While there are lots of articles on ways to reduce plastic consumption, I thought I’d show you some of the ways we’ve done this over the years so you can see what it looks like in real life, rather than product ads…
As many know, the bulk aisle is my BFF! But it isn’t exactly truly green if you are still toting everything back in plastic bags, or popping everything into (fossil fuel) petroleum-based plastics that leach chemicals into your food. So a few years ago, I invested in these 100% glass containers by Anchor Hocking that are all Made in USA and each hold 5 lbs of dry goods. They are awesome, and unlike a lot of dry goods containers, you can easily sink an entire 1 cup scoop into it, not to mention they fit easily into the bottom rack of the dishwasher. Fred Meyer (Kroger) and others sell these and frequently have coupons for housewares so I acquired them slowly but surely (they usually retail around $13-14 apiece). As far as labeling, I’ve discovered personally that I don’t like permanent labels because I don’t always keep the same ingredients all the time, and like to more specifically identify what’s in there (“flour” is meaningless when you bake a lot of bread! as you can see I have 5 types on hand right now!), so I use a dry-erase market to label them all and that way they just wipe right off when it’s time to put something new in!
For smaller bulk items, simply use your canning jars with some metal lids and fill them with bulk aisle goodies! We love half-pint jars for things like curry and mustard seed as we go through them too fast for a little spice jar, not to mention for items like baking powder and arrowroot. We use quart jars for the majority of our other dry goods bought in the bulk aisle, from beans to salt to nuts & seeds.
And my last note on bulk…! Invest in $2 spice jars with metal lids (I got mine many years ago at World Market and ordered the dishwasher-safe labels online) and everything can go in the dishwasher, plus you can take the jars when they are empty to the bulk spice aisle (even Fred Meyer/Kroger carry Frontier organic spices these days, woo hoo!) and refill in the exact amount right into your jar (just make sure to get the tare weight first!) for WAYYYY cheaper than buying new jars. I’m always stunned that prepackaged spices can cost upwards of $9-10 while in the bulk aisle you can refill your jars often for under a buck.
And in this day and age where obsessive hand-washing is encouraged, it’s super easy to DIY liquid soap / body wash and use one of these awesome mason jar toppers (beware of the super cheap ones that break easily!), plus I think it’s super cute! Here’s the recipe we use: * 3/4 cup Dr Bronner’s castille soap * 3/4 cup honey (for non-beekeepers, buy in bulk aisles at natural grocery stores) * 1/4 cup castor oil (in the health food section of most major grocers) * 1/4 cup organic olive oil (refill your glass container in the bulk aisle as well!) * 20 drops of your favorite essential oil (DIY or buy the ones in glass containers)
If there’s one trend that really angers me, it’s the Nespresso “coffee pod” with their plastic pods, packaging, etc. (and don’t believe the hype about ‘compostable packaging’ – it only degrades if it goes into an industrial composter, and most of us in the US do not have curbside composting service, not to mention. As if coffee was hard to make before? It’s so insanely wasteful, y’all. If your household drinks a ton of coffee, get a gold reusable filter in your standard coffeemaker, or if you’re like us and only one person drinks it? Buy a stovetop Bialetti (yep, they even come in induction-stovetop-safe versions like ours pictured here on the left!) or a French press! No filter to buy, takes just a few minutes and you’ve not used any plastic! PS – when we buy coffee in bulk, we reuse a small brown paper bag rather than buy prepackaged (read: non-recyclable) and then just grind it at home and store in a mason jar).
When you go into a store, there is a massive Wall of Plastic, as I call it, in the refrigerated section. Nine million types of yogurt, 99% in plastic tubs where the lids are not-recyclable and where the tubs, while recycling companies take them, are NOT technically recycled. (Please learn about DOWNcycling which is what happens to plastic – i.e., one yogurt container does not get made into a new one) Fortunately, the good folks at White Mountain make a killer Bulgarian yogurt (similar to Greek-style) that comes in medium and large size glass jars – woo hoo! Ask your grocer to carry it if they don’t already. Remember, it’s your choice to ingest food that comes in plastic – and your choice to speak up and ask retailers to do better.
By now most of us have heard of beeswax wrap, right? Please say you have…. Anyhow, while these are getting more and more popular (our local co-op carries it now), the part I’m most happy about is that they come in MANY sizes now, including this monster size one for loaves of bread. Love it! PS – when these finally do reach the end of their lives, you can cut them up and put them in your compost pile. Woo hoo!
There are so many more involving packaging I could go on for days…and the truth is this: if it comes in plastic packaging, don’t buy it. Most plastic-packaged things at the grocery store you don’t HAVE to buy – rather, you CHOOSE to buy them. Ask yourself these questions when you are considering a purchase that involves plastic:
If it’s not a whole food, ask:
Can I make this at home? (you’d be surprised how much better the homemade alternative can be – my husband and I did this with these Peruvian burritos we loved and will never buy the prepackaged one again! same goes for non-dairy milk…which is also pennies on the dollar compared to the prepackaged cartons!)
If “no”, is there an alternative that is packaged in an infinitely-recyclable material, like glass or aluminum? (there usually is – condiments, I’m talking to you!)
If it is a whole food, ask:
Can I put it in my cart without a bag? (Y’all, bananas and apples and such do NOT need to be bagged!)
Can I put it in a reusable bag or container? (great for bulk items, greens, meat, etc.)
Some food for thought I hope helps take you “next level” when reducing your plastic consumption!
What are some of the biggest ways you avoid plastic in your home?