Chicken in a jar

This is a post about changing a habit. Habits take time. They require practice. Practice makes almost perfect. Why almost perfect? I believe that perfection is a perceived destination and that the journey is the actual destination.

If you’re like me, I’m on several journeys at any given time. This is about my journey to deepen a habit: to reduce my consumption of unnecessary waste and single use items. While this is something I’ve been working on for years and have gotten very good at, I was inspired to up my game after meeting Beth Terry, blogger extraordinaire and tireless crusader of My Plastic-free Life, in 2010. At the time, Beth interviewed me for an awesome piece she wrote about bringing our own reusable containers out into the world.

When I saw her April 17 post on Facebook announcing she would be attending the Lunchbox Project SF, a pre-Earth Day “large-scale Day of Action in which San Franciscans will order lunch in our own, reusable containers,” I kept my schedule clear so I could meet her for lunch with the very thing that brought us together in the first place!

Uncertain what the dining options were going to be, I decided to make and bring my own meal. The day before the event, I gathered the ingredients: housemade linguine and fresh ricotta cheese from the Italian deli down the street, arugula from the week’s farm box, and lemon from the tree in the backyard.

Eek! I know. That’s a single-use plastic container. I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) in the past to have the food I purchase from this particular deli put into my reusable glass containers and have given up (for now) after being told they wouldn’t do so. Small shops like this allow a patron to buy the quantities they need while spending less and, ultimately, wasting less. Manufacturer-packaged cheese would come in a larger plastic container with more cheese than I need and be sealed with a little plastic sheet, so the deli is the best imperfect option for now. I was relieved that the pasta was wrapped in paper which I could recycle or add to the compost bin. Ideally, there would be no unwanted packaging, but sometimes I compromise and cringe while doing so.

The delicious noodly-cheesy lunchtime delight was packed in a glass container. Rounding out the meal were  homemade cookies, tea, and water. This was lunch for two as Sven, my partner in ecocitizenry, joined me for the event.

Arriving at the Lunchbox Project meeting place, I felt an extra bounce in my step. It was heart- and soul-warming to enter a downtown mall and watch a small group of people with reusables in their hands steadily swell in numbers. En masse it looked quite natural and normal. (Okay, so perhaps a little less than normal was Beth in her awesome single-use plastic monster ensemble.)

plastic pollution coalition at the lunchbox project

With our simple, collective action, every person assembled was making a quiet yet powerful statement and choosing to say no to this…

…on a busy Friday in the city’s Financial District. While they were notified of the event in advance, restaurant workers were noticeably challenged and amused by the flurry of customers who asked that their takeout be packed as illustrated in the photo on the left and not the way as depicted in the photo on the right.

As you can read and see in Sven’s post about the afternoon’s happenings, it wasn’t easy all the way around, especially for the guy who brought his frisbee as a plate!

All in all, it was a spirited and hopeful launch of new beginnings for Earth Day 2012. There’s no way of knowing if we changed anyone’s way of thinking or behaving that day, but I’d like to think we did.

The rest of my weekend was picture-perfect with only one picture to show for it. Graced with beautiful weather, Saturday morning was spent enjoying the urban outdoors with friends visiting from Santa Cruz. The evening was filled by an impromptu nighttime gathering with neighbors under the lemon tree in the garden. Earth Day itself included a morning bike ride to the bay followed by a walk around the neighborhood. I honored and celebrated the day by challenging myself to step into a new habit that I’ve been thinking about for the past two years. Inspired by the the opening photo of the blogpost for which Beth interviewed me, I grabbed a glass container and slipped it in my bag before stepping out for the walk. The destination was a local market where I ordered some chicken and asked if they could put it in my jar. With a smile, my request was granted.

The practice of a new waste-free habit has begun!


For more visual and written musings about The Lunchbox Project:

Beth Terry’s post on

Sven’s “lunchboxy” photo essay on A World of Words

11 thoughts on “Chicken in a jar

  1. What a fantastic account of an inspiring Earth Week! Well-written with spot-on, pro-as-usual photos. Changing habits is one of the hardest things for us humans, and you’re making it look like a lot of fun. : )

    1. Thanks, Sven, and thank you for your amazing account of the launch of Earth Day weekend 2012. You synthesized the event, issues, and spirit of the Lunchbox Project with such eloquence. My hero!

  2. Yay! Chicken in a jar. But when I read the title of your post, I thought you were referring to this:

    Did any customers in the store ask about your chicken in a jar? We love it when people say, “Wow. I didn’t know you could do that.”

    1. Ha! That’s hysterical, Beth, and pretty much what our cupboards and fridge look like. Right before posting I did wonder what container I’d use for buying a whole chicken. No jar I know has a mouth large enough, our kitchen storage is so minimal that adding a container just for this purpose is unreasonable, so perhaps I don’t need a whole bird!

      No one asked about the chicken in a jar, but I attribute that to the fact that it the tiny market was soooo crowded that you could barely see what fellow customers were holding while standing in line. I’m sure it’ll happen one of these days.

      And yesterday, Sven went to the market on my behalf and bought ground beef…in a jar! Gosh, this is so easy : )

      1. nobody gave me funny looks, I do think it’s too busy in there. But the girl at the meat counter was pretty psyched about the jar and gave me a big smile. Granted, this is Birite, so they’re pretty tuned in to these issues, but still cool to not cause a total ruckus.

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