Plastic has made quite the reputation for itself. Lately plastic and its potentially harmful impact on the environment have been all over the media, from cities banning single-use plastics, to huge initiatives to reduce plastic waste, like National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic”. While most people seem to agree that plastic is harmful to both humans and the environment (if you’re still unsure check out this article from our partners over at Plastic Pollution Coalition) plastic is still very prevalent in our lives, with more than 300 million tons of plastic produced worldwide each year.
You might say, well what are we waiting for? If plastic is so bad, let’s just stop using it! Which sounds great, but in reality, there’s a reason why plastic has become such a popular material. Plastic is light, easily shaped, strong, sterile and is also inexpensive and extremely versatile. Plastic literally surrounds us, and is used to make products you would never think contain plastic. Fabrics such as fleece and nylon, disposable coffee cups (which have plastic lining), and even chewing gum all contain plastic! It’s not as easy as you may think to ditch plastic overnight. While cutting out all single-use plastic products is a great goal, it may be unrealistic for many people at this point. But, there are still so many simple ways you can take action and make an impact! I’ve been trying to cut out any easily identifiable plastic products for the past couple months, and will be sharing some tips and products that I’ve found helpful along the way in the next few blog posts, starting in the kitchen!
Tips for cutting out single use plastics in the kitchen:
Plastic Produce Bags
You probably already know you should bring your own bags while grocery shopping, and may already have a couple reusable shopping bags lying around (especially since you now have to pay that extra 10 cents in California to get a bag if you don’t), but what about the plastic bags that you put produce in? These bags are typically plastic as well, and have the same harmful impact. I recently bought these reusable mesh bags to put fruits, vegetables, etc. in while shopping, and they’re awesome! You can cut out the flimsy plastic bags that are so annoying to open, and these mesh bags help keep your veggies fresh longer because the mesh lets them breathe (leafy greens should still be stored in sealed containers to make them last longer, but these bags work great with pretty much all other produce). They have a bunch of other uses as well - you can use them as nut bags if you make your own nut milk and some people even use them to make loose leaf tea and to do delicate laundry! They’re under $15, so definitely worth trying out, not only to cut out a single-use plastic, but also because they’re super convenient.
The caveat here is that you’ll need to make sure you find a grocery store that sells produce that isn’t already packaged in plastic. I love Trader Joe’s and get a lot of my groceries there, but one huge downside is that much of their produce is pre-wrapped in plastic, and I’ve noticed it also tends to go bad quickly. I’ve found alternatives near me where I get my produce, like Whole Foods, Grower’s Direct, and Sprouts, and I know even some larger grocery stores like Albertson’s have unwrapped produce.
Plastic Wrap/ ZipLoc Baggies
The most obvious alternative here is reusable tupperware containers, however, those aren’t always ideal. Like when you need to wrap up a block of cheese or cover a bowl with leftovers. I recently started using Bee’s Wrap and it’s been great! It is a plastic wrap alternative that is made from cotton and beeswax and is washable and can be reused for up to a year! It’s actually been easier for me to use than plastic wrap because it’s easier to mold to the shape of whatever you’re wrapping and seals with the heat from your hands. This would also work great for packing snacks and lunches! You can use it for veggies, fruit, bread, and you can choose from different size sheets depending on what you’re planning to wrap. The only food not recommended to use with it is meat, which I typically wouldn't store with plastic wrap anyways. It may seem a little pricey (I got a 3 pack of the medium size for $18) but considering they last for up to a year I think it’s well worth it!
If you want to try making your own beeswax wraps, check out this blog I wrote with a full recipe and instructions!
Plastic Straws & Water Bottles
These for me are the low hanging fruit, the single-use plastics that are most easy to avoid and for the most part unnecessary. I bring a reusable water bottle with me pretty much everywhere I go. I’m sure you already have one, and if not, it is definitely worth the investment. There are even collapsible, reusable water bottles like this one that can fit in your purse! Straws and utensils have been a bit more difficult. Not that a straw is ever really necessary, and if I’d like one there are plenty of reusable straw options with materials like bamboo or metal. What makes it difficult is dining out. I'd say about 75% of restaurants that I’ve ordered a drink at in the past couple months have brought it with a straw already in it. It took me a long time to get in the habit of ordering a drink (or even asking for water) “without a straw, please.” And even after a few months I still occasionally forget. Once you do get into the routine of it though, I think the impact is much larger than just that single straw that you save. It sends a message to not only the waiter and potentially the restaurant itself, but also the people you are dining with. Refusing a straw has led me to several conversations with friends and family members about why I choose to refuse single-use plastics and many of them have even started doing so themselves!
One area of sustainability in the kitchen that I’d love to tackle next is composting and being better about recycling correctly. Have you had experience with either of these? If you have any tips, leave a comment below, I’d love to hear them!
On my next blog post I’ll be tackling the single-use and sustainability dilemmas that doing laundry creates, and share the changes I’ve made to help reduce the amount of waste and energy I use while keeping my closet clean.
P.S. With every purchase of a Clam & Clasp handcrafted seashell necklace or bracelet, 20% of proceeds go towards ocean conservation organizations that are working to keep our oceans clean and healthy, like Plastic Pollution Coalition. Click here to shop the collection!
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Some great suggestions in here. I was expecting some quick suggestions but you were very detailed! Thanks for the advice. Been working on the low hanging fruit of not using straws. I have to remind myself to ask in advance! Keep it coming:)