Author Topic: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started  (Read 1579 times)

Mrs. D.

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DH and I have recently taken stock of our waste production and we're pretty astonished by how much plastic food packaging waste we create. We've been brainstorming strategies to buy food in a way that comes with less packaging (or at least less plastic). We recycle everything that our neighborhood program will accept, but we acknowledge that recycling is not a perfect solution, that a lot of recycled goods still wind up in landfills, recycling is a carbon-intensive process, etc. Also we love shopping at Aldi but almost all produce comes in plastic packaging or a combination of materials. How do we reduce our plastic use without spending a ton more on groceries?

So far we've got the low-hanging fruit:
- We bring reusable bags to the store
- We never use those flimsy plastic produce bags (unless it's something like green beans that need to be contained)
- We wash and re-use Ziploc bags many times
- We take reusable water bottles everywhere we go
- We cook and eat all our meals at home so we have no restaurant food packaging/plastic cutlery, etc.
- We bought stainless steel straws
- We switched to buying eggs that come in a cardboard carton, rather than plastic or styrofoam

Things I'm looking into:
-I have a Sprouts grocery store near me that allows people to BYOC (bring your own container) for bulk goods. This would require an overhaul of where and how I shop and store my food at home.
- buying meat from the meat counter so it comes wrapped in waxy paper rather than plastic and styrofoam, but there are fewer humanely treated options at the meat counter.
- Imperfect Product subscription which seems to use less plastic, but the shipping is more carbon-intensive. Sigh......

It seems very difficult to balance all the values - carbon intensity, plastic waste, humane treatment of animals, and cost.

Any other suggestions? Not looking to make sea changes, but baby steps would be good.

sixwings

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2021, 09:30:24 AM »
for things like beans that need to be contained i keep a big bag of cotton mesh bags like this in my car:
https://www.amazon.ca/SENBOS-Reusable-Produce-BagsxFF0C-Zero-Waste/dp/B07CTCSMNV/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=mesh+produce+bags&qid=1625671207&sr=8-6

I put all my produce, fruit, etc in them to keep them contained and have completely eliminated those flimsy awful produce bags. I keep them in my reusable bags so if I have reusable bags, I have produce bags as well.

I also have cotton bulk bags for things like rice, lentils, oats, flour etc. I can fill it up at the bulk isle (I also have a cool local bulk store near my house that I buy a lot of that stuff at) and then I bring it home and store it jars/containers.

I buy my meats from a local butcher, I know the farms they buy their meat from and how the animals are treated, and it eliminates the plastic associated with it. It's more expensive but that just means less meat consumption, which is great for the environment too. I also get my cheese from a local cheese shop wrapped in cheese paper. It's better than plastic for storing cheese too! I also buy my milk in glass bottle at my main grocery store and then I can return the glass bottle for a refund. It's slightly mroe expensive, but again that just meant I use less milk, which is great for the environment as well. The glass bottles get returned to the dairy farm and they reuse like 98% of them, so it's only the plastic top that's plastic. I get my bread from a local bakery and I get it put unsliced into a cotton bag and then when i get home store it in an airtight container and slice as I need it.

Doing these things relatively consistently has massively reduced the amount of plastic i use. I'm not perfect at it but it's been a huge improvement. It does require a bit more work to visit the butcher, the cheese shop, etc. But because it's less convenient i eat less of those things now which is just fine. It's like an extra 30 mins every couple weeks, and it means that plastic stays out of the environment for the next 1,000,000 years. I consider that a fair trade off. It took me a couple of years to really get good at it and figure it out and build it into my habits, I would look through my recycling once a month and pick a piece of plastic that I would try to eliminate.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2021, 09:35:23 AM by sixwings »

former player

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2021, 09:32:19 AM »
It's hard.

One small step I took was to commit to making my own hummous and potato salad so that I don't buy it in plastic tubs.  In general I think that moving from processed foods to ingredients cuts down on waste but does involve more work.

If you have a farm shop or farmer's market near you that is probably using less plastic as well as less food miles - local and seasonal foods need less preservation and protection and therefore less plastic packaging.  Again, it takes more work to seek these out and turn them into meals.

Also, growing my own herbs and salad stuff from seed where I can.  Some of them are pretty easy where I am (salad leaves, radishes, mint, rosemary, tarragon) and having just a small amount on hand cuts down on the shopping trips for fresh stuff and the plastic and transport waste that goes with it.

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #3 on: July 07, 2021, 12:19:23 PM »
for things like beans that need to be contained i keep a big bag of cotton mesh bags like this in my car:
https://www.amazon.ca/SENBOS-Reusable-Produce-BagsxFF0C-Zero-Waste/dp/B07CTCSMNV/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=mesh+produce+bags&qid=1625671207&sr=8-6

I put all my produce, fruit, etc in them to keep them contained and have completely eliminated those flimsy awful produce bags. I keep them in my reusable bags so if I have reusable bags, I have produce bags as well.

I also have cotton bulk bags for things like rice, lentils, oats, flour etc. I can fill it up at the bulk isle (I also have a cool local bulk store near my house that I buy a lot of that stuff at) and then I bring it home and store it jars/containers.

I buy my meats from a local butcher, I know the farms they buy their meat from and how the animals are treated, and it eliminates the plastic associated with it. It's more expensive but that just means less meat consumption, which is great for the environment too. I also get my cheese from a local cheese shop wrapped in cheese paper. It's better than plastic for storing cheese too! I also buy my milk in glass bottle at my main grocery store and then I can return the glass bottle for a refund. It's slightly mroe expensive, but again that just meant I use less milk, which is great for the environment as well. The glass bottles get returned to the dairy farm and they reuse like 98% of them, so it's only the plastic top that's plastic. I get my bread from a local bakery and I get it put unsliced into a cotton bag and then when i get home store it in an airtight container and slice as I need it.

Doing these things relatively consistently has massively reduced the amount of plastic i use. I'm not perfect at it but it's been a huge improvement. It does require a bit more work to visit the butcher, the cheese shop, etc. But because it's less convenient i eat less of those things now which is just fine. It's like an extra 30 mins every couple weeks, and it means that plastic stays out of the environment for the next 1,000,000 years. I consider that a fair trade off. It took me a couple of years to really get good at it and figure it out and build it into my habits, I would look through my recycling once a month and pick a piece of plastic that I would try to eliminate.

So many great tips here! I love the mesh produce bags. I will be buying those. Thanks for the link.

You have really got a great system. I imagine it takes several years for things to become routine/second nature. I didn't mention in my OP that we have 2 young children and have a 3rd on the way so our milk, meat and snack consumption is pretty high and trips to multiple stores every week probably isn't going to happen. But I could do a periodic bulk trip to the specialty store to get staples like oats, rice and nuts. You've given me a lot to consider. Thanks.

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #4 on: July 07, 2021, 12:25:23 PM »
One small step I took was to commit to making my own hummous and potato salad so that I don't buy it in plastic tubs.  In general I think that moving from processed foods to ingredients cuts down on waste but does involve more work.

That's a good point and I'm glad you mentioned it. I do already make my own hummus, peanut butter, yogurt, granola, etc, so that probably reduces our packaging waste. I still have to buy the packaging for the ingredients themselves (a gallon of milk versus 4 large containers of yogurt) but it's probably less intensive. I think I can make zero-waste peanut butter by buying peanuts in bulk with a reusable container. One food down, a million to go!

We would like to garden more than we do. We have some parsley, rosemary, mint and green onion going. Our lot is too shady to grow tomatoes, unfortunately. We tried for several years with little success.  Thanks for the tips and best of luck to you on your waste-reducing journey!

sixwings

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #5 on: July 07, 2021, 12:33:15 PM »
for things like beans that need to be contained i keep a big bag of cotton mesh bags like this in my car:
https://www.amazon.ca/SENBOS-Reusable-Produce-BagsxFF0C-Zero-Waste/dp/B07CTCSMNV/ref=sr_1_6?dchild=1&keywords=mesh+produce+bags&qid=1625671207&sr=8-6

I put all my produce, fruit, etc in them to keep them contained and have completely eliminated those flimsy awful produce bags. I keep them in my reusable bags so if I have reusable bags, I have produce bags as well.

I also have cotton bulk bags for things like rice, lentils, oats, flour etc. I can fill it up at the bulk isle (I also have a cool local bulk store near my house that I buy a lot of that stuff at) and then I bring it home and store it jars/containers.

I buy my meats from a local butcher, I know the farms they buy their meat from and how the animals are treated, and it eliminates the plastic associated with it. It's more expensive but that just means less meat consumption, which is great for the environment too. I also get my cheese from a local cheese shop wrapped in cheese paper. It's better than plastic for storing cheese too! I also buy my milk in glass bottle at my main grocery store and then I can return the glass bottle for a refund. It's slightly mroe expensive, but again that just meant I use less milk, which is great for the environment as well. The glass bottles get returned to the dairy farm and they reuse like 98% of them, so it's only the plastic top that's plastic. I get my bread from a local bakery and I get it put unsliced into a cotton bag and then when i get home store it in an airtight container and slice as I need it.

Doing these things relatively consistently has massively reduced the amount of plastic i use. I'm not perfect at it but it's been a huge improvement. It does require a bit more work to visit the butcher, the cheese shop, etc. But because it's less convenient i eat less of those things now which is just fine. It's like an extra 30 mins every couple weeks, and it means that plastic stays out of the environment for the next 1,000,000 years. I consider that a fair trade off. It took me a couple of years to really get good at it and figure it out and build it into my habits, I would look through my recycling once a month and pick a piece of plastic that I would try to eliminate.

So many great tips here! I love the mesh produce bags. I will be buying those. Thanks for the link.

You have really got a great system. I imagine it takes several years for things to become routine/second nature. I didn't mention in my OP that we have 2 young children and have a 3rd on the way so our milk, meat and snack consumption is pretty high and trips to multiple stores every week probably isn't going to happen. But I could do a periodic bulk trip to the specialty store to get staples like oats, rice and nuts. You've given me a lot to consider. Thanks.

Yeah it's a lot easier if you do a little bit at a time. Eliminating all plastic is really hard, it's just but trying to reduce as much as possible and figuring it out as we go. The first R is always "reduce" then re-use and recycle. It took a while to build the habit about the produce bags but now it's second nature. Don't get discouraged, it does take a little while but worth it. But sounds like you're already well on your way and should be pretty happy with where you're at! A big sticking point for me is eating out, I eat out a fair bit cus i like it and that creates a lot of waste.

If you're strapped for time you can also spend a bit of time looking at the bulk food isle and seeing what you can reduce by buying bulk in reusable bags. That helps a lot! Also a lot of grocery stores have bakeries where they sell their own bread in paper bags, at least around here that's the case, and that helps a lot. If you buy deli items you can ask them to put it in a container, etc. Also get used to saying no to plastic lids for coffee, or straws, etc. Little stuff like that.
« Last Edit: July 07, 2021, 12:37:49 PM by sixwings »

Malcat

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #6 on: July 07, 2021, 12:37:13 PM »
You do it in steps.

Make it a game. Make it fun.
Each week you work together to try and find a new, sustainable, affordable way to reduce your waste or carbon footprint.

It doesn't have to be all at once, it doesn't have to mean spending a lot more because that's the only option you can think of.

Solving the problems with creative solutions is what's worth reaching your children. Spending more on groceries to produce a bit less plastic won't do much for the world, but teaching children to challenge the norm, to push outside of their comfort zone to be better global citizens will make a difference because you will have produced two people who care and ate able to be proactive.

So maybe butcher meat is not the best solution to meat packaging. Perhaps you could brain storm with your kids meals that don't include foods with plastic packaging. Maybe each week you all work together to add a new meal option based on whatever ingredients the kids can find in the store that don't include plastic.

Would they be willing to try a vegetarian dish to meet the goal? To have pancakes for dinner? To try growing your own herbs? Etc, etc.

Make the goal getting your kids excited and creative about solving the waste problem. Don't make the goal to produce as little waste as possible. If you focus on the first goal, the second will be far more successful.

Chaplin

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #7 on: July 07, 2021, 02:42:30 PM »
We like the mesh bags too.

We save all of our glass containers and many big plastic ones. There are two local bulk stores where we can refill them (you weigh them empty first). We can get things like shampoo, olive oil, milk (although we don't), honey, peanut butter, etc. this way.

I got really into plastic waste reduction as well as the problem of ocean plastics. About three months ago I started picking up plastic in the neighborhood as something therapeutic to do, as way to keep if from getting into waterways and ultimately the ocean, and as a way offsetting the plastic that we do still buy. It's a good time to listen to podcasts. I do cast a bit of a homeless binner vibe, but people often recognize what I'm actually doing. Not caring what people think is helpful in so many ways. Even though it's a very small contribution to the overall problem, it does make a noticeable difference in our neighborhood so that's worth it on its own.

Congratulations on tackling this! You might be interested in this article about the EU banning the 10 most commonly-found single-use plastics found on beaches.
https://www.euronews.com/green/2021/07/05/eu-bans-10-most-common-single-use-plastic-items-found-on-beaches

Dee18

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2021, 02:52:14 PM »
There are a lot of good ideas on this at Bea Johnson's website Zero Waste Home, https://zerowastehome.com

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2021, 07:49:38 PM »
You do it in steps.

Make it a game. Make it fun.
Each week you work together to try and find a new, sustainable, affordable way to reduce your waste or carbon footprint.

It doesn't have to be all at once, it doesn't have to mean spending a lot more because that's the only option you can think of.

Solving the problems with creative solutions is what's worth reaching your children. Spending more on groceries to produce a bit less plastic won't do much for the world, but teaching children to challenge the norm, to push outside of their comfort zone to be better global citizens will make a difference because you will have produced two people who care and ate able to be proactive.

So maybe butcher meat is not the best solution to meat packaging. Perhaps you could brain storm with your kids meals that don't include foods with plastic packaging. Maybe each week you all work together to add a new meal option based on whatever ingredients the kids can find in the store that don't include plastic.

Would they be willing to try a vegetarian dish to meet the goal? To have pancakes for dinner? To try growing your own herbs? Etc, etc.

Make the goal getting your kids excited and creative about solving the waste problem. Don't make the goal to produce as little waste as possible. If you focus on the first goal, the second will be far more successful.

I love these suggestions and the overall spirit of your post! I think I am looking at this problem a bit myopically and feeling overwhelmed. Making it an on-going family project or goal is a great idea. My older kid is 5, so he's just at the point where he can contribute to these problem solving efforts and it will only increase with age and experience. We do eat vegetarian at least once a week, but I would like to increase that. I'd love to develop some vegetarian meals with my son! Thanks for your comments, Malcat.

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #10 on: July 07, 2021, 07:57:23 PM »
There are a lot of good ideas on this at Bea Johnson's website Zero Waste Home, https://zerowastehome.com

What a fantastic resource. Thank you for sharing!

draco44

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #11 on: July 07, 2021, 09:29:14 PM »
Plastic pollution is an issue that weighs on my mind too. It sounds like you are doing a great job already (I still haven't brought myself to make my own yogurt) and have a positive mindset about looking for further ways to refine your system.

As previously noted, if you have a farmer's market near you, those are often package-free friendly places to buy. As a specific example, I've known egg vendors in multiple places I've lived that will take back egg cartons and refill the with new eggs, thus reducing the total number of cartons that need to be manufactured.

+1 on Bea Johnson's content. Also check out Beth Terry's website: https://myplasticfreelife.com/. She has a lot of good blog posts on alternatives for specific items commonly made of plastic.

Finally, one point I didn't see already mentioned is if you already own plastic items, it's often best to keeping using them (but not buy more of the same!) instead of donating/throwing them away and then buying replacements made out of more sustainable materials. It doesn't sound like this is you, but I feel like a lot of people get caught up in the aesthetic side of seeming pro-environment.

For example, there is a bulk and zero-waste-focused store (it recently opened; I am excited!) near me that sells a watering can I randomly covet. It is handcrafted and made of stainless steel and is absolutely gorgeous. I tell you, the lines on that thing are like a performance race car! But... I already have a watering can. Made of plastic. That I got for free when a colleague switched cubicles and it might otherwise have been thrown away. It won't win any design awards, but my plastic watering can is pleasant-looking enough and gets the job done. And again, I already own it. There's something to be said for investing in pieces you love, but "obtain new fancy watering can" is NOT high on my list of life priorities. I'm glad the fancy watering can exists for those who are in the market for one, but for me that need has already been met.



draco44

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #12 on: July 07, 2021, 09:51:19 PM »
I forgot to mention before: OP, your question is very timely! This is July, as in Plastic Free July (TM), the official month of the year for getting serious about reducing plastic waste, at least according to an Australian organization that started Plastic Free July some years ago and sparked a global movement: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/ Clearly the universe has got your back on this challenge.

Here's a page of other people's plastic reduction success stories from their website: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/what-others-do/ Looks like there's some good resource pages too, but honestly Bea Johnson's and Beth Terry's books/websites are the best how-to resources I've seen on this topic.

« Last Edit: July 07, 2021, 09:54:37 PM by draco44 »

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #13 on: July 08, 2021, 07:54:17 AM »
Finally, one point I didn't see already mentioned is if you already own plastic items, it's often best to keeping using them (but not buy more of the same!) instead of donating/throwing them away and then buying replacements made out of more sustainable materials. It doesn't sound like this is you, but I feel like a lot of people get caught up in the aesthetic side of seeming pro-environment.

Thanks for your comments. This is such a good point. I had to check this impulse myself. When I first thought about switching to buying in bulk, I had a momentary thought that I should buy all new containers to store dry goods in my pantry, perhaps made of glass or stainless steel, oooh la la. But I have perfectly good food storage containers in my recycling bin right now. If I can upcycle them into more permanent dry goods storage, that will be one less load headed for the landfill.

CNM

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #14 on: July 08, 2021, 11:02:35 AM »
One thing you didn't mention is buying no-waste or lower waste cleaning supplies and cosmetics.  We have a few places where you can refill bottles liquid soaps, shampoos, lotions etc. as well as laundry detergent and so on.  I've recently rediscovered shampoo bars where the only waste is the paper wrapping and like them just fine.

sonofsven

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #15 on: July 08, 2021, 11:08:54 AM »
Finally, one point I didn't see already mentioned is if you already own plastic items, it's often best to keeping using them (but not buy more of the same!) instead of donating/throwing them away and then buying replacements made out of more sustainable materials. It doesn't sound like this is you, but I feel like a lot of people get caught up in the aesthetic side of seeming pro-environment.

Thanks for your comments. This is such a good point. I had to check this impulse myself. When I first thought about switching to buying in bulk, I had a momentary thought that I should buy all new containers to store dry goods in my pantry, perhaps made of glass or stainless steel, oooh la la. But I have perfectly good food storage containers in my recycling bin right now. If I can upcycle them into more permanent dry goods storage, that will be one less load headed for the landfill.

Same here! I love my fancy glass jars but most of my bulk food like nuts, rice, etc is stored in plastic food containers from Costco.
I am buying more in bulk because I am re-using the plastic containers, semi ironically.
Most of my kitchen garbage is plastic food wrappings, but I don't make much garbage. I don't have garbage service (by choice). I go to the dump every 3-4 months once I fill up three normal size garbage cans.
Also, to further prove that this "addiction" to plastic so permeates our world, I collect kitchen garbage under the sink in a re purposed five gallon plastic bucket and I use plastic kitchen garbage bags inside the bucket; then these bags are placed in a plastic garbage can with another black plastic garbage bag/liner. And, again, most of the garbage inside is plastic.

nessness

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #16 on: July 08, 2021, 01:35:30 PM »
Laundry/cleaning supplies are a relatively easy way to reduce plastic.

If you're using liquid laundry detergent or pods, switch to powder or strips in paper packaging, or make your own.

Blueland makes tablets for refilling liquid hand soap or multisurface cleaner, and dishwasher tablets, all of which work great and come in plastic-free packaging. They make a few other products too that I haven't tried. They're only sold online, so yes, there's a carbon footprint from shipping, but the products are much lighter weight than, say liquid detergent, so it's probably a wash (no pun intended) compared to shipping liquid detergent to stores.

Sanitary Engineer

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #17 on: July 08, 2021, 01:51:21 PM »
We are also struggling to balance the values of carbon use, plastic waste, animal cruelty, and cost.  I hope to incorporate the garbage audit technique soon.

I think available time is a big factor and as we get more time I hope to produce less waste.

Plastic clothing is one I struggle with also.

Christof

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #18 on: July 08, 2021, 03:42:47 PM »
Zero waste on Instagram isn't different from any thing else. It looks really nice and aspiring, but it's not necessarily what reality is, nor what you should do. For instance, there are so many cute unpaper towels, sometimes rolled up just like paper towels. In reality they get stained and dirty pretty quickly, if you actually use them as replacement for paper towels.

So instead of buying nice things, we just bought about 20 pounds of cleaning cloth which are recycled and cleaned drying towels, such as this one:

https://www.amazon.de/gp/product/B00R68GX32/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&language=en_GB&psc=1

You can't do everything at once. Look at your plastic trash, and every week pick one item and try to replace it with something that uses less plastic (less, not zero).

We used to buy a lot at ALDI, including tons of organic produce and products. Once we prioritized non-plastic, we pretty much switched to other grocery stores. Aldi is great, but at least here they do not have any bulk option and were slow selling non-packaged produce.

For a lot of products there are alternatives available with less packaging and less plastic. We switched to bamboo toothbrush. Not perfect, because it still involves plastic and bamboo from China, but it's less plastic overall which is what we focus on. Soap and dry shampoo replaces bottles. There are toothpaste tablets that replace conventional toothpaste. The are dishwasher tabs that have no plastic.

Instead of buying bread you could look into getting a used bread machine and buying flour in bulk. In general, buying bulk is an easy way to reduce (not eliminate) plastic waste, because you need less packaging per weight unit.

At least where I live, Amazon has become one of the greener delivery options, if you can't buy something locally. They use paper based duct type only and deliver with electric vans. While packaging is usually plastic free, it's still single-use paper packaging, though. And you might not agree with the way they do business.

Fru-Gal

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #19 on: July 08, 2021, 03:44:49 PM »
PTF

Chaplin

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #20 on: July 08, 2021, 04:42:17 PM »
I think available time is a big factor and as we get more time I hope to produce less waste.

Very true, and it points to why we'll fail at this as a society unless it's made easy. Some of us will set systems for ourselves to do well even if we don't have the time, some will make the time at the expense of something else, and some will only succeed if the worst choices aren't choices at (through regulation, CSR (ha!), or because the better option is the lower cost option for both the consumer and the producer).

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #21 on: July 08, 2021, 07:16:04 PM »
One thing you didn't mention is buying no-waste or lower waste cleaning supplies and cosmetics.  We have a few places where you can refill bottles liquid soaps, shampoos, lotions etc. as well as laundry detergent and so on.  I've recently rediscovered shampoo bars where the only waste is the paper wrapping and like them just fine.

You're right. I haven't even started thinking about how to tackle this. I think we are going to start with food and move on to toiletries/household cleaners next. Thanks for the tip.

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #22 on: July 08, 2021, 07:17:48 PM »
Laundry/cleaning supplies are a relatively easy way to reduce plastic.

If you're using liquid laundry detergent or pods, switch to powder or strips in paper packaging, or make your own.

Blueland makes tablets for refilling liquid hand soap or multisurface cleaner, and dishwasher tablets, all of which work great and come in plastic-free packaging. They make a few other products too that I haven't tried. They're only sold online, so yes, there's a carbon footprint from shipping, but the products are much lighter weight than, say liquid detergent, so it's probably a wash (no pun intended) compared to shipping liquid detergent to stores.

That's a great tip! Thanks. I'll check them out.

SunnyDays

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #23 on: July 08, 2021, 09:29:29 PM »
I was looking in my pantry yesterday and realized that most of the plastic packaging is pet food and treats.  It seems that only low quality pet food is sold in paper bags and I refuse to feed my gang that stuff.  Anyone have any suggestions about this?

Malcat

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #24 on: July 09, 2021, 06:59:10 AM »
Costco brand pet food is very well rated, inexpensive and comes in paper bags.

Sanitary Engineer

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #25 on: July 09, 2021, 07:38:53 AM »
We have been using grain and feed bags as our indoor waste can liners. Instead of bagging garbage in a plastic bag then consolidating plastic garbage bags into a large plastic bag. We save grain and dog and chicken feed bags to take the place of the first plastic bag.
The dog food is a plastic bag. But the others are paper. It’s not perfect, but it is better.

SunnyDays

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #26 on: July 09, 2021, 10:31:18 AM »
Costco brand pet food is very well rated, inexpensive and comes in paper bags.

Thanks, I'll check into that.  I need to find other dog kibble anyway because the highly rated one I have been feeding has now been adulterated with peas.

We have been using grain and feed bags as our indoor waste can liners. Instead of bagging garbage in a plastic bag then consolidating plastic garbage bags into a large plastic bag. We save grain and dog and chicken feed bags to take the place of the first plastic bag.
The dog food is a plastic bag. But the others are paper. It’s not perfect, but it is better.

I do the same thing with smaller plastic bags because I produce very little garbage (mostly plastic bags!).  But unfortunately, my supply exceeds my ability to use them up.

nessness

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #27 on: July 09, 2021, 11:15:20 AM »
I was looking in my pantry yesterday and realized that most of the plastic packaging is pet food and treats.  It seems that only low quality pet food is sold in paper bags and I refuse to feed my gang that stuff.  Anyone have any suggestions about this?
We feed our dogs Purina Pro Plan, which is well rated for the price and the larger sizes come in recyclable bags.

We used to feed the Costco food, but one dog had stomach issues on it and the vet recommended going back to a food that contains grain.

CNM

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #28 on: July 09, 2021, 11:42:30 AM »
I was looking in my pantry yesterday and realized that most of the plastic packaging is pet food and treats.  It seems that only low quality pet food is sold in paper bags and I refuse to feed my gang that stuff.  Anyone have any suggestions about this?

Re treats: I'd look around at area pet stores.  Some have bulk treat bins or sell package-less treats - like bully sticks or whathaveyou.

Re food: I'd also look around to see if there are other options that you approve of with less packaging.  My local pet store sells dehydrated food that you reconstitute with water, for example, that would lessen the packaging. When I used to have a pet (large Shepard mix) the bags that her food came in were good to use as trash bags, especially for gardening trash or picking up pet waste in the yard because they were large and durable.

SAfAmBrit

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #29 on: July 11, 2021, 10:53:25 AM »
I have been living 0 waste for 6 years now. I like a simple life with simple tings so it has helped. A lot of what I hope I will not be too repetitive here tried to pick up on ideas that have not been given here.

Toilet paper - i get it from here - https://us.whogivesacrap.org/ - it comes in a box of 48 rolls - 0 plastic and my worms get to eat the toilet roll holders and paper because it is vegan ink. - Best thing 50% of the profits goes to charity so get the feel good factor.

Soap - Most natural stores and famers market will sell soap without a wrapping - who foods also has them - the soap wrappers have wax coating which makes them unsuitable for recycling.

Junk Mail - this was the biggest contributor to my recycle bin - after removing the stupid plastic windows- the only junk mail I receive now is what USPS is throwing in my box. To opt out use https://www.optoutprescreen.com - it takes about 8 weeks to cycle all the way through but you will notice a difference in 1 month. It has a $2 service fee - best $2 I spent! This has to be renewed every 5 years.

Tea drinkers - buy loose tea and get a metal tea strainer - worms will eat the tea leaves or put them in the garden when you are done. (95% teabags have plastic in them)

Hope this helps

The pandemic made it difficult to remain 0 waste - bulk bins closed up and EVERYTHING was being wrapped in plastic - take it slow - identify one thing a week and work on it - conquer and move on to the next. In the long run it will save you money and you should feel good every time you eliminate 1 thing!




Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #30 on: July 11, 2021, 01:38:07 PM »
UPDATE

I have so enjoyed reading all the recommendations here. Thanks to everyone for their input. I bought a set of mesh reusable bags which include the tare weight on a tag so the cashier can calculate the weight properly. My first trip to the store with them was a success! I was able to buy several produce and bulk items with zero waste and I'm re-purposing plastic food containers from the recycling bin to store them. DH and I have been talking about adjusting our meat-heavy meal plan to include more beans which we can buy bulk with zero waste. As I experiment with new meals for our meal plan, I will definitely try to build meals from zero waste items. I also found a small chicken broth concentrate bottle which, while plastic, eliminates 7 boxes of chicken broth which are mixed material and can't be recycled in our neighborhood.

One hiccup is, as noted by several posters, many bulk bins are filled with pre-packaged items in plastic thanks to COVID. They are slowly transitioning back to using scoops so this problem will resolve itself in time.

I look forward to more tips and tricks if others have them. It's great to be supported by the mmm community! I live in a Houston suburb where this is not a high priority for most people so I appreciate the encouragement I found here. As new habits become second nature we will keep looking for additional ways to reduce.

Malcat

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #31 on: July 12, 2021, 07:02:03 AM »
For broth, I use "Better than Bouillon", which comes in glass jars, and replaces dozens and dozens of containers of broth.

TwoCommas

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #32 on: July 12, 2021, 07:46:48 AM »
Loving this thread and all of the suggestions posted here.

We're been on this train at home, slowly changing the way we consume things for the better.

We also re-use ziplok bags for things that require them, but have also started to use the wax paper bags much more often as they work for 'most things' (ex: sandwiches, storing cut up onion in the refrigerator, etc)
https://www.amazon.com/Reynolds-Kitchens-Paper-Sandwich-count/dp/B071Y5GNVG/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=reynolds+wax+paper+bags&qid=1626097143&sr=8-2

We're still trying to figure out the best solutions, but for bathroom hand soaps we've been using the disposable pods like Blueland (https://www.blueland.com/). And the laundry pods from Dropps...think tide pods but they come in a cardboard box (https://www.dropps.com/).

TwoCommas

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #33 on: July 12, 2021, 08:00:39 AM »
One of the big ones that I want to replace in our household going forward are q-tips. Anyone have luck with any paper-stick versions?

Also completely forgot about Humankind (byhumankind.com). We found them last year with their aluminum bottle hand sanitizers (given that we keep the tops in play with the refills, I think it's a marginal step in the right direction). We've also tried a couple of their deodorants, and they seem to work well for both of us. We bought a his/hers containers and then the refills come in cardboard with a small plastic top. The scents we have tried aren't too 'hippie granola', so I like that, and they hold up rather well.

rockeTree

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #34 on: July 12, 2021, 08:14:41 AM »
I have been trying to get better about using various repurposed bags for produce - for instance we had some fancy gifted food and drink products that came in bottles or bags themselves contained in cloth drawstring bags which are great for a lot of things, including beans fresh and dried. Heck you could use crown royal bags if you drink it. The easiest way to remember them turned out to be every time I forgot them making myself just stack stuff loose in my cart or basket and deal with the hassle rather than use a plastic bag made from fossils to make it slightly easier to move my potatoes from the store to the fossil fuel powered car (imagine the self absorption, I told myself!)

Some pet stores will sell you cat litter from a big bulk bin into a reusable bucket, it's not far out of my way so I do that most of the time now unless I have a planned use for the new bucket.

For things that come in plastic that are not easy to avoid, the house rule is that it has to be reused at least once before disposal. Seeing the stack accumulate gives me an incentive to remember to avoid getting any more. So big bags are re-used for trash or goodwill runs or yard waste I don't want to compost, shopping bags when folks forget reusable are trash can liners, little bags like cereal bags and pretzel bags and bread bags and those darn plastic mailer bags are used for clearing out the cat box, plastic jars hold dried herbs we grew to keep or give away, or store loose tea so I can buy the big bulk containers and still store and use stuff practically.

For takeout, which we have done more of in the pandemic, I try to reject the cutlery etc but half the time it ends up in the bag anyhow. I accumulate it and give it to organizations that will use it - lately a local church that does take-out meals for all comers weekly, in the past a local bar for the folks who order or bring food and then go asking the bartender for forks (ah, drunks). When we were going in to the office I put it in the party supplies stack there.

I care more about this than the rest of the household, so unless I wanted to make it my number one priority in life I can't stop some plastic coming into the house. But I can try to minimize it and to maximize re-use.

Dicey

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #35 on: July 12, 2021, 08:43:01 AM »
Try this blog: https://myplasticfreelife.com/

Alas, my Sprouts has pre-bagged all the bulk items due to the pandemic. Winco, the best bulk binner in my area did the same thing, but is slowly returning to normal. They do not have bring-your-own-container options that I know of. I'd love to be able to weigh my own jars, fill them, then subtract the weight of the jars before paying, but AFAIK, that option does not exist. If anyone has a different experience, I'd love to hear about it.

TrMama

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #36 on: July 12, 2021, 09:00:23 AM »
If the majority of your garbage is plastic, then that shows you're doing well at reducing all the other stuff. Plastic wrappings are the hardest things to avoid.

We've gone back to eating more meat lately because my kids seem to have better health with it. However, I also don't like the amount of plastic and styrofoam trays that grocery store meat entails. So my solution has been to buy a 25lb box of mixed cuts from the local butcher. Yes, it's an extra stop but a very infrequent one and now I get to just skip the meat section entirely when we go to the grocery store. The butcher uses less plastic since all the meat is wrapped in butcher paper (which has a plastic coating, sigh). It also fits in my freezer more compactly since there are no awkward styrofoam trays.

For any Canadians in the thread, the Bulk Barn chain has gone back to their Normal Times bring your own container policy.

Chaplin

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #37 on: July 12, 2021, 09:35:25 AM »
Try this blog: https://myplasticfreelife.com/

Alas, my Sprouts has pre-bagged all the bulk items due to the pandemic. Winco, the best bulk binner in my area did the same thing, but is slowly returning to normal. They do not have bring-your-own-container options that I know of. I'd love to be able to weigh my own jars, fill them, then subtract the weight of the jars before paying, but AFAIK, that option does not exist. If anyone has a different experience, I'd love to hear about it.

Good link, Dicey! There are so many tips that it's good to have a single compilation of them, although I'm sure this group will have suggestions that aren't there.

Most of our stores with bulk bins have gone back to self-scooping, as TrMama mentions for Bulk Barn. There are only a few that allow you to bring your own containers, like Bulk Barn. I happened across a video about the zero-waste store in Victoria that's a nice bike ride away for me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aA0O9PBZ2H8 The video is about 8 minutes long and I found it pretty interesting. We have that one, the Bulk Barn, and West Coast Refills which I haven't visited yet but is more focused on liquids I believe. Maybe I should check that one out today.

PMG

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #38 on: July 12, 2021, 09:49:13 AM »
Back when I had access to a store with bulk bins, they did not like it when I brought my own containers but they never noticed when I re-used the bulk bags they supplied. I was always buying the same things anyway, so i just labeled with with item name and number. I skipped the printable tag at the bin and just rang it up by the item number each time. Cross contamination would be the concern there,  what if I accidentally use my nut bag at the oatmeal bin and get it on the scoop and then someone with a nut allergy gets oatmeal… but I think that’s a big issue for bulk bins to begin with.


Christof

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #39 on: July 12, 2021, 12:49:15 PM »
What I noticed of the past two or three years is that reducing plastic had become the default option here, even if you weren‘t actively trying to avoid plastic.

All grocery stores have mesh bags right in the produce section. They have plastic bags, but those are made from plants.

Meat is now sold in cardboard boxes with plastic inlining which can be separated so that both parts can be recycled.

I don‘t even know if they sell plastic q-tips anymore. Even the cheap generic brands use paper or bamboo.

Grocery stores don‘t have sections of organic or eco friendly products anymore. They are just placed among other products of the same kind. I noticed that the same started to happen with vegan alternatives. Instead of having a vegan section, vegan meat is now placed next to animal-based meat. The same started happening for non-alcoholic drink alternatives. What is still separate are gluten-free options, and similar offers.

Some changes are based on regulation, which is why there is almost no plastic straws, cutlery or plates.

Take-aways offer reusable bowls and packaging if you register with one of the providers.

It definitely became easier to reduce plastic, even if avoiding it is still hard work.

PMG

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #40 on: July 12, 2021, 01:42:57 PM »
On Q-tips, I’ve gotten paper ones from both target and dollar general. I don’t know that they are eco-friendly… but they are paper not plastic.

I did see an advertisement for a silicone (?) washable q-tip. I couldn’t quite bring myself to try it.

Malcat

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #41 on: July 12, 2021, 02:45:06 PM »
On Q-tips, I’ve gotten paper ones from both target and dollar general. I don’t know that they are eco-friendly… but they are paper not plastic.

I did see an advertisement for a silicone (?) washable q-tip. I couldn’t quite bring myself to try it.

I have them and use them on my hairless cat who has evil coming out of his ears. They work well.

TwoCommas

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #42 on: July 13, 2021, 07:40:32 AM »
On Q-tips, I’ve gotten paper ones from both target and dollar general. I don’t know that they are eco-friendly… but they are paper not plastic.

I did see an advertisement for a silicone (?) washable q-tip. I couldn’t quite bring myself to try it.

I have them and use them on my hairless cat who has evil coming out of his ears. They work well.

@Malcat you use the silicone reusable ones on the cat? Might need to try that as our cats also create the ear evilness.

Good to know on all of the above. I mentioned the byHumanKind yesterday, not realizing they have some on offer as well. Might check those out for the humans in the household.

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #43 on: July 13, 2021, 01:01:55 PM »
What I noticed of the past two or three years is that reducing plastic had become the default option here, even if you weren‘t actively trying to avoid plastic.

It definitely became easier to reduce plastic, even if avoiding it is still hard work.

Sounds like Germany is way ahead of the US on this one. I've spoken to the managers at my local grocery stores to let them know that this is a value that will affect where I shop and ask if there is anything they can do to sway corporate to reduce plastic usage. I've been told some emails will be written.

Malcat

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #44 on: July 13, 2021, 01:29:44 PM »
On Q-tips, I’ve gotten paper ones from both target and dollar general. I don’t know that they are eco-friendly… but they are paper not plastic.

I did see an advertisement for a silicone (?) washable q-tip. I couldn’t quite bring myself to try it.

I have them and use them on my hairless cat who has evil coming out of his ears. They work well.

@Malcat you use the silicone reusable ones on the cat? Might need to try that as our cats also create the ear evilness.

Good to know on all of the above. I mentioned the byHumanKind yesterday, not realizing they have some on offer as well. Might check those out for the humans in the household.

Yep, they're textured, so they grab onto the evil black ooze better than regular q-tips.

Mrs. D.

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #45 on: July 15, 2021, 03:09:14 PM »
About three months ago I started picking up plastic in the neighborhood as something therapeutic to do, as way to keep if from getting into waterways and ultimately the ocean, and as a way offsetting the plastic that we do still buy.

It's so great that you do this! I'm teaching my kids to pick up trash anytime we go to a park or a creek to swim. We try to leave the place a little nicer than we found it. Another small step I'm taking is to reuse single use plastic from bread or fruit as our bag when we pick up trash.

Loretta

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Re: Family challenge to reduce plastic waste - struggling to get started
« Reply #46 on: July 17, 2021, 04:39:58 PM »
This junk mail link is a bit of work, but totally worth it.  I only check my snail mail once a week or so, and there is so much less crapolla to deal with now. 

https://www.optoutprescreen.com/selection