The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

February 19, 2009

Guilt, Gratitude, and Glass

A couple of weeks ago, I bought ten brand new Anchor glass refrigerator containers, similar to the vintage variety mom had. I found them at my local Container Store for the lowest price, and if there had been more of them in stock, I might not have stopped at just ten.

(I believe the Container Store has stopped carrying them, but you can still find them on Amazon or eBay.  A purchase via these links earns me a small percentage to support my plastic-free mission.)

The containers and lids are made of glass, packaged in cardboard, with zero plastic. Nada. And they are sturdy, able to survive freezer, oven, microwave, & dishwasher without complaint.  Each holds exactly one day’s worth of homemade cat food for Soots and Arya, unlike the repurposed plastic containers I had been using which were all different sizes and shapes and generally a pain in the neck to fill and to stack.

So why the guilt?

Because I don’t buy new things unless they are necessary! I found a used crock pot, used computer monitor, used litter boxes and cat carriers. I certainly could have found truly vintage glass containers similar to these on eBay or Craigslist or in thrift stores. Or I could have just kept using the plastic containers. I’m only filling them with cat food, for crying out loud. And… and… what will Clif say when he finds I’m not making use of the plastic I already have? He once gave me holy sh*t for whining about how tired I was of washing out plastic bags.

Oh, I worked myself into a bit of a lather over these little glass containers, which kind of surprised me. Because in addition to thinking of myself as someone who avoids buying new things, I consider myself someone who has progressed beyond unhealthy emotions like guilt. Ha! As I write all this, my tongue is literally pressed against my cheek because it all just sounds so ridiculous, silly to have such fixed ideas about who I am in the first place. My identity. My ego.

So anyway, for two weeks I’ve been planning to write this post and ask if any of you ever feel guilty for buying new things… guilty to the point that you don’t actually enjoy the new things you bought. That was going to be the whole point of the post, until tonight after spending two nourishing hours with some very, very wise teachers.

This evening, I attended a conversation between Jon Bernie, my meditation teacher, and Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk and founder of ANG*L (A Network for Grateful Living), “a worldwide community dedicated to gratefulness as the core inspiration for personal change, international cooperation, and sustainable activism in areas of universal concern.”

Cultivating an attitude of gratefulness is all about living in the present moment, appreciating what is here for us, allowing whatever arises to be, and finally, saying “Thank you.” And as I walked home afterward and started thinking about writing this post tonight, I laughed out loud. Because I realized that all I feel about these little glass containers now is gratitude. Gratitude for how perfect they are. How they stack so well in the freezer…

and in the refrigerator…

and that they are designed so well and so beautifully. And then the gratefulness expanded to include the humans who had physically created the containers and those who had sold them to me. And when I looked around at the street and realized that my hands weren’t actually holding a glass container but were firmly stuffed in my jacket pockets, I started feeling grateful for empty pockets, and for the thread I used the other day to patch the holes in them, and for the couple of coins that could no longer fall out.

I could go on and on about all the things I felt grateful for tonight as I walked home, but I think I’ve made my point. What’s the use in feeling guilt when gratitude feels so much better?

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Ricardo Olivsda
7 years ago

How can you talk about guilt and have cow’s milk in your refrigerator? kind of a disappointment.

8 years ago

Well done, girl. There’s a point where you need to stop questioning and just live the life you have. If you think of that as gratitude, good. But life throws up so many twists and turns without warning, so if you find a good clear patch that gives you access to a superbly thought-out product that isn’t going to harm anyone, then indulge! Indulgence is life-affirming and wonderful! These things fit your life so beautifully. They belong to you.

I’d quite like them to belong to me, too, but I don’t think they’re available in Australia. Glass is such a wonderful material.

13 years ago

Love those…I am going to look for those in shops when i go for some shopping…the fact that they can be put in the dishwasher is a good reason for me to buy those

13 years ago

I don’t think you should feel guilty for buying these glass containers. Besides, glass can be recycled much easier than plastic if need be.

Alison Kerr
14 years ago

Great post. My planned post for tomorrow is about something very similar. I think I’ll just have to link to you.

14 years ago

Refrigerator dishes are the best! I bought some vintage Pyrex ones online when I got annoyed at how those plastic ones never really seem to get clean, and I *love* them. I felt a bit of guilt for the shipping (and the packaging after I received them!) but they’re pretty and colorful and I plan on using them for a *long* time so it’s well worth it.

An aside… I have a small rectangular cooler-type lunch box that I bring leftovers to work in that fit these refrigerator dishes very well. The lunch box is kind of annoying because it’s all plastic, (but I already have it, so I might as well use it well) however even though the lids aren’t tight on the dishes, they stack well and I’ve never had a problem with spills yet – if I have soup or something liquid-ish, I bring it in a jar with a lid.

14 years ago

Beth — thanks for clarifying about the containers. If they’re anything like Pyrex, they’ll manage just fine in my kitchen. I also appreciate the link to the airtight aluminum containers. Great stuff!

Green Bean
14 years ago

How wonderful! I, like you, try to buy used. But I do think there is a place for supporting businesses that make sustainable or worthwhile products and for voting with our wallets for products that make life more sustainable, more plastic-free, and so on. I’m glad you’re grateful for your glass containers. They’re utterly perfect.

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Fabulously Broke, per my response to SavvyChristine, they are not airtight. If you want that, I would recommend Life Without Plastic’s airtight stainless steel container that I reviewed:

They are truly airtight and much lighter weight for carrying lunch than glass.

Fabulously Broke
14 years ago

Are they air tight? I’m interested in glass containers now, and am thinking of not buying those Starfrit Lock’n’Load or whatever they’re called, containers for lunch.

I like the Starfrits only because they are truly water tight and I have NEVER had a leak with them (even with soup)…

Intrigued :)

Fabulously Broke in the City

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver.

Lara S.
14 years ago

I felt a bit of guilt the other day, when I stopped “no ‘poo” by starting to use a natural hair conditioner. I thought “why does it work for other people’s hairs and not for mine?” But I really gave it a shot for almost 2 months and since my hair is waistlong and very curly… can you imagine how hard it is to detangle and keep detangled only using vinegar and herbal infusions?
Since it is a natural conditioner (the brand is Weleda, in case you are ever interested) and I cheked every ingredient to make sure I’m comfortable (no parabens, lauryl/laureth sulphate, mineral oil, formaldehyde, artificial fragances, etc) I decided I shouldn’t feel guilty about this. I know I will make it last for a very long time. The plastic bottle that comes with the product will be reused to store my baking soda solution when it’s empty.

I absolutely love this post and the one you posted recently about how small actions make a difference.

I’m glad you were able to feel gratitude about this and I wish that that positive energy spreads everywhere around you.. :-)

14 years ago

Glass really is neat, if only it weren’t so heavy. We use glass containers for spices. When we go to the spice shop they absolutely refuse to refill them – we have to get little plastic bags filled or buy another glass jar (more than we need). Seems crazy but I suppose it is due to fear of a lawsuit if someone has a container contaminated with something.

Condo Blues
14 years ago

Your post reminds me why my New Year’s resolution is not to feel Green Guilt this year. That’s not to say that I’m giving myself a free pass to not challenge myself and green new areas of my life quite the contrary. What I’m starving for is to accept that not every single green practice may work for every single person, every single time, or for every single situation. You made a serious effort to find them used (I imagine you couldn’t find them thrifted because no one wants to give them up!) and new glass containers are a better solution to your food storage needs. And storing homemade cat food and human food leftovers in those containers allow you to do more green things. And no one should be made to feel guilty about that.

14 years ago

I would have to say take a cue from the republicans – “Guilt Sucks” and get over it- you have some great containers there- accept the fact that you have them and carry on!

Beth Terry
14 years ago

Hi Joyce. In fact, we can get a daily dose of Brother David my subscribing to his “Word for the Day,” which is actually more than just one word. Here’s the subscription link:

SavvyChristine — Gravity keeps the lids on the containers, as well as a ridge that keeps them from sliding off. But they are not airtight. They would not be appropriate for long-term freezing since air would get in. And they are not appropriate for transporting in a backpack or lunch box, as the lid would just come off. They are really meant for short-term refrigerator storage. For my cat food, which is gone in 10 days, or for leftovers which will be eaten in a relatively short time, they are perfect. Plus, you can bake in them. The glass is very thick and heavy. I don’t know what would happen if you dropped them on the floor, and I don’t think I’ll be the one to do the test. :-)

14 years ago

I feel slightly ridiculous for having to ask this, but how do the tops stay on the containers? Are the containers airtight? Would they work for a klutzy person who drops things all the time? Maybe I’ll just find a store and play around with them to see how much abuse they can withstand.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper
14 years ago

I am now experiencing the “unhealthy emotion” of jealousy. I want some of those containers! They look awesome!

14 years ago

This is such a huge issue for me and people around me think I am nuts. I recently went on a spree of moving all of my bulk dry goods into glass jars to get stuff out of plastic and to better protect it from insects (I had an outbreak of moths from some dry grains I brought home). When I ran out of jars that had been brought into my home through things I bought (jarred salsa and whatnot), I started looking around thrift stores and garage sales. For some reason I couldn’t find anything. I asked friends and started asking ppl for things from their recycling bin. I felt really weird and finally ended up buying a few all glass jars. Then they sat on my counter for a few weeks because I felt stupid for buying jars.

This has happened to me again and again (with my To-Go Ware, which I am also feeling weird about because I have a somewhat faulty latch on one container and I feel wasteful for even thinking about returning it), my Klean Kanteen, even when I buy *new* clothes made with recycled/recyclable/organic fiber at Patagonia that I know will be worn almost constantly until they fall apart. I do appreciate what I have, I just feel somewhat wasteful for getting something new. Sometimes I get over it when people around me see what I’ve done, take on the same behaviors or buy some of the products, but I don’t know. I am still conflicted at times.

14 years ago

I know what you mean! What I tell myself is that I scrounge thrift shops and re-purpose and keep repairing Old Things so that I can afford (both financially and metaphorically) to have the occasional New Thing.

New Things are seductive. If you’re not careful, they will lure you into buying nothing but New Things. To the point where you start throwing out perfectly good Old Things in favor of New Things.

The key, as you mention, is to buy New Things sparingly and mindfully.

14 years ago

Love this post! I got a couple eco-ish gifts recently that have not even come out of their boxes (for over a month!) for similar reasons. I need to just show gratitude and get them on out into use.

Also? We have these storage containers and I love them. As someone else has noted, they have larger sizes too. I just stuck some in the freezer with homemade mac n cheese last night for the tiny ones! Down with packaging, up with glass containers.

AND? I love Rosa’s commentary: “For some things (bikes, canning jars) I’ve managed to convince myself that just getting more of them circulating in the ocean of stuff is a good thing.”

14 years ago

I thought I’d mention that it’s also important for manufacturers to know that there is a demand for these products. Buying 10 at a time is a very clear message!

Enjoy –

14 years ago

I consider myself someone who has progressed beyond unhealthy emotions like guilt.

I don’t consider guilt to be an unhealthy emotion; IMO, it shows we care about something/someone enough to think about that something/someone and how our action might affect that something/someone.
It becomes unhealthy when we dwell on it, just as dwelling on ANYTHING is unhealthy.

Is it Easy Being Green?
14 years ago

Wow, I was just thinking about the guilt of buying things yesterday so the timing of this post is perfect! I have found that even if I’m buying something considered environmentally-friendly, I still feel a bit of guilt because I think about the packaging it’s in, or the energy and resources it took to make it, etc. It’s enough to make you crazy! But, I think it’s a blessing to think things through so much and to really think about the impact of our choices. I have been trying to go easier on myself, yet still have strict guidelines about what I buy. It’s challenging but reading a blog like yours helps!

Gruppie Girl
14 years ago

Your new containers look wonderful! You shouldn’t feel guilty about buying items that you will use everyday for years and years to come.

I’m always on the lookout for glass food storage jars. It seems like they sell plastic starage everywhere, but it’s tough to find all glass.

Next time I’m near a CS, I’ll have to stop by.

14 years ago

Fantastic! I was looking for something like this!!

14 years ago

I’ve decided that when the time comes to buy these (right now I’m using Mason jars and other assorted jars), I will try to buy them used, not only because I LOVE the colors/retro designs, but because I’m a fan of all anachronistic kitchen tools. :) I even bought a flour sifter used the other day. It was from the 40s, and still had the LABEL on it!

That being said, I think your eco-karma is such that it’s fairly ridiculous to feel guilty about buying some new GLASS containers in ALMOST ANY packaging. C’mon, Beth! Get out of the confessional booth and go make those hungry kitties some food. :)

For the person who said they couldn’t find refrigerator containers with glass lids, where did you look? Almost every antique store I’ve ever been to has a vast assortment, but perhaps I just live in a vortex of old things.

14 years ago

Ha! Beth, I was just having this conversation with a coworker – once you start really valuing your money, or your ingenuity, and knowing the real costs of even the most well-designed and ethically-produced products, shopping gets less and less and less fun.

For some things (bikes, canning jars) I’ve managed to convince myself that just getting more of them circulating in the ocean of stuff is a good thing. I think your glass containers are easily in that category. The world doesn’t need more plastic tubs, but it may need more reusable glass and metal dishes – think how many plastic containers they’ll displace, over your lifetime and theirs.

EcoLabel Fundraising
14 years ago

I love glass containers. It was hard to make the investment to buy all the new containers when I did it too, but I’m grateful I did. I got rid of all plastic after learning much about reheating and having washed the plastic tupperware in the dishwasher. Bad, bad, bad. The glass will last a longtime, so even though it is buying something else, it is a worthy investment.


14 years ago

As a parent I’m always feeling (unecessarily!) guilty about something, and trying to be a green parent adds a whole new dimension, especially when some days all I need is convenience to get through my day. On days that I’m not as green as I want to be, I’ve tried to challenge my guilt with “You’re doing the best that you can” pep talks, but adding “Gratitude” to my anti-guilt reperatoire is another great tool!

Thanks for the inspriation – both for better living, and for fighting guilt!

Cheap Like Me
14 years ago

If it’s any consolation, I don’t know that you could have found them used. My grandmother mentioned a couple of years ago that she wanted some glass containers “like we used to have – with GLASS lids, not PLASTIC lids!” I took note and searched … and searched … and searched … and finally bought some at the Container Store. Glad you ultimately went the gratitude route.

Chiot's Run
14 years ago

I love these containers. I have several of them in several sizes. You can also buy them at Kmart.

I do have a lot of pyrex containers with plastic lids, I like those more for freezing (they seal better).

14 years ago

Brother David seems to have that effect on everyone. We could all use a daily dose of his wisdom!

Anarres Natural Health
14 years ago

Dearest Beth,

You know, I could read dozens of enviro blogs by fabulous kindred spirits, but I only read yours. I appreciate yours because you are not only on an environmentally responsible path, but a spiritual path. It is one path, and you are walking it practically and spiritually. That's awesome.

I adore my dollar store glass storage containers. Yours are perfect. I DO feel guilty for buying new things sometimes, but overall I have boycotted new things for 24 years and I know that my consumption is very low compared to others. So when I score something fabulous, I tend to rejoice.

Last night, I was grateful for my stainless steel sink. My acrylic one has burned and scuffed to an un-cleanable state, so my partner bought me a stainless steel one for my birthday last year. And it's awesome.

Grief over what has happened with our plastic reliance does not cloud over the pure admiration I sometimes feel for my bakelite lids and caps.

"Recycle" that tormented plastic and forget about it. You are already "fasting"!
Love & RRRevolution, Tracey