I've been focused lately on decreasing the amount of plastic we use. It's a hard road - lots of people recycle, but few remember the "reduce, reuse" part of the three r's. I opted for tap water the other day rather than bottled, and when I offered my reason (that I didn't want anymore plastic to end up in the trash) my host told me they recycle. Well, great. But I suspect that you buy cases of bottled water every few weeks, which means that the demand is still there, so plastics are still made. And do you buy anything that is made from recycled plastic? If not, you are missing an opportunity to make a bigger dent. I'd love to make my small contribution by being a consumer who does not increase the demand for plastic production as well as not adding to the plastic in landfills, oceans, or recycling. It's been hard to figure out how to tackle this.
I've been on this plastic reduction path for some time now, but I got all crazy about plastic and the bottle tops when I saw these photos by Chris Jordan. All these albatross chick die because they eat plastic, and it is just horrifying. We live in our perfect little worlds where the trash and recycling trucks come and take it all "away" and we don't think enough about where "away" might be. Trash never just disappears, but to some of us that is how it seems.
At our house, we've gotten paper down to a science - no more paper napkins, towels, and we reuse almost all the paper that comes into the house. All of our egg cartons go back to our farmer. I write lists on envelopes and such, the kids use junk mail to draw, and I use scraps for book marks. Of course, decreasing the amount of paper that is incoming is the key; no newspapers, few magazines, online billing, less credit card offers and other junk mail.
For whatever reason, plastic is way harder. We switched to glass for food storage (both Pyrex and other food jars - there is no reason food has to be in a bowl - might as well reuse a jar!) a while ago, but the yogurt cups, plastic clamshells from fruit, and bottle tops have got me spinning. Our trash company only takes #1 and #2 plastic bottles and jugs, but I am overrun with #1 clamshells and #5 food containers. So the clamshells have now become storage for craft supplies - crayons, markers, stickers, paints, etc. I've been striving to grow more veggies, or buy more at the farmers market, and now Trader Joe's has a larger selection of loose produce so the influx of clamshells is decreasing. I discovered recently that Whole Foods accepts #5 plastics for their Preserve Gimme 5 program, so now I lug those over there. Aveda has a bottle cap recycling program, so I've started a little collection of those now too.
I've bought a set of Preserve wear for parties so we don't need disposable plates and utensils, and I do use other recycled plastic products. So now I have started considering how to further reduce the plastic that comes in to our house. My quick survey says yogurt, salsa, and nut butters, are the big ones. So the easy fix is buying a larger container - a quart rather than a cup of yogurt for example. The more ambitious fix is making our own. I've heard yogurt is easy, so I may give it a try. Salsa is not too hard, but the preserving is what I don't really look forward to. It's HOT in the kitchen when you're canning! Nut butters just give me another reason to buy a Vitamix :) but I guess I can use a blender or some other kind of grinder if I don't mind it too chunky. The other option is talking with the farmers, businesses, and stores that I buy from about their packaging. I do get my salsa at the farmers market - wonder if he'd let me bring my own container?