We all know we should reduce, reuse, and recycle. They’re all good for the planet.
Recycling is good, but reusing is better than recycling. And reducing our use of disposable materials is even better than reusing them! The less we use, the less we throw away, the less dependent we are on the dinosaur juice that’s sucked out from under the ocean and shipped halfway around the world . . . just for us to use once and throw it out!
As moms, plastic is EVERYWHERE! How can we reduce our consumption of plastic? (Except for #1, all these suggestions are in random order.)
As a side note: these are all just suggestions. Any step we take is a good one. This isn’t another category that we should add to our plate on our quest to perfectionism. Perfect doesn’t exist.
But we can all take small steps to do better. We all have days when we just can’t. I get that. Do what works for you, your family, and the ages of your kids. But challenge yourself. This is all in quest of a better world for our kids . . . and hopefully their kids. What kind of world do we want to give them?
#1: Pay Attention to Packaging
At any store, we are often faced with a dizzying array of choices. If your budget allows, instead of always opting for the cheapest option, choose the option with less packaging. Is one juice brand packaged in plastic and another in glass? Go for glass!
One day I was a Costco, buying bread. Simple, right? However, not only was each loaf wrapped in its own bag, each loaf also had shrink warp around it. Then, two loaves (already bagged) were tossed together in another plastic bag, just to make sure I’d buy them together! That’s five pieces of plastic for two loaves of bread!
Better: buy bread wrapped in just one bag.
Best: buy bread wrapped in a paper bag.
Hardcore Eco-Queen: make your own bread.
#2: Buy in bulk
The larger the container, the less plastic packaging you’re using! (Although, as mentioned above, some of those big, box stores can be deceiving.)
Instead, I’m talking about the bulk bins full of flour, beans, sugar, popcorn, nuts, etc. Phoenix Earth Food Co-op on Sylvania Ave. in West Toledo and Fresh Thyme on Monroe both have a great selection of bulk goods. Depending on COVID restrictions, you can even bring in your own clean, empty containers and save even more plastic!
#3: Use Real Plates and Silverware
Yes, we’re moms. Many of us have small children. Small children break things.
However, the best way for kids to learn to be careful is by using natural consequences. If you drop a ceramic bowl, it will break. Trust me, they learn pretty quickly–especially if they have to help clean it up!
Now, if you’ve got a huge stash of plastic dishes and cups, don’t throw them out. They do last forever–literally. Your great-grandchildren will be able to use them. However, instead of going out and buying more, thrift stores receive more donations of plates, cups, and bowls than they can possibly sell. So, hit up the Salvation Army and stock up on some real plates that are cheap enough that it’s OK if your kids break them!
I’ve found that kids tend to rise to age-appropriate challenges. For instance, I’ve broken more dishes than my toddlers ever did!
Do let your kids use real, metal forks and knives, though. It’s impossible to use plastic ones properly! That’s just child abuse. 😉
#4 Zero Waste Stores:
I first read about Zero-Waste Stores, and found they were mostly located in Europe. But what a great idea, right? I’m sure I’m aging myself, but does anyone else remember taking empty glass soda bottles back to the grocery store, so they could be reused? Why don’t we still do that?
It turns out, we can! The folks who run JustToledo found that they were keeping their waste to a minimum by taking advantage of bulk bins and paying attention to packaging when shopping for food. But it’s a whole lot harder to find great ways to reuse or dispose of laundry detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, dishsoap bottles, etc. (Furthermore, a lot of these soaps have some really harsh chemicals.)
So the people at JustToledo started making their own dishsoap, deodorant, shampoo, laundry soap, etc. Not only are the chemicals in the soap better for the environment, but JustToledo will drop off your purchases at your door, and then pick up the empty bottles when they deliver your next order! A zero waste store–in Toledo!
Who would have thought we’d be so progressive?
#5: Individually-sized Servings
OK, ladies–I know these are really handy, I know your kids go nuts for them, but this is an absurd amount of plastic we’re using, just to make sure little Clayton has a yogurt in his school lunch.
Better option: reusable lunch boxes with small containers. I promise, it doesn’t take much effort to fill these! They can even go in the dishwasher to clean them out!
There are so many more ways we can cut plastic out of our lives! What are other things your family does that I haven’t mentioned here?
Again, small steps lead to a long journey . . . and a cleaner world, in this case!