Category: Use Less Plastic
Wednesday, October 28
It’s been about 6 months since I’ve given an update on my 2015 New Year’s resolution, so I thought it was time to check in! For those of you who don’t know, each year I choose a New Year’s resolution that is related to food or the kitchen that impacts the environment in a positive way. This year my goal was to stop using paper towels. So, how are we doing? I have had several friends and family members ask with a skeptical voice if we are really doing it and if it’s actually going well.
It’s going great! Honestly, it hasn’t been hard at all. The big stack of Ikea towels I bought have worked wonderfully, and my system of having the bin of towels accessible in the kitchen and then hooks close by (for hanging after use) works like a charm! (Click here to read more of the details.) Everyone in the family is participating and following the plan. The key to success has been accessibility. The towels are at everyone’s level and in the center of things. The hooks are nearby for the dirty towels. I don’t have any extra laundry, the towels just go in with everything else. I am really happy with how well it has worked out!
As for cleaning, I have mostly moved away from paper towels. I still use them to clean the toilet, along with bleach cleaner. I haven’t been able to switch over to a towel for that task, despite my aunt telling me it will be fine. She has a designated towel for the toilets, with a T in permanent marker in the corner and she says it works great with her environmentally-friendly soap. One day maybe I’ll take the plunge. (Not into the toilet, just into cleaning it differently.) Toilets aside, I no longer use paper towels for any of our cleaning. I purchased high quality microfiber towels and, not only am I not using paper towels, I use less soap. And it’s faster and easier! (I’ll share the towels I bought in a separate post down the road.)
There is one more thing that I still use paper towels for – draining bacon. I should be able to come up with another way to do this, but I really like patting the bacon dry with a paper towel. If anyone has suggestions for this, let me know!
So, have we completely given up paper towels? Not quite, but almost. We hardly ever use them, just for toilets and bacon. And my life is not any harder. In fact, cleaning is easier. I am so glad I finally pulled the trigger to make this goal a reality in our home!
If you’ve been trying to cut back on paper towels, let us know how it’s going and please share any tips that have been helpful with your implementation!
Tuesday, March 10
Remember my 2015 New Year’s Resolution to give up paper towels? The process is underway and so far so good! We are down to just 2 more rolls, which I will keep in the garage for “emergencies.” Besides that we are done with paper towels! Today I wanted to share some tips for how to stop using paper towels in the kitchen that have helped to make our family successful at this goal. It was surprisingly simple and easy!(Side note: I will share tips for giving up paper towels in regards to housecleaning in a later post.)
I’m just going to share what we did with some good old fashioned bullet points. Here we go!
- Buy a WHOLE BUNCH of cloth towels that are good at drying. I like lightweight cloth towels better than terry cloth. Flour sack towels are my favorite to use in the kitchen. In addition to the flour sack towels I already own (you can buy those pretty much anywhere these days, by the way), I also purchased the Tekla and Elly dish towels from Ikea, which were $0.79 – $1.00 per towel. (FYI: I like the fabric used for the Tekla towels a little better, they have a little hook for hanging and they’re cheaper.) I am also planning to buy a few of these Bird-E Towels on Etsy (thanks to reader Sara B. for that suggestion!).
- Store the towels all together in a VERY accessible spot in your kitchen. I bought a bin to keep all the towels in and we keep the bin in a drawer in the middle of our kitchen, one that all of the kids can easily reach.
- Get a small basket to set in the laundry area for soiled towels and cloth napkins. I bought a cute basket to set on our dryer and that’s where all the dirty (dry) towels and cloth napkins go.
- Hang hooks in the laundry or kitchen area. I found wall hooks that say “LAUNDRY” at World Market, but any hooks will do! After we’ve used one of the towels, if it’s too wet to throw into the laundry basket we hang it on a hook. Luckily for me my laundry area is right next to the kitchen, so the hooks hang above the washing machine. If your laundry room isn’t close to the kitchen, find a good spot in your kitchen to place the hooks. The key is that they need to be accessible!
- While we’re at it, get a basket for cloth napkins is stored in an accessible spot in the kitchen. We’ve had cloth napkins for a long time but we would were terrible and almost always just grabbed a paper towel because it was easier than walking across the room to the linen drawers. I took the cloth napkins OUT of the linen drawer and put them into a basket that hangs on the wall above the kitchen counter . As soon as I made that change we have only been using cloth napkins. It’s awesome! (Note: As you can see in the photo above, I haven’t actually hung the basket on the wall yet, but that’s the plan!)
The key to successfully getting rid of paper towels and paper napkins is making the cloth versions accessible and easy to grab. It’s so simple but it took me a while to figure it out! Now that we have our system in place, everyone is using cloth with no issues whatsoever. My kids know where everything is and what to do with dirty towels and napkins. Every time I see one of the towels hanging to dry above the washing machine it makes me so happy!
If you have any addition tips, thoughts or questions, please share! (Also, be sure to check out the comments on my original paper towel post. There are some great tips there, too!)
Tuesday, January 6
It’s January, which means it’s time to set a resolution! As you know, I like to choose a resolution each year that is related making a change in the kitchen that has a positive environmental impact.
A few weeks ago I went to a party at my neighbor’s house. I accidentally spilled a drink and immediately called out, “Where are the paper towels?” Kat then handed me a stack of cloth towels. Because, apparently, real-live cloth towels dry things, too. Who knew? Okay, I knew. But for some reason I kind of ignore that fact a lot.
I use too many paper towels, both for cleaning the house and for day-to-day use in the kitchen. That simple experience at Kat’s house made me realize how dumb it is that I so often default to the disposable solution when I need a towel, even after my efforts to reduce plastic, paper napkins and the like in past years. I was talking about this with Nate’s mom last week and she said that she only buys paper towels when we’re in town. Geesh. It is seriously time that I tackle this ridiculous addiction once and for all!
So, 2015 is the year! No more paper towels! We’ll use up the paper towels we have left and then, after that, I’m not allowing myself to buy any more. As my paper towel supply begins to dwindle, I will be stocking up on cloth towels of all kinds. If you have suggestions for towels you like, both for the kitchen and for cleaning in general, please share!
On a related note, I love our cloth napkins and we use them quite frequently, but I will admit to grabbing paper towels when I’m feeling too lazy to walk across the room to the napkin drawer. All of this is changing this year! Go Team! You Can Do It!
So, who’s with me? Let’s cut the paper towel cord together! I need the moral support. 😉
Tuesday, October 14
I made an impulse buy at the grocery store this week: a Hutzler Onion Saver.
Here’s the thing. I never know how to store leftover, raw, unchopped onions, which I often have because I tend to only use half an onion at a time. I don’t like to use plastic baggies because of my goal to use less one-time use plastic. But the onion is usually kind of bulky, so I have to use a larger storage container than I really need that takes up space in the fridge. Basically, this is a very difficult problem to have and my life is hard. (Insert sarcastic emoji that doesn’t exist but should.)
Hence, my impulse buy of the onion saver. And, I LOVE it. Granted, I’ve only used it for 2 days and have no idea if it will last forever or whatever, but, so far, so good. It stores my onion well, doesn’t take up tons of space in the fridge, and traps in the onion odor so the fridge doesn’t get stinky.
Happy onion storing!
Friday, August 22
Friday Show and Tell: The Cutest Comment on the Internet, A Must-Read Article About Plastic and More!
Happy Friday! I didn’t publish any blog posts this week – that might be the first time ever! It was the last week of summer and we are dealing with a plumbing mystery that has taken hours (days?) of our time and is resulting in the need to repipe our house. Yes, totally sucky. But, I have a house to repipe, so who am I to complain? As a result of my non-posting this week, I’m bubbling over with things to share with you, so today’s Show and Tell is chock full of good stuff!
I had a post publish on Babble this week entitled Kick It Old-School with this Milk Toast Breakfast Recipe. I’ve been excited for this post to go live so I could share it with you. The recipe is seriously delicious. As wonderful as the recipe is, I have a little something else about milk toast that I have to tell you about.
Milk toast is considered a “vintage” recipe, one that I’ve found many people haven’t even heard of. While I was researching milk toast for my article, I came across a comment on a random website by a reader named “Grumpy” that absolutely captured my heart. “I have tried to make [milk toast] from memories of my mother making it when we were children. We had more milk than we could use from the cow I milked, and fresh home churned butter mixed into the hot milk. Mine is not near as good as I remember it was back then. I am 85 and have to cook now, after all these years. I do miss my darling wife’s cooking.” Seriously, this might win best comment on the internet ever. I can’t even.
Moving on to less cute, more depressing things…how’s that for a segue? Aren’t you excited to keep reading? I thought so! Remember my annual New Year’s Resolution to Use Less Plastic? We haven’t talked about it since the beginning of the year, so I thought I’d touch base real quick. I found an article on Medium this week that you should absolutely read, Gyres: The Terrifying True Story of the Garbage That Could Kill the Human Race. I had a similar reaction when reading this article as I did when I saw the documentary Bag It and the short video The Story of Stuff – basically a horrified, “we have to do something” reaction. The article about gyres is loooooonnnng and, honestly, the writing is super flowery and kind of hard to get through, BUT you still need to read it. I had pulled a bunch of quotes to share in this post but realized I had pulled paragraphs of quotes, so it’s probably better for you to just go to the source. And then let’s use less plastic together! I think about this goal every day and our family has definitely made progress, little by little. As Gandhi so eloquently said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” We can do it! (Sorry for the cheerleading, preachy portion of today’s program…sometimes I can’t help myself.)
Here are my other food links for the week!
- On Babble: Luscious Lemon Chicken…with Just 4 Ingredients (this is an adaptation of a recipe I got from a friend when we got married…it’s so simple and truly luscious!)
- On Cosmo: 16 Refreshing Lemonade Recipes You Need This Summer
Phew! I’m done! Your turn to share whatever you like! Also, if you’ve joined me on the Use Less Plastic train, tell us how it’s going!
Friday, January 3
Happy New Year, everyone! I hope the start of your year has been a good one! We kicked off 2014 with a visit to Pasadena, where he had amazing grandstand seats for the Tournament of Roses Parade (big thanks to our friend Sherri!) and attended a far-too-stressful football game at the Rose Bowl (go Stanford no matter the result!).
Now that we’re a few days into the new year, I thought we could chat quickly about resolutions. I’m not a huge new year’s resolution person, but I must admit that since I started creating resolutions that link food to the environment, I actually really like setting a goal each year. It has helped a lot! It’s time to set my goal for 2014 and it’s the going to be the same one I’ve had for the last two years: Use Less Plastic.
The first year I made this goal it was very general and I didn’t make much progress. Last year I decided to get more specific and to also revisit the goal throughout the year. That definitely helped and we had a few successes. We’ve started making our own yogurt, eliminating all those little yogurt cups, and I make all of our granola bars, reducing all that one-time packaging trash we were producing every day. I stopped using plastic baggies completely in the kids’ lunches and we only use cloth napkins at home now. (Quick tip: Cocktail-sized cloth napkins are PERFECT for everyday use! I got mine at the Crate & Barrel outlet and love them.)
Since using less plastic is really important but also incredibly challenging, I’m sticking with the goal for another year. Step 1 for 2014 is to finally use the reusable grocery bags I have stuffed in a closet. It is ridiculous that I don’t bring my bags with me when I go shopping! Once I have that tackled, I’ll get another goal going and will keep you posted on my progress!
Just a few quick thoughts on plastic. First, this infographic is great food for thought in regards to plastic and the ocean, which is just one part of the plastic story. Second, if you haven’t watched the documentary Bag It yet, please do. It’s GREAT and you can now stream it on both Amazon and iTunes.
Source: One World, One Ocean
On a completely unrelated note, I am also making a resolution to get more organized with my housekeeping, you know, now that I have a house to actually keep! I think I’ll just make a monthly schedule and try to stick to that. I’ll keep you posted and share the schedule when it’s all put together, in case anyone else wants to join in on the “fun.”
What are your new year’s resolutions for 2014? Would love to hear them! Also, did you join in on the “Use Less Plastic” fun in 2013 or are you planning to for 2014? Please share your tips and tricks for reducing waste, especially plastic!
Wednesday, January 9
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I firmly believe our actions in the kitchen have an impact on Mother Earth. There are so many things each of us can do every day with what and how we eat that can make a big difference in the environment. It’s empowering!
Each year I choose a new year’s resolution to support those beliefs. Last year I decided our family needed to use less plastic and disposable items. I wrote a thorough post about the goal, with some information explaining what inspired my goal. And then, well, then life happened. And not much changed. And I didn’t reach my goal. This is not to say that we are over-users of plastic and disposables. I have always tried to be thoughtful about that. But things didn’t get any better than they were in the past.
As I look back on 2012 I can honestly say that using less plastic and less disposable items is the hardest Eat Well, Heal the Planet goal I’ve made so far. Eating less meat was way easier than I thought it would be. Joining a CSA was a fabulous way to get our family eating more veggies and eating more locally. But less plastic? Less disposables? Oh my, it’s hard to do, especially in this throw-away, fast-paced society in which we live. It really takes effort. And I didn’t put in the effort I needed to.
Instead of giving up and abandoning the goal, I’m going to give it another try! And I’m going to start with just a few specific goals and build from there.
- We have a lot of paper napkins on hand in our house. Last year I had visions of using cloth napkins, which we did TWICE. Yes, just two times. Here’s the plan for this year. Use up all the paper napkins that we have already. While we work through that supply, I will build up my cloth napkin stores. I am NOT going to buy more paper napkins for our daily use. Once they’re gone, it’s cloth all the way!
- I need to use less plastic baggies in my kids’ lunches. By the time school starts in the fall, I want to have transitioned to reusable metal containers, BPA- and pthalate-free plastic containers, and cloth pouches. I’m giving myself 9 months to make that transition happen.
- I am going to find and try various snack recipes to replace the snacks I buy at the store…you know, applesauce pouches, granola bars, fruit roll-ups, etc. I’m not going to expect myself to give up those convenient snacks cold turkey, but I want to try to find a realistic way to try to replace some or all of them by making those snacks myself.
That’s it for now. I’ll make more small goals as the year moves on and I will let you know what they are and how my progress goes.
I’m curious, did any of you try to cut back on plastic and disposables last year? How did it go? Any great tricks you can share from your journey? I am very interested to hear your feedback and about your experience!
Here’s to a more successful 2013, filled with less plastic and lots of pretty cloth napkins!
Wednesday, May 23
This giveaway is now closed, but it’s still a handy post and there are some great green cleaning tips in the comments, so keep reading!
I recently decided to ‘green’ my cleaning supplies, in support of my New Year’s resolution to use less plastic and create less waste. I have to admit, I’m a bit of a clean freak. I love knowing when something has been bleached and is SO SO clean. But I don’t love knowing that every time I run my dishwasher, I’m draining a bunch of yucky chemicals out of my house into the world. I must also admit that, until now, I didn’t real trust green cleaning supplies. I just wasn’t so sure that they would actually work.
Well, I’m happy to report that Phase 1 of cleaning green has been a success! I discovered a few great products that have worked really well, including Bon Ami and Seventh Generation’s dishwasher soap, among others. I’ve also gone back to using good old vinegar and baking soda. That is by far my most favorite cleaning agent for my stainless steel kitchen sink! One day I cleaned the kitchen counters with vinegar and Anna walked in and asked what was cooking for dinner. It was pretty cute.
Coincidentally, at the same time that I started swapping out a lot of my cleaning supplies I was introduced to the company Full Circle Home. I was totally game to try out some of their products and do a giveaway on the blog since I was already looking into these types of products! Full Circle makes beautiful cleaning tools from sustainable and renewable sources and I’m really liking everything I’ve tried so far. I was most excited to try out the cellulose cloths, hoping to replace a lot of my paper towel use. They are super absorbent and you can toss them in the dishwasher to clean them. Super cool! Oh, and the walnut scrubber sponge? I never thought I could find a sponge besides the classic green and yellow Scotch-Brite sponges to make me happy, but this one is just as great!
They also sent me a freezer compost bin…how smart is that? Freezing compost scraps – genius! But we’re not going to talk compost just yet…that is another post for another day! (I promise, we WILL talk compost at some point, though!)
Giveaway time! One of you randomly-selected, lucky clean freaks will receive the same lovely package of Full Circle Home goodies I did, including: Walnut Scrubber Sponge, Scrap Happy (freezer compost bin), Stick ‘Em magnetic dish towel, Tidy dish cloths, Scoop sponge, Squeeze cellulose cloths, and The Ring veggie scrubber. How to enter!
- Leave a comment on this post! That’s it! If you feel like leaving a green cleaning tip, we’d love to hear them!
- For a second entry, “Like” Full Circle on Facebook (I’m loving their Facebook page, lots of great sustainability info!)
- For a third entry, “Like” This Week for Dinner on Facebook
You must leave separate comments to get the extra entries. Prize must be shipped in the U.S. All comments need to be posted by Midnight, PT on Wednesday, May 30.
Good luck and happy cleaning!
Friday, March 30
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.
- 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!
Thursday, January 12
I have not eaten a Twinkie in, well, honestly, I cannot remember the last time I ate a Twinkie! I really think it’s probably been since middle school. Maybe even elementary school.
So last week when I was shopping with the girls and spotted a box of Twinkies at the store, it’s not surprising a little nostalgia kicked in. And I actually bought a box. I couldn’t believe it myself. The girls hadn’t even heard of Twinkies and for some reason I just felt like I had to introduce them to this childhood treat.
Two things happened.
- The Twinkies are still sitting in the box. (The girls are totally uninterested.)
- Hostess declared bankruptcy.
Okay, I admit, I doubt the fact that I purchased a box of Twinkies for the first time ever jinxed the company. BUT…it does seem like a strange coincidence, no?
Here’s the thing. When I bought the Twinkies, I actually felt guilty. They represent for me everything that is wrong with our broken food system. It’s processed food, packed with sugar and corn syrup and filled with something that can be described as “creamy” but not as actual “cream.” On top of that, each Twinkie is individually wrapped in plastic and then thrown into a cardboard box. So, yes, I felt guilty buying those Twinkies and I don’t think that guilt was necessarily misplaced. I mean, it certainly wasn’t supporting my New Year’s resolution.
When I read a bit about Hostess’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy last night, I learned this is the second time in a decade that the company has declared bankruptcy. So, after failing once and having debts restructured and forgiven, they are doing it again. While I don’t want 19,000 people to suddenly lose their benefits or their jobs, I’m wondering if this is a sinking ship that should be saved. Their problems appear to stem more from labor costs rather than poor sales, so I don’t think this is a statement that people have exhibited less demand for their product. BUT STILL…something isn’t working at Hostess. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
So, you may be wondering, was the Twinkie I ate after shooting this photograph any good? It was just how I remembered it. Which means it was okay. 😉 And for those of you who are interested, Nate and I are taking bids on our Twinkies. We will entertain offers of at least $100 per Twinkie. Okay, okay, you can still get Twinkies. But given their long shelf life, I think we’ll hang onto these puppies and cash in at a later date! 😉
Update on our ‘Twinkies For Sale’ – Nate has decided that he’s not good at timing the peak, so he will be auctioning off 1 Twinkie every 10 years. Mark your calendars!