February Reckoning

Goodness, is it already time to tally up our monthly accrual of plastic waste again?

More milk caps, a lollypop wrapper, a plastic lined macaroni and cheese packet, some wrapping from something or other, rubber bands and plastic tags from produce (you can safely bet that there were a few more of these that got swept away during dinner cleanup).

Now is as good a time as any to bring up the butcher paper quandary. It’s surely plastic lined. We’re eating a lot less meat these days, but still, it’s not something we’re ready to give up completely (and no store will let me bring home raw meat in my own container). So that’s one area where I’m compromising. You don’t see that here because saving paper with raw meat juice on it would be a health hazard.

One other slip I had this month was buying fresh local lamb at the farmer’s market before I realized it came in a plastic vacuum sealed bag. Did I already tell you about that? It was a bummer.

Other than that, and the mail ordered yarn with plastic labels (it was wholesale!),  we seem to be doing well.

Now this pile is from our CSA. It has been an ongoing challenge for me to find ways to make the CSA experience a waste free one. This winter our CSA, which we otherwise love, has gone a little plastic bag crazy, pre-bagging just about everything. I end up carefully emptying the food from it’s plastic bags and putting it into my cloth ones. The plastic ones I give back, but sometimes they aren’t reusable–torn or dirty. Yes, it’s wasteful-ish. But I want to make the point that this is unwanted. The plastic shown in this picture is from things I couldn’t do that with — they had frozen veggies or fruit in them. I could have turned the food down, but I’d already paid for them and it’s a strange grey area for me. Would you say no to pomegranate apple juice with your name on it? On the bright side, a CSA is a great place to actually have an influence about changing wasteful practices. My voice has been heard and they are slowly making changes. And the benefits of the local, seasonal fare are worth fighting for. Besides, each of those baggies will get re-used about a hundred times around here, so they aren’t really trash yet.

Please note: This doesn’t represent all the plastic we threw out this month, only new items we purchased post 1/1/10 and have already used up. Not included are pre 2010 yogurt containers used to freeze food, many times re-used bread and produce bags that are just too funky to keep around, toothpaste caps, and other things from our pre-fast days that are just now leaving the home. Also not included are things given to us by friends–if someone brings a pint of fresh olives or a bag of chips to the house, we follow No Impact Man’s lead and enjoy the generous gesture and camaraderie, and take a break from tallying.

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8 thoughts on “February Reckoning

  1. I was wondering what you do with plastic you are “gifted” from friends. The girls and I are going through their bedroom right now and you don’t want to know all the plastic trinkets that are going out the door to goodwill, yardsale and (unfortunately) the garbage. It’s disgusting.

    • I try my best to stay relaxed about it. As my husband says, a gift is sacred. Thankfully, our family and friends have been incredibly responsive to our plastic ban–much more so then back in the days when we just seemed snobby about toys and were always asking for wood. Now there is a bigger context that folks can relate to a little better (“oh I see, you’re not elitist, just really weird!”). Because we don’t have a lot of money to spend on the beautiful wooden toys out there, we gratefully rely on the hand me downs that come our way. Some of which are wood or metal or cloth, and others plastic. I must say that the drawer where I hide the plastic ones is always the biggest hit at playgroup.

  2. Wow! This is amazing–you did great. I’m having the same trouble trying to (gently) nudge my food co-op (buying group) to go plastic-free. Some people who do breakdowns automatically put everything in plastic, while others (like me) will use the paper bags for dry things like nuts. But it’s hard to know how to do this in a respectful, non-judgey way. (P.S. Do you know how lucky you are to have a year-round CSA??)

  3. This is fascinating. And I’m being serious ;)
    I love your concept of a plastic-free semester. As I imagined myself doing this, a few questions popped into my head, so I might as well ask: What about shampoos and other bottled health/beauty care items? Or dish soap? Are you making your own or have you stocked up? I’d love to know how your handling those kids of things…

    • We are lucky enough to have a co-op that carries a good selection of bulk body care items (as well as household items like dish and laundry soap). But you can see my simple recipes for lotion and shampoo here and here. A primer on food related tips can be found here. Thanks for your interest and good luck!

    • Rachel, I’ve been mulling this question over and don’t have an answer…I’ve heard some things, like using old flour bags to freeze in, and I use mason jars for liquids and nuts. But as far as fruit/veggies and meat go, I too am at a loss for what will work without risking the food to freezer burn or other spoiling. I’ll do a little research, and put it out to other readers who might have more experience. In the meantime, here’s my friend Arina’s advice on freezing in glass http://lotsoflifeinoneplace.blogspot.com/2009/11/freezing-food-in-glass.html

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