Sunday, January 10, 2010

Passing on plastic?

I've heard a lot of talk recently about people purging plastic from their lives. DC recently instituted a bag tax which has inspired a lot of people to take advantage of free tote hand outs and to make the conversion to shopping with reusable bags. But there are also people who are thinking of converting to almost exclusive glass or metal storage when it comes to the kitchen and food they transport to work or for snacks.

Our household, aside from the moments we forget completely or shop outside of our routine, is 100% store-provided bag free and we have been for over two years. And in order to preserve the flavor and quality of "bulk" foods, we save glass jars from previous food purchases (pasta sauce, salsa, etc.) and reuse them. I've also been exploring glass refrigerator storage options, including perusing for vintage Pyrex and things that have both aesthetic value and enduring function. I use a ceramic mug at work for almost everything I drink and I try not to buy preportioned foods or drinks as they just increase the plastic multifold. As most of us know, however, it's pretty difficult to purge plastic completely from your life.

Ultimately, I'm curious about what you've done and how it's helped or hindered your shopping, routines, lifestyles, etc. Have you found anything non-plastic to be convenient? Do you use public transportation and have alternatives to plastic that aren't heavy (because that's tough for me - I don't want to lug around glass dishes if I don't have to)? Did you stop buying plastic wrap and sandwich bags? Links, thoughts, frustrations - please share them!


  1. Hi Meaghan! Interesting post!

    I don't use public transportation regularly. Ours pretty much blows around here (comes every hour and really long routes) Before I had a car and lived in another city, I did use the bus regularly. I do take the commuter bus to Boston and such b/c I would never want to drive.

    As far as plastics, like you I bring my own bag, but I do sometimes forget. I try to tell the cashier if I don't want a bag but if its too late and there is a line, I usually just take it instead of making a federal case out of it.

    I use plastic bags like that from the store to line our trash cans. So I never have to buy them, which is great. For dog poop bags I have a doogie doolie for spring/summer and buy those biodegradeable poop bags. I go back and forth whether that makes sense or not. :)

    As far as bringing stuff to work and storage, like you I store a lot in glass jars. I bring my lunch to work in either pyrex lidded (the lids are plastic) containers or plastic containers that we've had forever. I sometimes wrap things in plastic wrap but I also reuse/wash out ziplocks and use them until they are holey.

    Pretty much I think its kind of unreasonable to think you can get rid of all plastic in your life. I also don't think plastic is totally and absolutely evil. Like most things, I think moderation is good.

    At work I have a mug and a nalgene bottle that I've had forever. I usually fill up bottle and refill my water mug all day long. I also use real silverware at work and just wash it.

    I think its a good idea to "phase out" your plastics but it doesn't make sense to me to just throw out all your plastic to purchase new stuff. That really seems wasteful.

    Just some thoughts!

  2. I use public tranport/walk everywhere, and I use a glass container... but only for the food I'm going to heat up in the microwave. The rest is generally plastic, at this point. I'm definitely not as far along as you are!

    Something I could see myself doing is making reusable snack bags out of oilcloth or nylony-type materials.

  3. I have a mug at work for coffe and tea. I have a stainless steel 1 liter bottle I lug around for water. I have a picnic/ office silverware set I keep in the office so I don't use plastic. I have a small salt shaker/ pepper mill at work so I don't use packets. I have brought my own loose tea to the office and buy coffe out in my travel mug that I bring to work every day on my commute since my office insists on using those K Cups everyone is so enamoured with. I walk most of my commute and use the bus or metro for a small segment of it.

    A lot of my plastic containers come from the farmers market stand where I obsessively buy farm fresh yogurt. But I am still using mostly plastic for leftover storage and to carry my breakfast and lunch to work. I want to try something different but haven't decided on what yet.

    I predominantly used reusable bags before the DC bag tax but my BF didn't so much but we just used his bags for trash bags. Now we figured it is more economical to buy trash bags in a box than to pay the $.05-- as long as he remembers to carry his bags :-)

    I haven't gotten away from plastic bags in one area of my life yet-- cat food storage. My cats eat raw food. I store it frozen and I also travel a lot and unpredictably with little or no notice to work. The arrangement with my cat sitters and my BF have always been that I will store the food in ready to eat portions for the cats. Honestly, I also find this a lot more convenient for me too with the hours I sometimes work. So, once every so often I partially defrost the big portions, put them into individual servings, and put each meal per cat in a sandwhich bag. Since each cat eats a different amount, I put two sandwhich bags (one for each cat) in a quart bag to make a meal time serving. 4 quarts go into a gallon to make 2 days worth of meals. These are stored in the freezer and taken out somewhat ahead of time so they begin to defrost in the fridge. I reuse the quart and freezer bags but not the sandwich bags- I haven't found an effective way to clean them really. I recently found "green" ziplock bags made with wind energy and 25% less plastic so I switched to them. (All their meat is sourced from people that raise meat specifically for animal consumption to so it is "pet green." :-)

  4. I love reading the comments on this post!

    I've been using my own bags at the store for a few years (I have Baggu for the groceries and I use muslin drawstring bags for my produce). The Baggu are so small that I always have a couple in my purse. I use them whenever I shop, not just at grocery stores. I think other people must be doing this as well, because clothing store clerks no longer look totally bewildered when I bring out my own bag.

    I have a little stack of plastic containers that I use for leftover storage. They were scavenged from a takeout place near school that everyone used to order in from. I would collect the empty containers from everyone and they are what I use every day now. They'll probably last forever, because I never re-heat food in them, just use them for storage. If they start to wear out, I'll probably do the same thing as you and source some vintage pyrex.

    We each have two re-useable coffee mugs for the rare occasions when we buy lattes. They are plastic, but they get so much wear that I'm okay with that.

    I have a stainless steel water bottle that I use both for water and for my morning smoothies.

    I do admit that I still love my Ziploc freezer bags for freezer storage. I try to re-use them as often as possible. I just haven't found any other solution that really is airtight and I like to prepare food in bulk and then freeze it for later use.

  5. We always take our bags to the store, but they are so against it out here in Baltimore County. Our Wegman's clerks hem and haw and scowel (sp?) at us when we bust out our own bags. Like we messed up their system and incovenienced them in some way. I don't even want to think about how many little blue plastic bags they pump out in a day that are going to end up in our landfills. One time I saw a clerk put a large plastic orange juice jug - that had a handle! - in a blue plastic bag. Alone. The folks at Trader Joes are much more understanding.

    My husband takes the Baltimore metro (yes, we have one) everyday to work. It's not pretty, but it's the right thing to do. We've also eliminated as many petroleum based products from our home and reuse everything. Also, metalsmithing business is almost 100% green. The only chemical I use is the gas I need to solder my pieces.

    I love those glass containers, they are great!

  6. OMG, I love LOVE love vintage Pyrex refrigerator containers in solid primary colors!! :D

  7. I take my own bags when I remember... building that habit has been hard since I don't have an official "Grocery-buying Day". And when I am forced to buy anything in plastic containers I am the recycling police. I also recycle all cardboard containers and packaging, metal cans, and glass. I figure, if I DO have to purchase something non-degradable, it has to at least be recyclable. I'm happy to see the results when I have only two 13 gallon bags of actual trash to take out each week.

  8. I live in NYC, and find that it's a whole lot easier to be green in a city than in the burbs - this is all based on assumption as I haven't lived in the burbs since hs.

    So...Over 95% of my travel is via public transport or my feet. I shop locally as much as possible and am a member of my CSA for fruits, veg, eggs and flowers (people often don't think about the horrible ways in which flowers are grown, cut, bunched and transported). I make most of my own food from scratch so I cut back on packaging that way. I store all of my food in reusable containers and am trying to move to glass ones as my plastic ones die out.

    I am obsessed with Chico bags and always have at least one in my purse at any time. I never put veggies in plastic bags at unless it's something loose like string beans - I HATE when people put apples in a bag. What a waste. When I randomly get plastic bags I save them for friends with dogs.

    I have at least one eco friendly light in each room (a room filled with them is not the nicest light). I use ceiling fans and floor fans for about 95% of the summer. The washing machines at my laundromat are front loading and I air dry lots of stuff.

    I'm considering getting my beer in reusable growlers rather than bottles, but I haven't committed that much just yet.


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