Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Step One: Eliminate/Reduce Packaging

This is part of my "Going Lightly One Step at a Time" series.

So, this is step one just because it's something I'm currently working on in a more concentrated manner.  Recently I have been making attempts at reducing the amount of plastic I bring into the house.  A lot of it comes in the form of packaging. 

One of the things that I love about the challenge of living with less impact is that it causes you to really think and rethink just about everything.  Is there a better way to do something?  Often, it seems, there is.

So, we've all been encouraged to bring our own shopping bags to the grocery store.  I am so thrilled at the number of people I see doing this.  I have to say, though, that most folks are coming into the store with one or two bags at the most.  I wonder if they are lucky enough to have such a small grocery purchase or is that the total amount of bags that they own?

In regard to shopping bags:

*Keep your bags in your car or hanging right beside the door, so that you won't forget them.
*Don't just use your bags for groceries.  Anytime you shop - big box store, local boutique, or otherwise, bring your bags.
*Have a bag of bags that you take with you.  I think I have collected more than a dozen bags of various sizes that I bring with me every time I shop.  I just keep them all in the largest bag in the back of my super sexy minivan!  If I just need a couple of items, I can bring in just one or two bags, but for a big grocery shop, I'm set and am only carrying one in my hand. 
*Find more bags on Freecycle, from friends, and at thrift stores.  I just bought another nice canvas bag (apparently a "Martha Stewart Living" free giveaway bag with subscription) for .25 at a church thrift store the other day.
*This one is important and often overlooked: produce does not often need a bag.  Plastic bag after plastic bag is used to bring home the lettuce or the tomatoes or apples or whatever that could easily just sit in your cart without them.  For the smaller items, like fresh green beans or brussels sprouts or bulk items such as oatmeal, rice, etc., just use an old bread bag that you bring along in your bag of bags.  If you are attempting to eliminate plastic like I am, make yourself some reusable drawstring bags.  I've recently cut up some tea towels and some old pillowcases I got at that same thrift store and am doing just that.  I plan to use it at our CSA this upcoming season (for us, Nov. - May), at farmer's markets, and at the grocery.



Pillowcases below.  They were .25 a piece.  Out of the two kingsized cases, I got 6 bags.


There are also tutorials on YouTube on how to make bags out of old T-shirts.  Do a search; it's so easy!

In regard to other items:

*Buy in bulk
*Choose paper/cardboard wrapping over plastic
*Choose package-free over packaged whenever possible

This last suggestion is the one that really gets you thinking.  I'm experimenting with handmade soaps for washing my face in an attempt to rid myself of the plastic bottled cleanser I've used for a few years now.  I've switched to bar soap for my hands, but I have sensitive skin on my face and it will break out with too many perfumes - even natural essential oils.  So, I'm experimenting; I have to be careful.

From this:



To this:



Next, when my shampoo runs out, I'm goint to try a shampoo bar again.  I've tried a couple in the past, but I haven't like them.  I may try a Lush bar or something from Etsy next.  I'm not sure what I'll do about conditioner for my dry hair, but it's something to research. Does anyone have a recommendation?

A few posts back, I abandoned my dishwashing soap for a bar and a homemade scrub.  That still seems to be working fine, even though it has taken some getting used to.  But it's a teeny sacrifice to make in the face of the degredation occuring.  Certainly, I will survive!

I'm also practicing avoiding purchasing frozen veggies.  I don't buy canned to begin with, but frozen are often convenient.  Pineapple, peaches, nectarines and grenn peppers were on sale this week, so I bought extra fresh one and cut and froze the extras myself.  I do the same when there is an abundance with our CSA in season.  Yes, it takes some time.  But it means I don't have to buy more plastic.  I'm willing to try to make this a habit.

Remember that buying used or handmade goods often reduces or eliminated packaging altogether too.

These are just a couple of ideas in the great, grand sea of products we must or choose to bring into our homes.  Take a little time on you next shopping outing to see if there are other alternatives available to the ones that contain packaging.  If there aren't, do you need them?  Can you find another way to get them rather than the one way that is offered to you right now?

If anything, our shopping trips can become quite mundane.  A new challenge like this will have you shopping with fresh eyes.  Try it with your kids.  You might actually even have a bit of fun! :)
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