reasons than I can cover here. I have 3 types of silicone products in my house. One of which is a container: Stasher, Reusable silicone food bags. And I do not use this to stash food, rather as a reusable container for travelling with liquids on planes.
Cotton: I have these in the form of fruit, veggies and shopping bags. Advantage: Naturally occurring fibres and biodegradable. lightweight transporting. Disadvantage: More expensive. Fibres wear faster than synthetics. Holds moisture. shrinks.
Nylon: I have fruit, and veggies bags made of this material. Advantage: Fibres don't wear as easy. Disadvantage: In hotter washes, fibres can melt. Lightweight transporting. Dries faster. Inexpensive. Elasticity gives. Disadvantage: losses fibres when washed, and these plastic based fibres end up in water bodies in the form of toxic and deadly micro plastics.
Contrary to popular belief, Zero Wasters DO use plastics. For many, plastic isn't an issue as long as it is not activated to release high level of toxins (like scratched, or heated) or it doesn't come into contact with the human body and food. Above all, if plastics kept for reusing purposes, it falls into sustainable use.
What container do you use for what types of things?
Cotton, Nylon and Paper bags: shopping bulk. Lightweight transportation means I don't need to take along glass containers for most of my shopping. Pastries and Breads as well.
Glass Jars and bottles: I use these when shopping for "wets" or "melts", like meats, fish, oils, cocoa butter, flowers, reusable tissues (handkerchiefs), water/drinks or aloe vera gel. In addition we up cycle these was drinking glasses (kids included), Cleaning brushes storage, coin and money jars, storing Montessori interactive (sand, play dough, threading beads etc), stationary cups, DIY toys, DIY musical instruments and learning tools.
Stasher Silicone pouch: reusable cosmetic seal for travelling.
DIY Glass Spray bottles: Used for DIY all purpose cleaner, and descaling cleaner. DIY body spray, DIY face toner, DIY aftersun and DIY hair anti frizz.
Glass bottle with glass pipette head: Diapering (almond) oil and body/hair oil.
Glass bottle with pump head: Dish soap, Body cream.
Glass Jars: Storage of dry produce, like rice, spices, teas, pasta, quinoa, cereals, grains, nuts, teas, chalk, period cups, DIY cleaning storage (toilet tabs, dishwasher powder/tabs, laundry soap etc). Storing loose and small veggies (mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, fruits (berries) and fresh herbs).
Glass drug and medicine bottles: up-cycle these for travelling with liquid cosmetics and oils.
Metal Canisters: teas, coffee and sweets. All the selected items are better stored in canisters to prevent air for drying them out. I even store lip balms, hair pomades and bar soaps and deos.
Air tight glass jars and bottles: Mould prone and anything that can leak. Leftovers, take away, meats, fish, DIY body butter, DIY prep or disinfectant wipes.
Stainless steel or glass boxes and containers: Left overs, take away, snacks, sanitary storage of reusable tampons, travelling containers for bar soap, solid shampoo, solid deodorant etc
Glass Tupperware with