Plastic Confessions Week 2

Plastic Confessions2

Here’s all my trash from the second week of Plastic Free July. Quantity-wise, it’s about the same as last week, and content wise there are also some consistent patterns. Pet products, packaging from mail-order (this time bubble wrap envelopes instead of those air-pop bags from the boxes, and one or two flat out forgetful mistakes when I let my kids order something at a restaurant that comes with plastic lids, cups, and straws.

A couple different things this week:

  • cleaning product bottles. I decided this week that the wood floors needed some polish, and I used up two bottles of the product. They will go in the recycling, and I’m not sure what other options there are (other than not polishing the wood floors, which would result in their deterioration). Well, that’s not true … I used to use a wax product that came in a metal can and required me to hand buff the floor … not sure if I’m willing to go back to that product.
  • A plastic tub from Kool Aid. OK, here’s the deal: for our road trip, I wanted to cut down on plastic bottles we would end up buying and throwing away in order to have refreshing beverages in the car. So I did this: I took a big water tower with us, one individual re-usable water bottle each, and powdered Gatorade and Kool-Aid. Yes, we could have just drunk water … but realistically the kids were a lot happier with some flavoring, particularly as the water got warm in the car and it was hot and I was trying to keep them hydrated. So, that’s a long story, but basically I think that one tub (which went in the recycling) is standing in for all the possible beverage bottles we might have ended up without it.

 

I’m not achieving total Zero Plastic (and I won’t … at least not as long as I have pets and kids) – but the effort continues!

More than 3 R’s

The three R’s of environmental living (Reduce, ReUse, Recycle) are just the beginning. Here’s my R’s from this week:

 

Reduce: I’ve reduced packaging, plastic, and energy use (I unplugged the fridge again this week, and bundled errands to reduce driving).

Re-Use: washing out and re-using bags and tubs, mostly.

Recycle: the commercial recycle bin, but I also have recycled textiles … old stained tshirts into rugs, and I’m working on chicken feed bags into totes.

Repair: mending and fixing prevents things from becoming waste and keeps them in use longer.

Rot: anything that can be composted should be! Make dirt!

Plastic Free July: Week One

Plastic Confessions

Here is all my plastic trash after the first week of Plastic Free July. It’s a bit more than I was hoping I’d end up with, frankly. But I’m not just posting it to make myself feel guilty. What other, lower packaging, options would I have?

  • Animal food and litter – my children have a rabbit and a guinea pig, and their food and litter/bedding all comes in plastic bags. I don’t currently have any good ideas of how to avoid this waste, but I’ll keep an eye out for any stores that might sell these things in bulk.
  • Cheese wrapper – just avoiding dairy products is the only good idea I have for avoiding the wrappers. I don’t know of anywhere I can buy hard cheeses in bulk or without packaging.
  • peel from an envelope – next time I buy envelopes I’ll look for the kind you have to lick.
  • mailing label from junk mail – we get return address labels as solicitations from non-profits, and the backing and the mailing label are on plastic. I wish they wouldn’t do that, and I will send a message to the organization letting them know how I feel about it.
  • bag for carrots – I normally wash these out to reuse them, but this one got ripped open badly and isn’t any good anymore. Or I could buy my carrots loose and not get a bag, if I can find them like that.
  • plastic cup and straw – this was just a foolish forgetful choice. I let my daughter order a bubble tea when we went out to lunch, and so we ended up with plastic cup, lid, and straw. We’ll not do that again.
  • two little plastic spoons- another forgetful moment. My kids bought gelato and got two little tiny disposable spoons into the bargain. Next time, we could carry our own utensils and refuse the disposable ones in the shop.
  • soda six pack rings – I could either not buy soda, buy it in glass bottles, or buy cans in a cardboard box.
  • wine bag – I can buy my wine in glass bottles, but this was for traveling and keeping in a cooler in the car, so the bottles weren’t going to work well for that.
  • wrappers from veggie burgers – I could make bean burgers from scratch.
  • hotdog packaging – we could buy sausages from the local butcher instead, they come wrapped in butcher paper. Or we could not each sausages at all.
  • wrap from bacon and sausage packages – these were our own pork from pigs we raised, and each package comes back from the local butcher wrapped in plastic inside the paper. Other than not eating meat anymore, I have no ideas how to avoid all this.
  • popped airbags from mailing box – we ordered a few things from the big online shopping giant this week, and each box came with extra packaging. This is another reason for me to try and shop small and local rather than take the shortcut of ordering online, whenever possible.
  • packaging from frozen fish, both outside bag and individual wrappers for each fish fillet – we don’t eat a lot of frozen fish, but I spotted this down in our freezer chest and decided to make fish soup this week. I could buy at the local seafood market at the waterfront, instead, if I want fish. That usually comes with a bit of plastic wrap as well, though.
  • lots of little produce stickers – I do wish fruits and veggies didn’t always come with those irritating stickers on them. The farmers market stands have a lot fewer stickers than the food co-op or grocery store do, so that’s another reason to buy at the Farmer’s Market.

Let’s see if I can do better in Week Two!

In The Kitchen

Cook Ahead

I’ve just spent a long day in my kitchen. On my calendar I mark these days as “Cook Ahead” days, the once-a-month chore of cooking all the food I put in the freezer to pull out and eat throughout the month.

This has been my habit for a year now, and it has proved to be well-worth the effort. On all the many days that we are busy, there is no need to worry about dinner (except for enough planning ahead to remember to pull it out and defrost it over the day.)

It’s a great time-saver … on all the other days of the month. It’s a huge amount of work before-hand. Isn’t that the way of it? You’ll pay for it on one end or the other, and I guess I just prefer to put the effort in up front.

I start off by working with a calendar, noting what days in the upcoming month we will have a reason to eat elsewhere, noting what days we will be in a hurry, noting which days I’ll have enough time to do a more elaborate meal, etc. Then I write down a meal plan for the whole month, and choose meals to cook ahead that will freeze well.

Usually each family member picks something they want to eat (they each have their favorites they request over and over again), and then I fill in the rest, based on what supplies we have on hand or what is seasonal or just what inspires me as I flip through cookbooks.

On Cook Ahead day itself, it’s very efficient also because I can do all the prep at once, then put the meals together easily.

This month I made:

  • Vegetarian Lasagna
  • Vegetarian stuffed bell peppers
  • Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie
  • Pork Meatballs
  • Mussel Chowder
  • Brazilian Fish Stew
  • Vegan Cabbage Soup

You’ll note the mix of meat vs. vegetarian. I’ll be writing more about how this family faces the omnivore’s dilemma, later.

This goes into a freezer that still holds two tamale pies, a macaroni and cheese, several jars of beef stew, and a quiche from last month. We will eat well this month!

Now, unfortunately the next step is to deal with this …

IMG_0825

 

Not Rushing

can't rush this

Holidays (even summer ones) always begin with the preparation, and for me that involves being in stores that are far more crowded and full of rushing people than I normally experience. In the preparation for Independence Day, I found myself in our neighborhood Big Box Store in exactly that kind of crowded, busy, cranky shopping environment. Fortunately, I was not drawn in to the mood.

Standing back patiently, telling people “I’m in no rush, don’t worry” when they were blocking my path, I got my shopping done without stress to me or others, and probably without taking much more time than it would have taken to rush about and push and shove.

Not rushing, fussing, stressing, or bustling is one of my goals. What am I rushing toward? Isn’t this really a race to nowhere? And there are so many things that can’t be rushed! Laundry drying in the sun can’t be rushed. Bread baking can’t be rushed. My old dog teetering around in the yard for her 2am call-of-nature unfortunately cannot be rushed either.

So what is accomplished by me rushing things? Can I adopt a general attitude of “it’s OK, I’m in no rush” as I tackle each of life’s necessary tasks? How would I experience my life differently if I could keep to the slow lane?

Plastic Free July

My big sustainable living challenge for this month is Plastic Free July. What is Plastic Free July?

It’s a challenge, started in Australia, and being accepted each year by people all around the world. The goal is to raise awareness of the problems from single-use plastics, and to encourage people to build new habits by choosing to refuse (#choosetorefuse) single use plastic.

Folks choosing to take on the challenge can do it in whatever way is right for them: focus on a particular habit (disposable water bottles or straws, perhaps), try to reduce across the board, or try to go completely 100% plastic free. I’m trying to reduce across the board, and today is Day 1 for me and my first trip to the food co-op with the challenge in mind.

So how did I do?

Plastic Free July 1

I had some real successes, which should be celebrated. In the bulk bins I was able to get tofu, corn chips, walnuts, coffee, licorice candy, and grated parmesan cheese. All of that went into reused and reusable containers and bags.

I also got my produce all either in bags I am reusing or just in their own skins … produce doesn’t always need to be wrapped in plastic! It might be wet, yes, but that problem can be worked around.

And I bought some locally made yogurt that comes in a mason jar … which I can then reuse again and again.

But it wasn’t all good. I couldn’t find any milk in glass bottles (other than goat milk, which my kids just don’t like), so I got it in plastic. I have a re-use for that bottle, but still. And then the other ingredients for lasagna also came in plastic. Cheese is going to be hard. Of course, there are other issues with dairy products, so maybe I just need to wean us off dependence on it at all.

Plastic Free July 2

Then here is the worst of it: the clamshell package. This packaging is not recyclable, not reusable, and pretty awful wasteful. Small stuff, like berries, almost always come packaged this way. I know all this, and yet I bought these blue berries anyway because I want to make a 4th of July cake tomorrow. I have strawberries in my garden, but not blueberries. So here I made a deliberately bad-for-the-planet choice for the sake of a holiday cake.

It’s just day 1. Let’s see how the rest of the month goes!