Zero waste mistakes

Listen. We all make mistakes. And here’s one I made this week.

I bought a $15 jar of hummus.

Here’s how it happened. I like hummus. I don’t want to make hummus. Ready-made hummus comes in a plastic tub with a plastic seal and a plastic film over the hummus. It’s a lot of plastic and I don’t want it in my life. So I thought I’d game the system—have my hummus and eat it, too—by bringing my own jar to the Whole Foods salad bar, where I could fill it with hummus and go on my zero-waste way. And then I got to the cash register where I realized I’d made a terrible mistake.

And here’s the thing. When you take too many containers of hummus off the shelf, you can always put one back. You take too much hummus in your glass jar, what are you going to do—put it back? Nah. That’s not how it works. You fork over the cash and berate yourself on the way home. Then vow that next time you want hummus, you will call ahead to the Jordanian restaurant and ask them if they’ll fill your jar so you can take it to go.

The hummus was a silly mistake. But the kitty litter mistake makes me feel a little sick.

I adopted a senior cat last month. He’s a funny little creature, and like most cats he uses a litter box. I’ve thought about toilet training him but he’s an older cat and I don’t know if he can be persuaded to stop digging at his age. The good thing about toilet training is that you don’t have to use litter. (Theoretically, that is. I know people who do still use a bit of litter, which is not great for the pipes.) At any rate, for the moment, at least, I still buy litter. So when I heard that Petco sells bulk litter, I stopped by to check it out. I brought my own container and was told that’s not allowed. Okay, fine. So I’d have to get a plastic tub. But it would be the last one I’d ever buy. I weighed the pros and cons, mentally calculating the amount of cardboard recycling I’d generate by sticking to boxes (those boxes still have plastic handles!), or the waste I’d generate by switching to bags (not recyclable!), and I went for the plastic bulk containers. I was feeling okay about my purchase until I read something on a zero waste forum: Apparently that bulk litter comes in small plastic bags, which are dumped into the bulk bin. So I’m generating a lot more plastic waste than I realized going into this.

I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course the litter is transported to the store in plastic. Of course this is a case of greenwashing. But I wanted to believe and I went for it. So, now I’m not sure what to do. I could try toilet training the cat; I’m a little trepidatious but I suppose I should give it a shot. I could switch back to cardboard boxes of litter. Or I could do a little more research into this bulk litter thing. See if the commenter on the zero waste forums is correct and if there’s any other option.

I guess cats just throw a big wrench in efforts to reduce waste output. And then there’s hummus. Hummus causes a lot of problems, too.

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