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Almost 40% of the plastic created each year is for the packaging of single-use products. That means that the majority of this is used just once and then tossed away. It’s easy not to think that it makes much of a difference. If you have the privilege of not living close to a landfill, it’s easy to pretend that your garbage doesn’t have any impact.
Right now, my community is having a bit of a landfill controversy. We are running out of landfill space, and the garbage company wants to be able to expand the limit on how high they can pile garbage in the landfill closest to my home. Understandably, people that live nearby (and the neighboring town that can see it) have issues with this because it’s unsightly.
I don’t blame the garbage company. They are only trying to do their job. They aren’t the ones creating the excess garbage…we are. Yet we are so quick to shoot down the idea of expanding landfill space, but we are extremely slow to be willing to do anything about the garbage we create.
Garbage creation is the problem, and my community has a direct issue with this. I also know we aren’t the only community with this problem. If you were to do a simple Google search about the garbage situation in your city, you might find you’re having more issues than you’re even aware of.
So what can the average person do to help? Be willing to change some habits! The average person generates 4.4 pounds of garbage per day If you are a family of 4, that is 17.6 lbs of garbage per household per day and over 123 pounds per week!
Just think if we are able to cut back on even one pound of waste per person per day. That drops a family of four’s waste down to 95 pounds in a week. That is significant savings, especially if we could get our whole community on board with this!
Obviously, these numbers are averages. Some families do better than these numbers, but that also means some families do worse.
While “zero waste” is trendy right now, I don’t think the entire world needs to go zero waste to solve our garbage issue. It’s awesome that many people are willing to go there because they will hopefully make up for some of those not wanting to do their part, but in general, any conscientious person can make some simple adjustments to their purchases and routines to help reduce the compounding garbage issue.
While there are many areas you can consider for waste reduction, this post today will focus on snack foods.
Limit Individually Wrapped Snacks!
Individually wrapped snacks are one of the worst waste generators. If you are a parent, you have probably noticed at some point how many of our foods come in wrappers because your kids are snacking on them all day long.
Granola bars, fruit leather/fruit snacks, and even healthy whole foods like yogurts and string cheese all come in plastic wrappings or containers. While some can be recycled at home, others cannot, and most people do not truly know all that can be recycled and what can’t.
(If you would like a guide, check out this post: 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Garbage Waste. There are links to handy resources in that post).
The following suggestions will help give you ideas for how to reduce the amount of food packaging you buy (and therefore throw away) and ideas for how to store snacks without wastefulness.
I recognize some food packaging is hard to avoid, and sometimes the price and availability in our area dictates our final actions. Remember, you don’t have to be all or nothing, or “zero waste”. Just do the best you can with the resources that you have. That’s all anyone can do.
Stock Up On Containers!
If you are serious about reducing single-use plastic food packaging, you will need to invest in some alternative containers if you ever need your snacks & meals to be portable (and with small children, you will be bringing lots of snacks with you everywhere you go!)
First of all, I am loving these silicone Stasher bags as a replacement for Ziplocs. They seal incredibly well. The only downside is my son struggles to open them on his own, so I need to help him. As he gets bigger, he will figure it out.
I avoided getting some for a while because I was being stingy, but after I received one in my MightyNest package I was hooked. We were using lots of glass and stainless steel containers for snack storage prior, and while we still do for some snacks, I love that the Stasher bags save a ton of space.
Stasher bags are also a great option for freezing food.
Another great cling wrap alternative is beeswax wrap. You will definitely want to invest in several of these to use for food packaging and storage. Beeswax wrap is great because it can be used similarly to plastic wrap without any plastic. It’s all natural and reusable.
Bee’s Wrap is a very popular brand of beeswax wrap, but you can also make your own!
Check out the video below for a tutorial:
Lastly, I also recommend reusable produce bags. It doesn’t make sense to try to reduce plastic use but take 5 little plastic bags without any other purpose each time you go to the grocery store. These bags are great for produce and bulk shopping. Here are some awesome ones from the True Natured Co.
Now let’s get to those snack ideas to reduce individual packaging!
Not only are whole foods very nutritious, but many of them are naturally low-waste options.
Fruits and veggies (gathered with your reusable produce bags) are things all of us should be snacking on more. I find that I have the most success in eating our fruit & veggies snacks and not letting them go to waste by prepping them soon after shopping.
Certain fruits and veggies start to go downhill once they’re washed (like grapes), but there’s no reason why you can’t cut the grapes into smaller bunches to make them easier to grab and quickly wash.
Carrots and celery do well chopped up and stored in water in your refrigerator. We also buy lots of bananas and apples which do not need any special prep.
Using the Stasher bags I mentioned above, it’s also easy to get some fresh, local produce at the farmer’s market and freeze some of it to enjoy later. I often make frozen veggies for my kids to eat with meals or with a snack. Stasher bags can easily be used in the microwave to steam veggies. If you were a frozen veggie steamer bag addict like me, these are the perfect solution. You just open the bag to add a bit of water and leave an inch or so of the bag unsealed. It works great!
Doing a little prep ahead of time makes it SO easy to get those servings of fruits and veggies in. How you prep and store fruits and veggies will depend on the type of produce it is, but here is a great video that can help you:
Produce isn’t the only whole food snack option, though!
Dairy is a huge part of many toddlers’ diets. Between milk, yogurt, and cheese they eat lots of dairy products.
I have started making my own yogurt. I do it in my Instant Pot, but you do not need one to make yogurt. Some people use crock pots, too. Here is the method I follow to make my yogurt. It is so easy, and you can use any ultra-pasteurized milk to make that style of yogurt. You can definitely make yogurt with a more traditional method, too, and there are many recipes out there.
Depending on how “zero waste” you want to go, you can even look for milk that comes in glass bottles to make your yogurt with.
I started making my own yogurt to save a little money and to control the amount of sugar that goes in it. It’s crazy how much sugar is added to even the “healthy” brands of yogurt.
By making my own yogurt, I am eliminating all the little individual cups that many people buy. If you really aren’t up for making yogurt, you can also get yogurt in big tubs to portion out on your own at home. Generally speaking, one bigger package is less plastic overall than several smaller packages.
Next up is cheese! Kids notoriously eat a lot of cheese. My kids loved those individually wrapped string cheeses and we would go through them like crazy!
Now I buy large blocks of cheese and cut off a portion for them to snack on. We primarily eat sharp cheddar and mozzarella.
Even if your cheese blocks are wrapped in plastic, it is significantly less than the amount of plastic used on the same amount of cheese in cheese stick form. But there are ways to buy cheese without all the plastic, too.
You could bring your beeswax wrap to the deli and ask them to put your cheese order on your wrap instead of putting in a plastic bag. If you go to a cheese factory directly, many of them wrap in paper.
All in all, if you really want to completely avoid plastic, it’s possible. But if you just want to do a little better, buy the cheese you normally get but get it in a block instead of individually wrapped sticks.
These aren’t the only whole food options out there, but they are some of the most popular ones. You know what your family will and won’t eat. Hopefully, you can take some of these packaging suggestions and apply them to the foods that suit your family.
Shop In Bulk
Not all bulk options are less packaging–many items at Costco or Sam’s Club still come individually wrapped, just in larger quantities.
However, there are certainly options at these stores that will help you meet your goals.
My kids are fans of Veggie Straws. I like that I can buy a pretty big bag and it lasts us a whole month. That’s much better than going through one (or more!) in a week of the regular grocery store sized bags. I package them myself in little containers or Stasher bags to take when we will be out and about awhile and the kids will want a snack.
Outside of these warehouse stores, many groceries have bulk bins that can be super helpful. Rice, oats, flours, nuts, seeds, chocolates and other candies, beans, and even spices are all popular bulk bin finds. Many of these items make great snacks.
Lightweight cotton bags make great bulk bin containers. Earthwise Cotton Bags are awesome! Many produce bag sets (like the one I linked earlier) also come with a couple bags without mesh that work for bulk foods.
Bake Homemade Snacks
Baking homemade snacks is healthier & tastier than store-bought snacks any day! Most things are much easier to make than people realize.
Homemade crackers & granola bars are favorites here. I also often make muffins to freeze. I just pull a couple out at a time and warm them up for the kids. Making my own snacks allows me to avoid preservatives, use whole grains, and control the amount of sugar that goes into them.
We will even do things like cook up big batches of pancakes, freeze them, and pop them in the toaster for a quick snack.
Beeswax wraps come in extremely handy for packaging homemade snacks!
Avoiding Single-Use Wrappers Is Possible!
If you are serious about snacking more responsibly without the waste, there are certainly ways to make this happen. While it is very difficult to reduce all food packaging, you can just do what you are able to do given the resources you have. We must believe any attempt at living more responsibly is worthwhile.
What are some of your favorite low waste snacks? Let me know in the comments!