Precision Plastic Reduction Part Three
It’s been a while since my last plastic reduction post. That’s because the further I explore the process, the more difficult I discover the next phases to be. I’ve persevered however to find new successes and frustrations. Ready to find out how this next phase of plastic reduction has gone? Read on.
At Sam’s Club, various flavors of Laughing Cow come in affordable three-packs. The exterior container is paperboard, and the individual wedges are wrapped in foil. The three-pack of cheese wheels also comes wrapped in a cardboard sleeve. I love the fact that the individual wedges don’t need to be repacked for your daily brown bag lunch. I also found French brie by the large wheel for just under six bucks. The container is cardboard and the actual cheese wheel is wrapped what appears to be a wax-coated paper. (Although it could be plastic or clay, and I’m not exactly sure how to tell the difference.)
Lemon juice in a glass jar
At Walmart’s ethnic grocery aisle I found a brand of lemon juice called GOYA. It comes in a glass jar with a plastic cap. This brand is extremely affordable and has way less plastic waste than the two-pack of plastic bottles from the warehouse stores that comes with a plastic connector piece.
Target’s bulk candy dispensers
We’re not big candy people, but those who are (or parents planning for Easter) can get numerous varieties of package-free candy at their nearest Super Target.
Also at Target, I found spices in glass jars with metal lids and no plastic shrink wrap sleeve around the top. When I need a spice in a smaller size, this is my new go-to source. They are part of Target’s generic store-brand line, so they’re affordable as well. Three that I purchased this past week were Chinese five-spice, cardamom, and sage.
Devoted mainly to marine supplies, Green Boat Stuff (affiliate link) has many items suitable for home use when trying to embrace plastic reduction. Some examples include metal window squeegees with replaceable rubber blades, wooden scrub brushes, and stainless steel bar ware.
Forced to choose between package-free and organic produce
With the bare produce options available to me (found after MUCH searching and a commitment to making special trips to out of the way locations to stock up), I could easily achieve a 90 percent reduction in my produce packaging. The problem? Now that I’ve also been trying to incorporate more organic produce into our diet, I’ve noticed that much of it comes in plastic, while more of the nonorganic produce does not. What’s up with that?
Lack of local eco-options
I’m still amazed at the difference between options readily available to folks in the California/Oregon/Washington neck of the woods, and what we have access to here in Florida (and elsewhere). Bulk bin dispensers are something I have to really plan to incorporate due to a lack of local access to that option, and even then my choices are limited. From the online reading I’ve done, it sounds like being able to refill containers for shampoo, olive oil, lotion, and liquid soap is a snap for those who live on the other side of the country. I’m happy for them. I really am. I’m just frustrated for the rest of us.
Recycling options contingent upon our municipalities
In my area, that means that many items end up in our weekly trash that otherwise wouldn’t. I know I should feel great about the fact that our weekly trash output has finally reduced to the point of being roughly 25% or less of the other homes on our street. And I do. But I have to be honest Wise Bread readers, at least one big toe is still planted firmly in the realm of “pissed off.” Why? I resent how much effort it takes to avoid plastic, and the fact that I’m stuck at this 25% of local average plateau when I could otherwise move on to canceling my trash pickup service and move forward to a drive to the dump every 4-6 weeks.
How do I get it all done? I don’t. Remember when I recommended letting go as one of several effective housework hacking strategies? It turns out you can also use this same trick to accomplish lofty green goals. That being said, things have gone a little too far for my taste in the letting go department. Because it’s supposedly good for the soul, here are a few confessions about how embracing extreme plastic reduction has impacted the routine flow of things at our house.
Particularly at the grocery store. Decisions I used to make quickly are now bogged down with my current learning curve and concerns over plastics in the oceans. I find myself frequently wandering around with that “deer in the headlights” look in my eyes, changing directions with my shopping cart as I look for options with less packaging further down the aisle. This extra use of energy distracts me, and I often need to turn back around again to get what I wanted at the other end of the aisle in the first place.
Headaches are common as I debate over items that meet numerous nutritional and plant-based food requirements, yet aren’t plastic free. A core system that was efficient before I started this quest has now become cumbersome as I struggle to fit in new purchasing parameters. The only people who seem to have any patience with my deliberations are the numerous senior citizens in my area with extra time on their hands, stopping to ask me about my reusable produce bags and such. I try hard to remember this when some of these same folks stop for similar deliberations in the middle of an intersection I have to drive through on the way home.
My Christmas tree is still standing in my living room. It’s March. I considered taking a photo for this article to prove this is indeed as pathetic as it sounds. Deciding the actual admission to the world was humiliating enough, I bailed. Incorporating more plastic-free grocery items has meant including items that need more preparation and also making special trips to get there. Rinsing out recyclable food containers for odor control while limiting trash bag use is a colossal pain in the ass. One that takes up free time I would otherwise use for household incidentals.
Planning plastic-free menus and the extra places I need to shop to make them happen is a frequent exercise in logistics. Making sure the produce and grocery bags are laundered and packed, planning the most time and gas-efficient shopping route, and leaving time for bulk food division once I get home makes getting out of the driveway a chore. I often forget things I wouldn’t have before. Last month’s lipstick fiasco is a perfect example.
I’d accomplished the lip lining portion of my makeup routine when my husband asked me if I needed the ice packs for the insulated shopping bags I take along when buying frozen food. I stepped away from the mirror to tell him where they were, and promptly got involved with the vehicle packing process, which involved numerous types of bags, coupons, and a few glass jars for the olive bar at the grocery store.
The end result? I was entirely through my day before I hit the ladies’ room at my last stop and noticed I’d spent the entire day looking like a bad Tammy Faye Baker impersonator. Not my finest hour.
So Wise Bread readers, that’s it for this round. I’ve decided I need a break from fresh plastic reduction efforts and will be calling it quits for a while. I’ll still keep up with the changes I’ve made so far, but have clearly reached the point where taking on new efforts in this area isn’t something I have time for just now. I will however be looking for hacks and tips for incorporating these adjustments with greater ease. While avoiding plastic is certainly not easy, it is possible to make a huge dent in your plastic (and overall) trash output with determination and discipline. Do you have any tips or tricks to make this process easier? I’m all ears.