Project Simplify: Curbing our use of disposable plastic

My friends reuse hundreds of Stoneyfield Farm yogurt containers to make homemade ice cream during our annual camping trip!

Today I want to talk about PLASTIC. Part of Project Simplify is my plan to reduce what goes into our trash can AND into our recyclables disposal. We’ve stopped buying bottled water and are using stainless steel bottles filled with our own tap water instead. When you consider that Americans use an average of 2,500,000 plastic bottles every HOUR, the little any of us can do would make a huge difference. What an easy way to make long-lasting change. Use a refillable bottle. Use your tap water. Let’s make use of that amazingly convenient privilege most Americans take for granted in their houses: the faucet and access to clean water.

What about plastic bags? The answer isn’t as simple as STOP USING THEM. Most Americans use plastic bags to transport store-bought items to their homes from the store.  But if you think of the amount of oil used to produce plastic bags (about 12 million barrels per year to produce plastic bags for Americans’ use, according to one source I found ), it makes it a lot more compelling to make use of those reusable shopping bags. But even if you use reusable bags for most of your shopping, you still end up with some plastic bags. Don’t throw them in the garbage, please. Plastic bags are clogging up landfills, killing more than a million sea creatures every year, and they don’t break down for approximately 600 years. Plastic bags are hard to rid ourselves of. My town doesn’t take them in the recycling, so I have to bring them to the grocery store to recycle. What I end up doing is reusing them a ton of times for transporting things, and then returning them to the holder in the kitchen. When the holder overflows, I take a handful to the recycling box at the grocery store. It’s a little bit of effort that goes a long way.

It’s taking slightly more effort to rid ourselves of *plastic baggies that seal, for food storage and for lunches. Getting rid of these is causing trouble in my marriage.

Allen, my long-suffering co-conspirator, who happily goes along with all my nefarious plots, turned to me one day when doing the agonizing exercise of putting the kids’ lunches together and said, with some level of exasperation, “My gods. Can we please just buy some EASY disposable-type stuff to put in the kids’ lunches?” He was, at the time, washing out some containers to put fruit into, while looking for more containers for the crackers. My response was not helpful. “Well, honey, if we order out for more Indian food, we can re-use those containers for the kids’ lunches!” Since he’s in charge of the family budget, and eating out is one of those things we shouldn’t do often, well…that wasn’t the answer he was looking for.

What Allen is lamenting is the ease with which we used to make the school lunches. I would buy serving-size bags of pretzels or crackers, or those neat little plastic bags filled with cubed or stick cheese, or tiny bags of perfect little organic baby carrots. Now, we have to clean out the myriad of containers we use and find healthy snacks to fill them up with. We now use REUSIES, which we adore. We have stainless steel containers to send water or juice, instead of disposable juice boxes (with plastic straws). We use plastic containers over and over again for goldfish crackers, carrots, fruit–all that stuff you put into your kids’ lunchboxes that you hope they aren’t just throwing away. Making lunches for the kids is, to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass. But it’s small change that we CAN do, and that makes a difference, and thus is worth the effort and inconvenience.

What are some ways you’ve found for saving resources/reducing your use of/disposal of plastics? Don’t tell me I’m the only one who washes out the bags the bread comes in ….

*Most of our food still comes wrapped in plastic, in plastic bags, in plastic containers even. Making more changes will mean buying food differently, which I’ve begun doing, or *ahem* making things like bread myself. Eek. But it’s hard to imagine getting things like cereal or noodles in something other than plastic. In so many ways, plastic has truly been a boon to the modern world. A cheap way to preserve and transport and store food. But our over-reliance on plastics in the US  is having serious environmental impact.

About Terry L. Holt

Writer. Mother. Goddess. President of the Save the Dandelions Club. Climber of trees.
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3 Responses to Project Simplify: Curbing our use of disposable plastic

  1. Carl says:

    My new plan for reusing plastics is to grind up selected #1 and #2 plastics and re-melt them into most any new shape, using a homemade 3D printer. This is something that should work in principle, but few are actually trying to make workable on a small scale. If it succeeds, perhaps it will inspire others to do the same.
    A friend has done this with plastic shopping bags, but it is difficult to get good-quality plastic out if it.

  2. Carl says:

    My new plan for reusing plastics is to grind up selected #1 and #2 plastics and re-melt them into most any new shape, using a homemade 3D printer. This is something that should work in principle, but few are actually trying to make workable on a small scale. If it succeeds, perhaps it will inspire others to do the same.
    A friend has done this with plastic shopping bags, but it is difficult to get good-quality plastic out if it.

  3. MizA says:

    We're just about not a Venn diagram, but a circle. 🙂

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