What We’re Doing Wrong – Oh, The Plastic!

A couple of weeks ago I explained the events that led to my decision to 1) reassess my life and 2) write this series about it. If you haven’t read that, I highly recommend it. (Of course I do, right? Right!) When you’re done just don’t forget to come back and visit me here.

I’m more than a little ashamed to admit that, despite my best efforts, there is a lot of packaging that runs through this house. Especially of the plastic variety. Over the years we’ve instituted all the simple, every day waste reduction methods we could think of. We buy in bulk, compost heavily and recycle anything we can. I’ve even been known to shred the ridiculous stack of paper my daughter brings home from school every Friday, tuck it safely in a container in the pantry and reuse it for small animal bedding before turning it too out into the compost pile.

Through all our best intentions however, there is one thing I have noticed in my reassessment of our habits. We throw away a lot of thin plastic bags. Those that once housed loaves of bread are probably the single most frequent offender. Chip bags (no, we can’t eat just one) and the covering that comes on bales of pine shavings bought at the feed store for nest box, brooder and chicken coop lining come in a close second.

So how do I plan to remedy that?

Chips are our guilty little pleasure. We have successfully made our own in the past and we have discussed that option and committed to do that more often in the future. But once in a while homemade potato chips just don’t hit the spot. Lucky for me, SunChips, apparently possessing of psychic abilities read my mind before I ever even came to this realization and released the world’s first fully compostable chip bag. I bought one when I was last in the store, we finished off the Garden Salsa flavored chips it contained and I’ve got it on my kitchen counter awaiting it’s fateful trip to the compost pile out back. As an added bonus I’ll be marking the date on my calendar, photographing the bag’s composting progress and blogging about it as we go along. The company claims it takes just 13 weeks, we’ll see if we can recreate it.

I’m also going to try saw dust, rather than shavings in the chicken coop. We already buy sawdust by the trailer load for the horse’s stalls and I can’t believe this option didn’t occur to me sooner. (It’ll also be much cheaper.) The only place that may not work is in the brooders — I fear the dust would be fine enough the chicks might ingest it. I simply cannot risk those health complications so for now the shavings will remain. But the brooder is a relatively small area comparatively and I will start seeking out alternative sources of the shavings in the meantime.

And for the most shameful part of this first step in reassessing our green lives; I have a bread maker. I know, I should use it often enough to keep my family in bread. I have however, come to a stark realization of two things recently. First of all, I am a chronic over-commiter. Second, I am finally coming to terms with the fact that I need to reign that terribly bad-habit in. I’ve prioritized many of my current responsibilities and commitments, some will be culled as the weeks of 2010 wear on and those that are left will take front and center leaving little room for more. Making bread in the bread maker is feasible on an infrequent basis, but supplying my carb-loving family with all they need simply is not. Instead, I’ve found a relatively local bakery that will sell me bread that does not come bagged in plastic. Now I just have to buy some reusable storage bags — like those made for produce — in the appropriate size and add the bakery to my grocery rounds.

Other things that we buy that result in plastic bag or wrap waste include cheese, cereal, and tortillas. But in all my soul-searching I’ve not quite figured out how to change that. The cheese and tortillas are both made locally and some of the best we’ve ever found. And the cereals we buy are made relatively eco-friendly companies; Kashi and Cascadian Farms. So, I guess we’ll take baby steps. These last three create, in comparison with the three above, little waste. We’ll tackle the serious and focus on the smaller offenders later.

Have you done any life reassessment lately? What areas are you focusing on right now?

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Diana Prichard is a rural living freelance writer whose work and life is chronicled on her self-titled personal blog, a Handmade Food Columnist for Try Handmade and the one-woman show behind the small mid-Michigan farm, Olive Hill.

3 Responses to What We’re Doing Wrong – Oh, The Plastic!
  1. Condo Blues
    April 5, 2010 | 12:01 pm

    While you’re trying to cut down on the plastic packaging, is there a way you can repurpose it in the short term? I’ve heard that some folks rinse out and reuse the liner in cereal boxes to freeze food. I make bread in my bread maker on occasion and find plastic bread bags come in handy for storage or when I’m taking it somewhere for a meal/gift. Because I recycle and compost all that I can, I don’t have a lot that goes in the household trash/landfill. I have a call out to everyone I know that I will take their leftover plastic grocery bags for trash.

  2. Sally Bishop
    April 13, 2010 | 2:24 pm

    I went through the same dilemma in my household. One way I cut back on plastics is to get re-usable snack containers. http://www.snackholder.com has a whole bunch of devices that are reusable and cute at the same time. I definitely recommend looking at them if you want to cut down on your green footprint. Every little bit counts. If every American gave you a penny, you’d have $3,000,000 ;)

  3. myst
    May 11, 2010 | 2:37 am

    We re-purpose our grocery bags a couple ways before they hit the land fill. My kids use them when running around the house picking up their clothes/toys/etc. as sorters. We don’t buy garbage bags. We use the grocery bags instead. It makes the garbage easy to take out. When we have a surplus we donate them to the thrift stores or to the school when they are collecting them to recycle. If you sew you can also use them for stuffing certain projects. Thanks for the ideas. Love your blog :)