My first lesson in zero-waste living came in the kitchen of my grandparents’ house. My grandmother often went to bed hungry as a child, but throughout my childhood, she made me food that made us not just full, but happy — peach ice cream only once the local crop was ready, fried chicken stretched with rice to feed a crowd, a depression-era chess pie somehow made with barely any ingredients. Each time we ate together, she reminded us all that we would be using and appreciating every bit of what we had been given by grace that day. No food to be thrown away, no empty butter tubs that wouldn’t have a second life as a home for leftovers, no bacon trimmings that wouldn’t reappear in biscuits or beans. She worked miracles and taught me the power that comes from being thoughtful whenever purchasing and resourceful enough to use everything, every time. That is sustainability.
Tip: When heading to work, Jacobs packs a daily kit that includes these reusable items: water bottle, coffee cup, silverware, straw, cloth napkin, food container and clip-on bag. The food container may contain lunch, but she also uses it instead of a disposable plate at campus events that serve food. The clip-on bag comes in handy when she stops at a store on the way home. She also keeps an index card box on her desk that she uses as her trash container for the day. “This is usually enough to keep me pretty low-waste,” Jacobs said.
Caitlin Jacobs is the sustainability program manager in the Office of Sustainability. un in NDWorks Weekly.