Reducing single use plastics is at the top of the list this year for the boys and me. We’ve picked up a little of the local obsession with the ‘baggie’ among other bad habits and need to clean up our act. However a few easy, cost effective changes are already greatly reducing how much we throw away.
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Blowing Off the Baggie
First on the list was ditching the ‘baggie’ / ziplock or whatever you want to call it. These addictive little bags come in all different sizes and it was just a case of working out what we used each type for and what to use instead.
Snack size and half gallon were easy to replace. Mostly they went in lunch bags for portioning off snacks. Both my kids already have reusable insulated lunch boxes which we now put dividable containers inside to hold their sandwich or other main food. We also have small single serving plastic tubs that are great for snack time. And for those times when you truly need a bag we found Lunch Skins (UK link) or ReZip. These reusable bags are a direct replacement for single use plastics. Ideal! The next challenge is to start avoiding individually packaged foods.
Watch Out, Incoming!
Reducing the waste coming into the house wasn’t as easy but is clearly a key area in reducing how much we have to throw out. I’ve had reusable large shopping bags for some time… and have improved how often I remember to take them with me! But the packaging on foods and plastic fruit and veg bags are still irritating. These reusable produce bags (UK link) have solved some of the issue. I was a little nervous that the stores might think I’d lost my marbles putting fruit and vegetables into my own bags which aren’t totally see-through but none of the shops I’ve tried them in minded at all. I’m a total convert.
I keep thinking that if I use four reusable produce bags a week that’s over 200 plastic bags a year that aren’t sent to landfill. Definitely a win.
Now this may shock my American friends. I never owed a tumble drier until I moved here 5 years ago. Yes, I was 35 before I owned a tumble drier! Mostly because our homes were smaller in the UK but also I guess because the need wasn’t strong enough. It was quite a culture shock for me too. In my subdivision, in the deepest burbs, I’m not allowed to hang clothes out to dry! It seems ridiculous to heat clothes to dry them on a summer day that’s over 90f, but that’s how it goes. So, my compromise here is to start using my airing rack more and to use wool dryer balls (UK link). These help cut down drying times, negate the need for softener (one less plastic bottle) and eliminate disposable dryer sheets.
No More Clinging On
So, this was a British hangover…using cling film / plastic wrap on leftovers, lunches and in the microwave (I think Americans use paper towels to stop the splatter?). But it so easily solved. Where had silicone food covers (similar UK link) been all me life? Quicker and easier then faffing around trying to cut the cling, they go straight in the dishwasher and no waste involved. Perfect. I’m certain I shall never buy plastic wrap again.
Time for a Drink…
My final phase one switch was to treat myself to a travel coffee mug. Tens of billions of singe use hot drinks cups are tossed into landfill every year. There are many, many great designs for reusable cups to choose from. I simply keep my clean mug in my car’s cup holder, use it, wash it and put it back in it’s home ready for another day.
If you commute on public transport and are short of space in your bag there’s even collapsible cups (UK link) to help the cause. With summer on its way I’ll also be checking our water bottles are ready for use and finding myself a cold drinks tumbler too…
Not a bad first effort at reducing waste but we’ve still got a long way to go. Let me know what your easiest eco wins were.