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Glass (silicon oxide) is sourced from two types of places on Earth:

  1. Quartz mines featuring large white colored boulders.

  2. Sand deposits.

The quartz mines are sometimes mined more often than the sand deposits. In any event, large machines powered by diesel fuel engines, are used to move massive amounts of raw material from one place to another.

People work long hours driving trucks full of mined quartz to factories where the quartz is ground into dust, refined (some impurities are removed) and the quartz is melted melted and molded into water tumblers and other drinking glasses.

People living in affluent societies use these glass drinking vessels for drinking beverages.

Relatively speaking, what is more "green", environmentally friendly, or sustainable in the long-run:

  1. Buying food (spaghetti sauce, olives, strawberry jam, salsa, etc...) in glass jars; throwing glass jars into a recycling bin; and buying water glasses from a store.

  2. Buying food (spaghetti sauce, olives, strawberry jam, salsa, etc...) in glass jars; re-using glass jars for water; and never buying water glasses from a store.

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    Surely you are aware that both mining equipment manufacturers and heavy truck manufacturers are rapidly adopting electricity and in the future hydrogen as their power source? Besides, buying water glasses from store is something you do only rarely, since the water glasses will be used a long time. I don't think any kind of "optimization" matters here at all.
    – juhist
    Jun 12, 2023 at 17:51
  • I tend to agree with @juhist. I recall during my student days some of my colleges used to drink beer out of cleaned out glass jam jars. Things some "poor" students did when money was tight or they wanted a convenient beer drink receptacle in their cars to be used when circumstances "required".
    – Fred
    Jul 13, 2023 at 9:25

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Glass as a material can (mostly) be infinitely recycled - broken glass can be re-melted and re-formed into other glass products with practically 0 loss of quality. Thus, for glass cups and jars that have reached their end of life, it's perfectly ok for them to be recycled.

However, the recycling process IS energy intensive, thus from a sustainability standpoint it makes sense to delay sending glass to this process as long as possible. In other words, Reduce and Reuse first.

One way to reduce the use of (new) glass jars, is to buy in bulk from markets or wholesalers. There also might be wholesalers or eco-friendly markets in your local area that will refill jars and containers for you, especially for products like olives.

To directly answer your question: Is there an alternative to buying water glasses?, you could potentially repurpose glass jars (as you've mentioned in your answer). Another alternative is to purchase used glasses/cups/mugs from second-hand or thrift stores.

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Of course you can drink from glass packaging, but I propose a third option: treat the packaging as packaging (recycle, or reuse for storage), and buy drinking glasses second hand from charity shops / thrift stores, flea markets or similar.

You're still not causing a product to be made, you get something that's more decorative (I have a shelf full of odd wine glasses, bought this way), and you get something that's better to drink from.

Drinking from a jar with a screw thread can lead to liquid caught in the thread, and drips on your clothes or surfaces. That's one thing if you only drink water, and it's easy enough to overcome, but serving an unwary guest red wine in a jam jar isn't to be recommended for this reason. Note that "mason jars" sold as drinking glasses often have a lid with a hole for a straw, or lack the screw thread altogether.

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  • I prefer the idea to buying used glassware from thrift stores over my idea of using empty glass jars which originally contained salsa Verde or spaghetti sauce. Glassware purchased from a thrift store is more aesthetically pleasing to human eyes. The glass jars which used to contain salsa Verde look uglier than used glassware. In general, purchasing used glassware is more sustainable and environmentally friendly that purchasing new glassware (relatively speaking). In both cases, transportation costs are comparable. Jun 27, 2023 at 22:03
  • Driving a car to the thrift store and driving a car to the Walmart have a similar affect on the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Also, comparable amounts of fossil fuels are consumed, even for automobiles powered by electric batteries. Jun 27, 2023 at 22:03
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    In general, buying glassware from thrift stores consumes fewer fossil fuels than melting mined quartz, rich in silicon oxide, in order to make new glassware. Perhaps it would be prudent to buy glassware only from thrift stores, unless inventory of used products is low. In that event, new glassware can be molded from raw materials (quartz) Jun 27, 2023 at 22:04
  • @SamuelMuldoon I must admit I didn't even consider driving emissions. I usually go to the shops by bike, only driving on the rare occasions I'm buying lots of bulky and heavy stuff
    – Chris H
    Jun 28, 2023 at 6:36
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Why not clay "glasses" (sounds weird in English because the material is synonym of the recipient but you know what I mean)? They are made from literal earth, so if broken can be ground up to dust which reintegrates and can last a lot. If you worry you can ask for a lead free certificate.

I know they are expensive up front but stainless steel glasses should also last decades and won't ever break or produce undesirable microplastics.

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  • Something like this? claycups.com.au (A 'cup' is a more general word for a drinking vessel that's not dependent on the material)
    – Robotnik
    Aug 24, 2023 at 23:21
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Back in the 70's, there was a fashion for converting glass bottles into drinking glasses. It was so pervasive a "thing" that there were several childrens toys that helped you do it. (Hey, it was a different time, OK?). Glass cutting kits are still sold widely - an ebay search for Glass Bottle Cutter brings up dozens.

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  • I purchased a glass cutter once. In order to operate the device, a person rotates a cylindrical glass jar. A small hardened steel blade is used to score a line going around the jar. In theory, the glass will only break along the groove cut into the glass. In practice, the glass jar cracks and breaks in other places. It might or might not be more effective to cut glass jars on a lapidary saw designed for cutting agate slabs and other rocks and minerals. If the edge of the blade is encrusted in diamond dust, and lubricated with used automotive oil for cars, then the saw can cut through glass. Jun 27, 2023 at 21:55
  • It takes a delicate touch and you must only score the bottle ONCE, otherwise there's multiple fracture points.
    – Threp
    Jul 1, 2023 at 11:41

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