Plastic bags are not the only problem... or even a large part of the problem that is our disposable society. I have been thinking a lot about the mountains of garbage our community generates each month. Food packaging, and all sorts of plastics and other petroleum based products. How that stuff just sits there in the soil... how those molecules that make up a bottle or diaper or whatnot are stuck and won't become usable again in my lifetime... or my kids'...how we only have a finite amount of molecules to use on this planet -- for the rest of the planet's existence... How this is an obvious fact, yet we act like there's no limit.
Zach and I have had several conversations on why these facts don't seem to translate into real change in the way businesses operate; reducing (and in best cases eliminating) waste generated by creating, selling, and using a product. The conversations always come back to the fact that businesses only do what the consumers demand.
So we've decided, as consumers, that we are going to make some changes around our little patch of land.
I was pleasantly surprised when Zach brought up something about us doing better. He said he liked the idea of reducing waste and thought changing the way we consume things could lead to a healthier overall lifestyle. I gotta tell you I was quite smitten when he was talking like that.
Having a plan and making some progress reduces my anxiety. Drawing inspiration from Zero Waste Family, we would like to take some steps to reduce waste and clutter in our life. This will be done in many steps that will take many years, but I hope to always be making some progress.
1. Less clutter and trinkets in our house -- less mess, less time cleaning, less stress and anxiety for me.
2. Better eating habits. Avoiding packaging means avoiding a lot of processed food. Buying in bulk encourages cooking from scratch. It will also encourage us to eat more seasonal food and try new foods.
3. Saving money. It might cost a little more at first, but I know that avoiding packaged foods, goods with a lot of packaging, and generally avoiding stuff that we don't absolutely need will save us money.
4. Less stress. With less stuff, there is less stress. With less options, there is less stress.
5. Reducing amount of plastic that comes into contact with our food.
6. Simpler life.
Overall goals are:
1. Reduce or Refuse 2. Reuse 3. Recycle (only as a last resort)
In the first phase of our goal we have set out to do the following:
- Do not bring any plastic bags home. Be prepared with reusable bags at the store. No need to bag produce. Use reusable bags for bulk items (we have been doing most of this, except for the bulk).
- Bring glass containers to the butcher counter to avoid plastic and/or paper wraps.
- Call, email, do whatever it takes to reduce junk mail (started last week -- it can take a lot of time)
- Do not purchase anything in a plastic bottle. Drinks in glass bottles are ok (glass is just about the most recyclable material there is. Plastic and paper are actually down-cycled)
- Do not buy anything in cartons, glass only for milk and cream (have already been doing that)
- Stop using disposable wipes (this will be harder now, but I think I can do it)
- Compost all compost-able food bits.
- Buy bulk whenever possible. Right now this includes: flour, sugar, salt, oatmeal, detergent, pasta, rice, quinoa, raisins, snacks, and honey.
- Do not use trash can liners
- Buy toilet paper that is wrapped in paper instead of plastic bags
- No paper products such as tissues, paper napkins, paper towels, single-use dishes or utensils (already do this).
- No zip-lock type baggies (already doing this)
- Reusable feminine products
In the next couple of weeks we're looking into:
- Getting sour cream/cottage cheese in glass
- Making our own yogurt
- Finding cheese that is not wrapped in plastic
Some of these changes seem downright unnatural: Zach is strangely unnerved by the idea of bringing meat home from the grocer in glass jars (may have something to do with a twilight zone episode he saw as a child with human brains being stored in glass containers). In the end though, we feel we can only benefit from this experiment.
We've felt very inspired by the stories of those who are living this way now, and can only hope to inspire a few others to try it too. You don't need to go cold turkey and adopt a completely "zero waste" lifestyle overnight... but try taking one or two things you do that might contribute to unnecessary waste and think of some ways to eliminate that waste. You may find it is easier and more convenient than you think.