Fitting all your food waste into a Mason jar is harder than it looks

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About five years ago, a 23-year-old New Yorker named Lauren Singer captured Americans’ imagination by accomplishing the amazing feat of being able to contain a year’s worth of her garbage in a 16-ounce Mason jar. It seemed like an impossible goal, but she spawned a host of imitators who religiously recycled, composted, and shunned takeout food.

Over the past year, many of us have been thinking of the Mason jar trash brigade again, especially in the light of reports that we’re wasting an astronomical amount of food, and feeling guilty for it. Last summer, A.C. Shilton, a writer for Outside, decided she would try to do her part by living for a month without generating any food waste.

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Shilton had a number of advantages, namely her backyard chickens, who were willing to eat spoiled produce. It was also summer and her garden was producing tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans, which would cut down on grocery packaging. She was already in the habit of composting. What could go wrong?

The first week went well. She made a meal plan. She and her husband ate the groceries and the leftovers and the chickens handled the excess. She was feeling smug. Then she made a venison stew that yielded far more leftovers than she’d anticipated. After six days, her husband rebelled. Things did not improve from there, especially when her garden started producing more than she and her husband could possibly eat on their own. Then her work schedule got busy and she didn’t have as much time for food prep and preservation. “I guess what I’m trying to say here,” she writes, “is it takes time, effort, and creativity to really eliminate food waste, especially when your life is hectic.”

There were some upsides to the experiment, though, namely that planning meals ahead meant that there were fewer nights when she and her husband found themselves hungry and dinner-less at 8 PM. (Which just reinforces the idea that modern life isn’t conducive to responsible eating, even for people who eat at home.) She also has a few useful tips for readers to eliminate their own food waste. The whole article is worth reading.

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About the author

Aimee Levitt

Aimee Levitt is associate editor of The Takeout.