During the month of March, our family of 4 reduced our waste to a single small mason jar. We invited our readers to join in our Green UP Challenge, whether that meant reducing their waste to a single jar or choosing a smaller Green UP goal, like only using reusable coffee mugs. Everyone participating was encouraged to create their own personal rules, or they could of course follow our family’s rules and guidelines.

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An Important Lesson

There are certain moments that teach you a life lesson. We had a few of these moments and lessons during our Green UP challenge journey. One lesson that stood out was this: When trying to make a positive change in our lives, we will not always be successful. It is not these failures that define us though; instead, it is our desire to change and our conscious decision to always keep working at it.

With that in mind, I have a confession to make. Initially, I wanted to pretend that it did not happen and just omit it from my Green Up challenge reports. I felt like if I mentioned it, I would be deemed a failure and the challenge would have been a waste. BUT I know that it would literally eat at me until I told you all, and since this whole website and creative project is really a reflection of who I am, I can’t keep it under wraps.  So here it is… I broke a glass.

Normally, breaking a glass would do little to irritate me besides having to clean it up while frantically keeping my 1 and 3 year old from stepping on the broken pieces. But in that moment the shattered glass signified that I had failed the challenge. You can’t recycle broken glass, at least you can’t in the city that I live in. So I slowly walked the broken glass to the garbage bin in our back alley that had remained empty up all month until that day. I felt disappointed, like I had failed. With so many people following along how could I have broken that darn glass!

Then, I had to check myself. The broken glass did not have to define our challenge and what we were trying to accomplish. I mean the slogan for this whole challenge has been “Change Matters No Matter How Big or Small”.

Reflections on our Green UP Challenge

Our Garbage Jar

Now having moved passed that lesson let’s talk about our journey. Besides the broken glass, reducing our monthly garbage to a single jar was not as challenging as we expected. We found a great bulk foods store to meet some of our snacking needs, went to the butcher if we needed meat, made our own meals/snacks and ate a lot of whole foods. If we couldn’t eat it or reuse it, it was often recyclable.

After the first week of the challenge it became clear what type of items were going to enter our jar. Stickers, stickers and more stickers. I couldn’t even avoid them because we often ended up with 2 or 3 stickers on a single apple! Trying to entertain two littles while shopping is enough work let along trying to find the apples with the least amount of stickers! We mostly accumulated stickers from our fruit and vegetables but occasionally on unexpected items too like mail.

I ended up with another piece of unexpected garbage when I went to an ice cream shop with the girls. I remembered to ask for no napkins and for my ice cream to be placed in a reusable bowl. But then they gave me a sample of ice cream with a small plastic spoon. Before I knew it I had two of these spoons that were not recyclable! Hey I wanted to try the caramel cashew date ice cream! The girls ended up using the spoons to pretend feed their animals for a couple of weeks before they were destroyed and I had no choice but to add them to the garbage jar.


Reduced Recycling

While we had hardly any garbage throughout the month of March we also noticed that our recycle bin was less full too! One reason was that we were buying less plastic containers, since the lids need to be bigger than the palm of your hand for them to be recycled. I also liked the idea of reducing emissions related to the production and eventual recycling of plastic materials, so I tried to avoid buying them whenever possible.


It became natural for us to bring along our To Go bag  when heading out of the house. We also built a habit of bringing along reusable bags for grocery shopping.


I won’t miss having to remind restaurant staff to keep the napkins away from our table, and the crazy looks that request provokes. But, overall I am extremely happy that our family took on this challenge. It was indeed a challenge, but it was not impossible. I learned more about our cities recycling system in a few weeks than I had previously learned in my whole life. I learned that with a little effort, it is possible to remember a To Go bag, even with all the extra baggage that comes with two kids. In the end, it was all about choices and making a conscious choice to refuse waste in the name of the environment. Most importantly, I learned that while we might not always keep our monthly waste to a single jar, we will continue to make change, no matter how big or small.

Check out these posts if you’re curious on how we managed to reduce our household waste to a single jar!

Tips for Reducing your Waste to a Single Jar 

Green UP Challenge: Reducing  our Waste to a Single Jar

Green UP Challenge: Working towards a Greener Lifestyle

If you missed this challenge, expect another one in the fall and remember….

Change Matters No Matter How Big or Small!!!


By Annika Mang
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