As our everyday lives become inundated with plastic, we are overwhelming pressed to weigh the short-term conveniences with the long-term burdens this waste leaves us with. Plastic is quite a pesky little monster, sneaking into nearly every aspect of life. It’s at the grocery store in the form of bottles, plastic bags, and plastic containers that hold our food and beverages. It’s what you carry your groceries home in. It’s part of your daily beauty ritual, housing your lotions, cosmetics, hair care, and the like. And that’s just where plastic sits on the surface of everyday life – if you really look hard enough, you’ll find that plastic has firmly wedged itself into so many (too many!) aspects of your everyday routine.
And the damage that our plastic lifestyles are having is not going unnoticed. Roughly a trillion plastic shopping bags are used every year worldwide. An estimated 50 billion plastic water bottles are used in the United States alone every year. And that plastic isn’t going anywhere soon. A plastic cup may take 50-80 years to degrade. A plastic bottle may take up to 1,000 years to do the same. But before any of that plastic has a chance to “go away,” it’s going out to the ocean at the rate of 8 million tons a year. And once in the ocean, it’s free to harm animals like sea turtles, whales, and birds.
The answer to this plastic problem is simple: stop using plastic. But how we go about doing that is a bit more complex. Fortunately, we’re in an age of endless possibilities, innovation and creativity. One particularly interesting replacement to plastic use can be found in something you’ve most likely got hanging around your house already: the mason jar.
A Jar For Every Occasion
Mason jars have seen quite the surge in popularity over the last few years. And the newest darlings of Pinterest and DIY blogs aren’t just a chic new décor and kitchen staple – they’re awesome sustainable solutions to many of life’s little plastic hangups. Kind of like the “thneeds” of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” (except without all the deforestation), a simple and unassuming mason jar actually has dozens of uses outside of just canning tomatoes and jam. Want to get some ideas for using mason jars in place of that pesky plastic? Read on!
- Smoothie Cup: If you’re a smoothie person and not the type to chug right from the blender, you no doubt need something to drink your healthy concoction from. A mason jar with a lid can follow you out the door with your smoothie in tow for an easy breakfast on-the-go.
- Fresh Juice Cups: If you like to make fresh juice at home, storing your juice until you can drink it is one of the troubles you probably face. Pour the fruity and veggie goodness into individual mason jars so you can easily grab and gulp single servings as you wish.
- Coffee/Tea Cup: Those reusable mugs are fine and dandy for on-the-go coffee and tea, but you need not spend money on them if you’ve got a mason jar around. Whether iced or hot, you can take your caffeine or herbal fixes on the road with you! Just watch the pressure that can build up with hot drinks in a sealed jar.
- Cereal Bowl: If you want to take your bowl of cereal to go, you can with a mason jar! You can eat your o’s and flakes from the jar just the same as any bowl, and it’ll seal up once you’re done so there aren’t any leaks until you wash it out.
In Your Lunchbox
- Salad Shaker: Here’s an eco-friendly and healthy lunchtime solution for replacing fast-food or packaged edibles. Pack your salad fixin’s in a mason jar and tote along some dressing. At lunchtime just toss the dressing in, close the lid, give it shake, and enjoy!
- Hot Food Container: Mason jars are a great way to pack your soup or leftover rice and veggies from the night before. The jar is microwavable, so you can enjoy a nice, hot meal midday. Just don’t nuke the metal lid and you’re good to go!
- Snack Tote: Where do you regularly use plastic Tupperware, plastic bags, or packaged food on a regular basis? Your mason jar might be able to help you out. Pack carrot and celery sticks, trail mix, dried fruit, granola, or any other noshing material you want throughout the day in a mason jar and rest easy knowing you’re snacking plastic-free.
In The Kitchen
- Saving Leftovers: Mason jars can take the place of many of the less sustainable options for leftovers we often have floating around the kitchen. Leftover soups and stews, stir-fry’s, pasta, etc. can all be tossed in a mason jar instead of plastic Tupperware that’ll eventually wear out and break down. Two thumbs up for avoiding food and plastic waste!
- Drinking Glass: Are all of your drinking glasses in the dishwasher, or do you simply want a less conventional option for drinking your juice and water? Mason jars work just the same as a regular old drinking glass.
- Storing Bulk Items: Mason jars can make great storage options for anything you may have picked up in the bulk section at the grocery store. Flours, rice, pasta, sugar, coffee beans, nuts …what else? You can get your hands on mason jars of various sizes to keep your pantry well stocked and plastic-free.
- Homemade Salad Dressing: Who doesn’t like homemade salad dressing? Mason jars give you the option to make and store your own salad dressing right in the same container- no mess and no cleanup! Add your oils, vinegar, salt, pepper, spices and herbs into the jar, give it a shake, pour, and store!
In Your Bathroom
- Liquid Soap Container: If you buy your liquid hand soap in a bulk container, you can use a mason jar for a cute and functional soap dispenser. Outfit your jar with a pump top and you can keep your mitts clean without the need to buy a plastic bottle every time you run out.
- Bath Salt Storage: Do you make your own bath salts to relax and soak the day away? Storing them in a Tupperware container is an option, but a mason jar would probably look more attractive sitting on your counter or in your shower.
- Face scrub Storage: Same with the bath salt idea- if you make your own face scrub and need a visually appealing and functional way to store the stuff, give a mason jar a whirl!
Around the House
- Candle Holders: You don’t need to spend gobs on candle holders if you have a handful of mason jars laying around. They look great with tea lights and votives inside. As an added bonus, you can decorate the outside of the jar to up the décor factor.
- Potpourri Containers: If you like having yummy smelling scents around the house, don’t bother with fancy little bowls and dishes to hold the stuff. Again, a mason jar is an easy solution!
- Flower Vases: Pick a mason jar that suits the height of your bouquet and forget about those expensive vases at the store. Leave it untouched, or paint it for an extra pop of color and added effect.
- Etc., etc., etc.: What else is hanging around the house, needing a home? Spare keys? Nails and screws? Coins? Match sticks? Anywhere you’re tempted to use a plastic container or bag to house any little bits and pieces, consider subbing in the mason jar.
Tthe options are endless when it comes to the many uses of mason jars. And it should also be mentioned that you don’t necessarily have to go out and buy a box of jars from the store – you may have some sitting around the house to begin with. Snatch up the empty jar once you polish off grandma’s homemade jam or see if a friend or family has a few extras that you can use. Finding new life for old things is a great sustainable choice and one that the environment will love you for!
Lead Image Source: Celeste Lindell/ Flickr