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Plastic pollution is a huge problem. 300 million tons of plastic is produced per year, and HALF of that is for single use products, like water bottles, plastic wrap, Ziploc bags, straws, product packaging, etc.
That’s a lot of plastic.
While plastic can be recycled, most isn’t. Even if you’re good about recycling water bottles and plastic containers at home, there are many plastic things that can’t be recycled at home. Plastic bags is one of them. Shopping bags, food storage bags (like Ziploc), etc. These need to be taken to another place to be recycled. How many of us do that? Do we really save the Ziploc bag we used for our sandwich after eating it and bring it into a recycling center or store that collects bags/plastic wrap for recycling?
Probably not. Most of us throw it away. Or we shove it into our home recycling and hope for the best.
Even if we are great about recycling all plastic perfectly, plastic can’t be endlessly recycled. After being recycled about 8 times, it can no longer be used. So by all means, recycle! But even with recycling, plastic will still eventually end up in a landfill (or possibly the ocean).
More than 8-million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean every year. This is a big issue. Plastic can be deadly to marine life. It ends up in their digestive systems, which can cause lots of health problems and even kill them. This is bad enough on its own, but humans that eat seafood can also be eating the toxins from the plastic that was ingested by the creature.
Plastic also reduces the oxygen levels in the water in the ocean, which can also kill marine life.
It’s a grave issue that we need to take seriously.
That’s why I decided that my family and I are going to take the steps necessary to be more responsible stewards of the Earth in 2019. It is so easy in this day and age to not think about what happens to our garbage, especially if you are lucky enough to not directly witness the effects of it every day. In my neighborhood, the garbage company comes every week to take both my garbage and recycling away for me to never think about again. It makes it easy for me to think that garbage isn’t actually as big of an issue as it is.
It is becoming more apparent that it’s not that simple. While disposing of garbage properly and following recycling rules is the best way to make sure our garbage doesn’t end up where it shouldn’t, it doesn’t completely erase the impact that garbage has on this planet.
Here are some things that my family and I are going to commit to in 2019 to make a difference and 6 products that will help make this possible. Maybe it will give you some ideas for you and your family, too.
No More Ziplocs/Zipper Snack Bags
These are not only so wasteful in regard to garbage (use for a couple hours, then throw away), but they are also a waste of money! I’m not buying any more of these.
I’ve already cut back on my use of them dramatically by using storage containers whenever possible, but sometimes if I didn’t have the right size or they were all dirty, I would reach for a bag.
I don’t want that to be an option this year. It’s lazy (I mean really, how long would it take me to quickly hand wash a container…a minute?) and I always feel guilty when I do it.
So if this is my goal… I need to be prepared to enforce it. Here is what I will be using to make this goal happen.
Snapware glass food storage containers are my absolute FAVORITE food storage container. They last for YEARS. The container is a Pyrex glass container that is thick and sturdy. They are microwave, dishwasher, and freezer safe.
The lids, while plastic, hold up extremely well. They are also dishwasher safe (top rack, though I have done bottom rack here and there when I couldn’t fit them up top and they survived). They snap on and are completely leak-proof and so durable. I would take leftover soup to work for lunch with absolutely zero spills in my lunch box.
Even though the lids are plastic, these aren’t lids you will ever need to throw away, especially if you take care of them. I have other brands of glass food container lids that have cracked, snapped, or just did not last. These Snapware lids put all other lids to shame.
To be honest, I wouldn’t even waste your time with other glass containers that didn’t have Snapware lids. I have some of those, too, and they just do not compete. I have some containers I can’t use at all now because the lids are damaged. What a waste! (Well, I can use them around the house for things that don’t need a lid, or I can use beeswax wraps on them, but I can’t pack them in a lunch box).
The biggest area I’ve had a hard time cutting back on plastic bags is in my freezer. I buy a lot of my meat in bulk, which means I need to portion it out when I get home and freeze. Buying in bulk is a great environmental choice… I don’t want to negate that by just going home and using my own plastic packaging!
While I’ve heard great things about the Stasher bags, it was a bit above my price point for one bag. I will probably have up to 10-15 of them in my freezer after my big shopping day, so I needed to find something that was easier to stock up on.
As I continued to search, I came across POINT reusable food bags and was sold on them! They are an economical choice with great reviews, and can also be used in the sous vide. They are leak-proof and microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe.
My primary goal with my POINT bags is to freeze meat, but it’s great that I can also use it for anything I need it for, like kid snacks on the go!
Another reason to go with POINT is because this company donates 5% of its profits to the Ocean Cleanup Project. How great!
No More Plastic Wrap
While I don’t use plastic wrap daily, I have use it for things like covering food before I take it to a party and things like that. I need to keep an alternative on hand that I can use in those situations.
That’s where beeswax wrap comes in handy!
Bee’s Wrap reusable food wraps are durable and effective. They receive stellar reviews and last a long time, especially when cared for properly (you need to avoid heat with beeswax wraps).
Not only will these be there to help me cover bowls and plates before going to a party, but I can also easily wrap up a sandwich and our large blocks of cheese with them.
No More Plastic Straws
Half a billion plastic straws are used (and thrown away) every day in America alone. All of these end up in the garbage, as straws cannot be recycled (most straws are made out of type 5 plastic which is technically recyclable, but most recycling centers will not accept them because they fall into cracks and crevices, can’t be easily sorted, and can clog machinery).
That means half a billion straws are being thrown away every day. They do not biodegrade and are responsible for killing marine life.
Straws are fun, though, and often essential for children. Lucky for us, we don’t need to give them up!
Reusable straws are becoming more and more popular. I have used both silicone and stainless steel straws, and I am recommending the stainless steel straws here. I think they are worth the extra cost. I’m not a huge fan of the taste of silicone when the straw goes into my mouth. They’re also kind of chewy…and if you have young children, you know that can be a problem. My son has bit the tip off a silicone straw.
The stainless steel straws are durable, don’t affect the taste of your drink, and my kids love them!
This kit comes with assorted sizes and cleaning brushes at a great price. It’s a great kit to get you started. I wish I had bought assorted sizes myself!
My husband found this awesome Nvironmental reusable straw keychain for me. If you have kids, you need to invest in a couple of these if you are serious about quitting the use of plastic straws.
Even though I have stainless steel straws at home, I don’t have a great way to bring them with me when we are out and about, and if we stop to grab the kids a quick bite to eat somewhere, that means they use plastic straws…which makes me feel guilty because I know better! My four-year-old can get by without a straw (though he prefers one), but my one-year-old cannot yet.
Now the kids will always have a straw and I can avoid the plastic straws from restaurants!
Commit To Reusable Shopping Bags & Recycle All Plastic Bags
I personally do the bulk of my shopping at Aldi and Costco, and neither of those stores gives out plastic shopping bags (well, you can pay for some at Aldi if needed, but I never do). So I may be doing a little better than average, but I still have room to improve. Whenever I go into other stores, however, I’m prone to forgetting my bags. They’re always in my car, but I forget to take them inside. In those cases, I opt for paper bags if I have the option because most paper bags can be recycled easily at home, but sometimes they aren’t offered.
In 2019, I’m going to commit to my reusable bags, even if it means having to run back out to the car to get my bags.
6. Trolley Bags
If you don’t have many reusable bags and need some, or if you’re just looking for an easier way to organize your items in the store, I highly recommend Trolley Bags. These bags attach to each other with velcro, but can also be taken apart and rolled up for easy storage. The Trolley Bag system is a great way to keep items organized as you’re shopping, too, so you can keep refrigerated items together, freezer items together, etc to make putting items away much easier.
I recommend keeping your reusable shopping bags in your car as your storage place, that way you always have access to them when you go to a store. After I bring them in and unload my groceries, I hang them on the doorknob to the garage for me to take out to the car the next time I go. It’s a system that has worked well for me for years. Now I just need to remember to bring them inside the store! 😉
Limit Individually Wrapped Snacks
This is something I have been working on already, and we have made a lot of progress. Not only is it healthier (prepackaged foods are rarely that good for you), but it helps us produce less waste.
This is a hard area for a lot of people. Kids especially seem to eat a lot of prepackaged things like granola bars, fruit snacks, fruit cups, etc.
Here are some things we have done to improve in this area and rely on these convenience foods less:
- Fruit instead of fruit snacks (bananas are cheap and kids love them! We also eat a lot of clementines and apples)
- A peanut butter sandwich (I usually do one piece of bread folded) instead of granola bars
- We bake muffins or make our own power bars and freeze
- I will buy big jugs of applesauce instead of little cups
- I buy big blocks of cheese at Costco and cut off hunks to eat instead of buying individually wrapped string cheese
- Buy big bags/boxes of chips and crackers and portion into my Snapware containers (it helps keep them from getting crushed, too!)
Here’s To 2019 As Our Least Wasteful Year!
While a lot of these things may seem like a huge & inconvenient overhaul to some (and like not doing enough to others, I’m sure!), it’s important to remember that after you adopt one better, healthier, more responsible practice and make it a habit, it becomes second nature and it’s no longer a big deal. That’s how I feel about cloth diapering for the last five years! It’s just second nature.
Once you get used to not buying granola bars in the store and making muffins at home instead, it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice anymore, and you’ll wonder why it took you so long to do it.
Once you get used to using alternative reusable containers instead of Ziploc bags, you won’t even miss them.
While it is a little more work to adopt a lifestyle that is less wasteful, it is a rewarding type of work. There is something so fulfilling about knowing you’re working toward producing the least amount of waste possible.
Do you have a goal for being less wasteful in 2019? Let me know about it in the comments!