7 Easy Switches
I’ve never been one to need (or want) a lot of stuff.
I took care of my toys as a kid (as far as I can remember - Mom, correct me if I’m wrong), I got into protecting the environment at a pretty young age, thanks to school and Girl Scouts. I also started volunteering for the InterFaith food shuttle early on in high school, and that opened my eyes to the incredible waste that the way we live produces on a daily basis. We’d get in a truck and travel from grocery stores to fast food restaurants, collecting all of the items that were being tossed - items that were perfectly fine and edible - and we’d bring them to soup kitchens and food banks so that the people who needed access to healthy sustenance could get it. I wish that existed everywhere.
Sometimes the world seems so broken that it feels impossible to even begin to start to fix it.
But there’s hope. Plastic is being banned in many places - straws outlawed, people actually thinking about single-use items and learning to recycle and reuse in different, innovative ways. A friend of mine opened a package-free grocery store called Scoop Marketplace in Seattle and encourages people to bring their own containers (while also providing education on how to live and shop more sustainably).
Since I started working on Shop the Change, I’ve been noticing my behaviors and wanting to change more and more, and moving incrementally (always keeping in mind that this is a process, and I can’t do it all at once), I’ve accomplished some of my goals. I can’t say that my friends don’t think I’m crazy, but once you start on this road, it gets easier by the day!
Here are some things I do in my household:
I try to buy items that come in glass jars instead of plastic as often as I can, and then I use them as drinking glasses or storage containers. Since I stopped buying Ziplock bags, this comes in really handy - and it’s super helpful to have jars with lids. If I have to buy plastic containers, I save those too, and use them for all kinds of fun (and not fun but just normal) things.
Individual yogurt containers can’t be recycled where I live (I was dismayed to learn this). I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away though, so I reuse them in a few ways. The kids play with them (they’re fun to stack in pyramids and use for bowling). We use them for easter egg dying and painting projects, and for rooting my veggie ends (see number 4). They can be used as small cups (my 8-year-old’s class used them for cups during their valentine’s celebration this year - smaller servings of sugary juice = happier teacher!). Preserve is a company that recycles those cups and makes them into toothbrushes and other cool things (I also buy the kids those toothbrushes, sold at Trader Joe’s).
I stopped buying paper towels and paper napkins long long ago. For cleaning rags, I use old clothes - mostly t-shirts from my husband that are too trashed to donate (he’s a painter so most of his work clothes are un-giveable out of the gate), and my kids socks (their feet are growing at such a rapid rate I can barely keep up).
I read a blog post awhile back about saving the ends of your veggies, putting them in a container with water until they root, and then planting them. And it works! I have carrots, celery, green onions, potatoes - all from the ends of the veggies I was going to toss. I can’t wait to try avocados!
I started buying Who Gives a Crap toilet paper. I was dismayed at all of the plastic on my Kirkland signature brand and my friend suggested WGAC - not only does the name make me laugh, but they donate 50% of their profits to building latrines in places where there aren’t any!
In the laundry room: I stopped buying dryer sheets long ago - they’re awful for the environment and my kid had asthma, so his doc told us to stop using all scented products, and guess what. The world hasn’t exploded from static electricity.
I gave up using plastic produce bags at the grocery store - I have mesh bags but when I forget those (it happens), I just leave everything loose, which probably makes the checker mad, but I try to organize as best I can across the conveyor belt to make their lives easier.