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Friday, March 30

Use Less Plastic Resolution…First Check-In

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The other day my friend Emily (she’s the blog’s godmother…you can thank her for the existence of TWFD!) emailed me and said the following:

so….remember at the beginning of the year when your blog resolution was to get rid of using one-time-use plastic stuff?  well, i tried making the same one…but i’m failing miserably?  what are you doing?  what do you do about trash bags? lunch? etc….i would love to know…you always have good ideas.

I responded with:

yes, I remember my resolution…I think about it every day and how it is SO HARD.

I went on to describe how I am not nearly far enough along with my goal as I want to be.

These are my new, beloved food storage containers. I’ll get to them in a minute. Promise.

Since I started making food-related new year’s resolutions that help the environment, I haven’t actually felt that challenged. Eating less meat turned out to be actually pretty easy. Joining a CSA was a simple and wonderful shift in the way I buy and use produce.

Using less plastic? TOUGH. Plastic is everywhere. It is such a part of daily life. Which just solidifies my resolve to want to change that fact…but, yeah, 3 months into my goal and I’m not nearly as far along as I’d like to be. But sometimes change is slow…just so long as it is steady!

I have taken a few steps to reduce our plastic and one-time plastic use. I wanted to share what I’ve done. And, of course, I want to hear how you are doing or what tips you might have. I’m also hoping that checking in with all of you will help re-light my fire and really get this resolution going!

What I have done so far:

  • I almost never use little plastic baggies anymore. I’m not perfect, they still sneak in here and there. But they hardly EVER find their way into my kids’ lunchboxes and I am rarely using them to store food in the fridge, unless I just can’t find a container that works, and even then I try to use foil instead if possible (which I can then wash and recycle).
  • I replaced my plastic food storage containers (which were all recycled, by the way!) with glass containers. I LOVE THEM. I picked up the Rubbermaid Glass containers that they have at Target and my local grocery store. The plastic lids are BPA-free, the glass bowls are great sizes and shapes that are actually useful and, the best part, everything stacks and stores together SO WELL. Please note, I do not have any sort of working relationship with Rubbermaid. I looked around at different types of glass containers, thought these looked good, bought them and gave them a try. And I seriously love these containers.

Next steps:

  • Buy a few more glass containers (specifically small ones) for storing food so that I don’t need plastic baggies for storing leftovers in the fridge.
  • Find some good, non-plastic storage containers for the girls’ lunchboxes. While I have stopped using plastic baggies in their lunches, the containers I’m using are still made out of plastic. I would love to find some alternatives.
  • Develop a system where I actually USE my re-useable grocery bags lying all around the house.
  • Buy more cloth napkins.
  • To address Emily’s question…what about trash bags? Hmmmmm….still don’t know the answer to that one, but am thinking long and hard about it.
  • I don’t buy much individually packaged foods…but we do buy granola bars and fruit leathers all the time for lunches. I am going to start a quest for homemade versions that the kids like!

I’m going to stop there for now. I think that’s a long enough to-do list for now!

This year’s resolution has made me much more thoughtful in my daily life. I think a lot more about recycling. I think a lot more about how to buy things with less packaging and often do so. The resolution has definitely gotten me on the right track, even if I feel like I still have a long way to go.

Please share your own experiences with using less plastic. And tips are more than welcome!

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34 Comments »

  1. Hi Jane,

    I wrote this article for the LA TImes about packing a waste-free school lunch a couple years ago when I began my quest for using less plastic. I’m sure there are even better options out there now, but I still use all the products mentioned in this article and love how durable they’ve been. (I have no affiliation with any company—simply what I bought and loved).

    http://articles.latimes.com/2010/oct/09/home/la-hm-green-kids-lunchbox-20101009

    Best, Heather

    • Jane Maynard

      oh, thank you, heather! can’t wait to check it all out – and great article, by the way!

    • I like lunchbots and planetbox too (although you ladies are way ahead of me on the less plastics project). Thanks for the article and the post!

  2. Also – I now use these for sandwiches and snacks instead of plastic baggies and they are fantastic. You can put them in the dishwasher, too. http://www.lunchskins.com/

  3. 3
    AllisonS

    This is what kills me… all of the plastic bags I use when I buy my fruits and veggies! Anyone have any good ideas here? I do just forgo the bag completely when possible (for example, if I’m buying a single lemon or a couple of oranges), but for the most part I am still very unhappy with the number of plastic bags I come home with for my fruits and veggies.

  4. I’m going to be reviewing fabric lunch sacks on my blog in april for my everyday is earth day post every mon-fri in april

  5. 5
    Nikki

    My biggest challenge is that I like to cook some things in big batches and measure it out and freeze it. I find the best thing for this are the foldover plastic baggies and I HATE it. Any ideas? The thing I like about them is that they are moldable and take up less space than reusable containers would.

    • Crystal

      I do this too, but usually with stews and soups, I love mason jars, fill to 1/2-1/4 inch from the top to allow for expansion. they stack fairly well and their are many sizes to choose from.

  6. 6
    Kristin

    I have a retwilly fabric lunch bag, I love it! Here is their website. She makes them in different fabrics and they wash well. Check it out! http://www.retwilly.com/

  7. Where we live you have to pay for bags at the store which is always my incentive to bring them from home on a big shopping day. If I am just walking to town and not sure if I will do any shopping I use one of the cuter bags as my purse so it can double duty if need be.

    For storing leftovers I use my Pyrex that came with lids which is great since often times I cook the dish and then just put the lid on what is left and into the fridge it goes also cutting down on water for dishwashing.

    Depending on which grocery store we go to I have to use the plastic bags for produce since you weigh and label it yourself but I just save those and reuse them for things like my husbands lunch sandwich.

  8. I love the resolution. We’ve been trying to decrease our use of plastics in the kitchen as well but it’s hard since single use plastic is everywhere.

    My in-laws solved the trash bag issue by only getting paper grocery bags at the store. Then, they reuse the paper bags as garbage bags. I know reusable would be better (that’s what we use) but they’re old and stuck in their ways.

    We still haven’t found a good solution for those oh so convenient plastic sandwich bags though.

  9. 9
    Crystal

    Composting helps my family steer clear of plastic trash bags, for our garbage I use compostable bags (bio bags – http://www.biobagusa.com) I use the 3 gallon bags which take almost 2 weeks before being full enough to take outside to the big trash can. This can be hard though if you don’t compost kitchen scraps, if they are wet they will start to break down the bag, although if you took out your trash every few days it should work. If not for your kitchen maybe for your bathroom and other rooms. They make larger bags as well.

  10. 10
    Donna

    I had to train myself to bring my re-useable grocery bags into the store. I began by storing them in the trunk of my car. If I forgot to bring them in the store, I would make myself go back to my car and get them. Even if I was in the way back corner of the store when I remembered. I only had to do this like three times until it became a habit. For some reason I only use them for grocery. I’ll have to start taking them in for every place I shop. “Yes. Please bag my lovely new Nordstrom silk shirt in this Trader Joe’s bag!” Hey! Whatever it takes. :)

  11. 11
    Kari

    We use these cute SnackTaxi pouches for lunches. A great way to avoid baggies for sandwiches, pretzels, carrots, etc. Pretty easy to hand wash and they dry quickly.

    You can buy them online at – http://www.snacktaxi.com/

  12. 12
    Heather H

    This may sound a bit mental, but I work at a preschool and we are always asking for the plastic bags from the grocery store; they’re great for putting wet clothes into! I know they don’t get recycled, but they definitely get re-used, and are very, very welcome. Maybe you could check with the girls’ school?

  13. 13
    Jenny

    I laugh sometimes because I remember my grandma always washing and re-using every plastic bag she had- from bread bags to ziplocs…. she did it for the frugality of it.

    As I find myself looking at some washed bags that are now drying next to my sink- and although my motives are more environmental- It makes me smile to think I’ve become a little like her!

  14. 14
    Rebecca

    For trash bags, we use the the paper bags you get from Whole Foods. We keep two 19 oz empty Swiss Miss cocoa cans in the freezer for peelings, egg shells, meat scraps, etc. On trash day, we plunk them out into the regular trash. Also, we use an empty bag of tortilla chips (which we always have!) as a liner or a trash bag within a trash bag for messy/wet stuff that doesn’t make it to the freezer. We hardly ever have a problem with stuff leaking through the bag. FYI I just started reading your blog this fall, and I really enjoy it. Thanks!

  15. 15
    Kim 2

    I’m not sure we can live comfortably without kitchen trash bags in my household. Both my parents and my husband’s parents have always used paper grocery bags in their kitchen waste containers. I find that to get messy. My parents compost all scraps, my inlaws put all garbage scraps in a re-purposed milk carton….top cut off and scrubbed clean.

    We are really good about using re-usable grocery bags and only glass food containers. I prefer both to plastic, so it’s quite easy to stick with this practice.

    I started washing and re-using zip lock freezer bags which seems to be working out. I haven’t been able to master cloth napkins though. I like the whole idea. Maybe I need more of them in order to make it a lasting habit. I’ll add “cloth napkins” to my grocery store list today and see if I can get us back on track!

    Thank you for the reminder!

  16. 16
    Janna

    Shawn and I invested in these Snapware Glasslock containers. They’re a bit of an investment, but we use them all the time and love them! Shawn even uses them for his work lunches. http://www.amazon.com/Snapware-Glasslock-Tempered-Storage-Containers/dp/B0029U57RA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1333232261&sr=8-2 Don’t confuse them with the kind sold at Costco. The ones in the link have a REALLY tight seal, which I love, and the other kind just doesn’t.

  17. 17
    Sarah

    For granola bars, you might want to check out this post. Just found your blog tonight. Hopefully it’s not bad ettiqute to reference another blog.
    http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/thick-chewy-granola-bars/

  18. 18
    Soybeanlover

    We use little wash clothes at the table for dinner. It sounds weird, but it’s like what you get at sushi restaurants. For lunches, I know there are places that sell metal lunch boxes, or there are some nice wooden bento boxes out there too. I’ll keep an eye out. There are always stainless steel bento boxes too. Let me know if your interested.

    I’ve seen homemade flour bags for whole foods and the like.

    Glad to hear the update. I think about this challenge a lot thanks to you.

  19. Good for you! I definitely try not to use disposable plastic (like snack bags) but haven’t made the switch from plastic storage containers. Just not sure I could send lichens for a 2 and a 4 year old with glass, you know?
    But as for granola bars – I just made the easiest ones ever and my kids loved them.
    http://twoweeksatatime.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/a-weekend-snack-5-minute-cranberry-oatmeal-granola-bats/

  20. 20
    Kim

    Jane,

    So happy to see an update! I’ve been wondering about how you were doing, especially because there are so many things that I struggle with when it comes to reducing plastic (like what do I do about the produce I buy at TJ’s that comes in containers or shrinkwrapped).

    For lunches, we’ve done some reusable snack bags–they aren’t good for everything, but great for sending homemade granola bars and other drier items. Otherwise, I do use plastic containers, but figure at least they are all reusable.

    And I have found a granola bar recipe that my kids absolutely LOVE and its a lot healthier than the typical store bought ones. I’ll have to send it to you.

  21. We use these instead of plastic sandwich baggies for sandwiches, snacks, etc.:
    http://itzyritzy.com/reusable-and-washable-snack-bag/

  22. 22
    Christin Attebury

    I’m just contemplating this path and I love all of the inspiration. My biggest problems have been Ziploc freezer bags paper towels and napkins, but I guess I’ll have to try Mason jars and cloth napkins/washcloths. I wonder if my family will be supportive. I just got a coupon to http://www.greentogolunchware.com/ today so I’ll start with a few things from there to cut back on the sandwich bags and produce bags.

  23. 23
    Terri Scheidt

    Hi Jane,
    Here is a website my friend gave me. http://www.re-pacbags.com/Small-Reusable-Sandwich-Bag-p/repac-003.htm
    She uses these instead of sandwich bags. She uses no baggies at all. Thanks for the great blog!

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