I grew up in a family that always recycled and composted. Lately, I have seen too many images of plastic piling up on land and amassing in the ocean. We are ingesting it, sea life is ingesting it and its slowly hurting us all.
Five Steps to Less Plastic
I know it is one tiny step, but if I can’t save the planet at least I can keep my family’s food and environment a little healthier. Every year, I try to cut back on plastic. Each time my systems improve. Don’t approach it with an all or nothing attitude or you are not likely to be successful. Here are five ways you can start to reduce plastic in your daily life.
- Food storage: switch it up
- Groceries: bring your own produce bags
- Cleaning Supplies: use vinegar in large batches and refill soaps.
- STOP buying bottled water
- Shop differently: choose products not packaged in plastic and ask for bulk options
I love canning jars because they are inexpensive, they go in the dishwasher, and they come in so many different sizes. In the photo above of my fridge there is leftover avocado crema, some soup and a jar of garlic confit. You can also see that I have some store bought lettuce in a plastic box, which I bought before the new year and will probably still buy because we love Little Leaf Farms, but I will get it less often to avoid the plastic. If I can get them to somehow sell lettuce in bulk instead of plastic clamshell boxes, I would be thrilled.
Above, the soup is a reusable plastic container filled with pizza dough. I don’t use all glass in our fridge for two reasons. One, is that I have not found large glass containers for everything. Two, is that our fridge is a dangerous game of Tetris and glass falling on your toes from the fridge is heavy and painful. It also breaks on occasion—but very rarely.
Plastic wrap is very useful, but you can work around that too. Instead of wrapping this morning’s 1/2 avocado on plastic, I used a waxed paper bag. It’s not reusable, but I have not yet found a reusable plastic wrap alternative that works well. I use the waxed paper bags for field trip lunches as well when the kids need a disposable lunch box option.
Most of us are used to bringing our reusable totes to the grocery store by now. To go one more level of reusable all you need to do is have one more bag filled with your reusable produce bags. As I mentioned, I have not been able to totally get rid of plastic from the grocery store. Our favourite local lettuce comes in a plastic box. From now on though I plan to buy loose heads of lettuce more often that I bag in my reusable produce bag and wash and bin them at home. I have that washed lettuce in the larger bin, similar to this one, and pizza dough in the other.
Cherry tomatoes still come in plastic boxes, but you can buy Backyard Farms‘ tomatoes instead of any other brand because those are in a cardboard box. I know if I go to Wilson Farms I can get some of my herbs loose but at other stores they tend to be in plastic boxes.
As for which bags to buy, try to have a few different sizes and types. I used the cloth bag with no holes for granola, the larger one for 3 heads of lettuce, the small netted bag for avocados and the large netted bag for things like apples or grapefruit. For individual items, like the one green pepper, you can skip the bag altogether.
I am a fan of vinegar for cleaning. I buy one big jug, yes its plastic, but it lasts for ages and the smaller glass bottles of vinegar are too small. You fill reusable spray bottles with a water vinegar solution then you are good to go. If you want you can also add essential oils for a nicer scent or use a scented vinegar.
If you don’t want to use vinegar, you can head to a shop that has soaps in bulk and refill your containers.
Stop Buying Bottled Water
This one is very simple. Stop buying and drinking bottled water. The plastic is not good for you or the environment. It isn’t cleaner or healthier than what your city has to offer. It is also such a huge waste of money.
To avoid the fluorides and stuff that the city adds to water get a simple filter system like a Brita Filter or a fancy one that will probably pay for itself over time if you buy bottled water. If you are worried about your pipes, do a home test. Don’t be disillusioned though because if you think Heidi is skipping up the mountain to bring you fresh clean water in a wooden bucket that gets poured directly into your plastic water bottle then you may want to read more about how your bottled water gets in there and where it comes from anyway. Okay, rant over, but please stop drinking that stuff!
We have our shopping habits, but you can slowly shift them. Find a store that has more in bulk, ask your favourite grocer to carry more things in bulk or alternate packaging. Message your favourite brands and see if they would consider a paper, biodegradable packaging, or bulk option. I’m always impressed with how often brands listen.
Local Spots for Bulk
This is a great guide to bulk food in Massachusetts too.
A Few More Tips
- Use the last plastic zip top bag and don’t buy more. Switch to waxed paper bags and reusable cloth bags.
- Replace plastic straws at home and on the go with reusable stainless steel, compostable straws or reusable plastic straws. I keep a pencil case with a few of them in my purse at all times.
- If you forget your reuseable totes in the car just put everything in the cart and bag them when you get to the car.