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The Mason Jar- Zero Waste Living

The Mason jar is a versatile container for Zero Waste living.

In 1858, John Landis Mason, patented a square-shouldered jar with a threaded screw-top, matching lid and rubber ring for an airtight seal. His design would revolutionize home preserving allowing food to be safely stored and used beyond the season of harvesting, but it would be after his patent expired in 1879 that competitors would market his design to the masses. While the invention would continue to bear his name, John Landis Mason would die in poverty.

By the early twentieth century, industrial advances made jar manufacturing faster and more economical. Mason jars became the container for home canning. Wartime efforts promoted   “ Victory Gardens” and preserving food by home canning but after the war years with the proliferation of supermarkets and the marketing of store bought products home canning declined.

Sales of mason jars are once again spiking up, in part, because  there is a revived interest in home canning, but also because the brand owners like Ball and Bernardin recognized that consumers were looking for eco-friendly packaging , versatile products for do it yourself projects, and healthy comfort food. Marketing strategies changed to social media and online canning demonstrations instead of traditional print ads. Pinterest andfacebook help to connect to a younger market.

Many of us for health and environmental reasons are attempting to use less plastic, the Mason jar offers us an alternative container. One of the easiest places to reduce plastics is in the kitchen. Glass advocates highlight that glass containers do not leach harmful chemicals into food or drink, glass does not absorb odours or food colours, glass lasts longer, glass can be made of recycled content and can be recycled.

The Mason jar is more that a jar. The versatility of the design of the jar with the metal rim top and screw-top neck make it a container that can easily be adapted for uses beyond holding jam. The standardized design of the product allows innovators to create accessories that turn the jar into a reusable drink cups and soap dispensers.

The attractive appearance of the jar has encourages the consumer go beyond the display in the kitchen cupboard and find more uses for the containers. Mason jars can be seen as hanging lights, centre pieces for weddings, bathroom accessories as well as individual serving containers for oatmeal and salads. It is a container that can easily be repurposed.

Mason jars can be used to freeze foods. Both Kerr and Ball brands of jars have a freeze fill line marked on jars. Remember to thaw slowly and that to leave room for expansion of liquids when frozen.

Rodents and pests can get into dry goods stored in jars. Kombucha and ice tea can be brewed in Mason jars. Mason Jars have lots of uses for The Zero Waste household.

The original use of the Mason jar that allows safe, convenient preserving of food for another day is also incredibly important as we do our part to remedy food waste and food insecurity issues.

The Mason jar is a product designed for a Zero Waste lifestyle.

More ideas on recipes and Mason jar uses

Salad in a Jar
Salad in a jar

Another Path Towards Zero Waste – A Glass Blower Leads The Way

Guest blog post: Erich Schwartz is a Management Consultant and Entrepreneur focused on developing and implementing sustainable business practices for a variety of businesses, governments, and organizations – globally and across industries. Specifically, he has been highly successful with sustainability programs, large scale information and educational technology projects, and telecommunications infrastructure integration projects for Fortune 500, Crown Corporations, Governments, and mid-size businesses throughout the world.

Wayne Harjula and Miyuki Shinkai have been evolving their glass blowing studio, Mellon Glass, since 1996. By evolving, I mean they have consciously moved away from industry trends by creating hand formed drinking glasses from discarded bottles and jars. These drinking glasses are distinct from a number of perspectives in that they; support community engagement, use materials that would otherwise be crushed or recycled, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create local employment opportunities in a small community.

The evolution of their glass blowing practices were built upon Wayne’s experience growing up in a small scale farm where he learned to be resourceful, reuse or repair things, and be environmentally aware. From this foundation, Wayne has always been concerned about waste and has become very much involved in promoting Zero Waste and developing solutions to move toward a Zero Waste society. Wayne had heard of the “Glass Mountain” and finally got to see it first hand at the Gibsons Resource Recovery Centre located in Gibsons, BC, Canada and owned and operated by Buddy Boyd and Barb Hetherington. Buddy and Barb are leaders in Zero Waste and are board members of Zero Waste Canada. They have cooperated with Wayne in helping him develop his glass prototypes by supplying the bottles and jars for Wayne’s experiments.

Creating drinking glasses from the “Glass Mountain” was not enough for Wayne, as he also wanted to use the seductive medium to constructively engage the community. To do so, Wayne engaged local merchants and individuals to develop distinct glasses with a message that increased awareness of the environment, the community, or anything else of cultural importance in a positively engaging way. For example, one of the first creations was a Zero Waste glass with a picture of a pig. Another more politically oriented series include the words “Delete, delete, delete!” which refers to an extensive series of emails being deleted by the ruling political party in British Columbia (See inserted picture).  Further opportunities to engage people is through local merchants developing their own line of glasses that may reflect the street on which they are located, the town, or any kind of distinct personally derived theme they fancy. Think Knitting or Seed Bombs.

In addition to being able to make large numbers of the same glass themes, Wayne has reduced his greenhouse gas footprint by 95% due to the unique heating process for making his glasses. Of course, as demonstrated by much of the work done by Greenomics, a consultancy in sustainable business practices, a reduction in green house gas emissions correlates directly to reductions in operating costs. Thus, Mellon Glass has reduced its gas bill from approximately $24,000/year down to $1,200/year. Plans are also underway to capture the excess heat used to create the glasses for heating bottle washing water, warming homes, and meeting other energy needs. Zero Waste applies to energy too.

While Wayne explained in his unassuming and humble manner the processes that led to his up-cycled glasses, I realized that what was really being described wasn’t the glasses at all. Rather, it was more an expression to build community, explore and learn together, be respectful of our environment, and  seek greater meaning. In other words, to create an attractive and lifelong alternative to the mainstream consumerism that is alienating and destroying our environment. The glasses are one example of creating something that is functional, captivating, environmentally sensitive, and brings people together.

This is one light toward a better future.