I was just reminded by an article written by a friend who is working on bringing no new plastic into their home that I have a long way to go in becoming plastic free. She listed off what she was doing as an alternative to many of these things and one of them was bread in plastic bags (they are buying from a local bakery in paper bags). It reminded me of all the other things I still buy that come in a plastic bag: frozen organic blueberries and rice cakes and meat and fish are a few.
I have noticed whenever I get “uppity” and all self-important about something it’s not long before I am reminded of my own shortcomings. A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog called the Mystery of Plastic Bags where I was focusing not on all plastics, but specifically plastic shopping bags. I’m sure I annoyed a lot of people with my uppity attitude and if anything probably made some people more resistant to changing their “evil ways”…
And then I read the article by my friend and was reminded of all the places I am having a hard time giving up plastic. Well, it’s more about giving up buying a good gluten free bread (there aren’t many of them out there!) and the rice cakes I love and the organic chicken thighs I get a couple times a month!
I made my own bread for years and loved it. But then I discovered that it was gluten that caused the awful itchy rash on my back and I gave up all the wonderful yummy foods I have always enjoyed just to be rid of the dang rash! I then tried making my own gluten free bread… It was not a successful venture. I hated it. There was none of the pleasurable kneading of the dough – you had to beat it endlessly to make it work! All the weird ingredients… It just wasn’t fun, and the results were sketchy – and maybe I just didn’t feel like taking on yet another regular task I had to do.
Now I look in my freezer and it is full of these red plastic bags with a few bread “ends” left in them – waiting for me to thaw them out and feed them to the chickens. All those plastic bags… I save them and re-use them for various things, but mostly they just pile up in a big drawer in the kitchen. Maybe I could make something useful out of them – like those “grandmothers” crocheting sleeping pads for the homeless out of plastic bags? Unfortunately I don’t crochet or knit. My NON-gluten free friends can buy fresh bakery bread in paper bags – but I have yet to find one I can eat made locally. I know what I really need to do is bite the bullet and make my own dang bread!
Fortunately most of the other things she talked about were not such a problem. They were things I had mostly stopped using over time. Here is her list in case you are looking to work on doing this. The comments are from me and what I am doing as an alternative.
- Shampoo – I have been doing the baking soda wash/apple cider vinegar rinse thing for many years, and love it, so this one is covered. She found a good natural “bar” shampoo she likes.
- Salad dressing – I make my own with the juice from my “kim chee” so this one was easy too. This is something you CAN get in glass, and making your own isn’t such a big deal.
- Tofu – Gave up tofu a long time ago as well… phew.
- Lunch meat and cheese – I get cheese now and then – prepackaged in plastic. I will now go to the health food deli and get it there when I want it. Deli’s are the way to go for these.
- Meats and Fish – This one is tricky. It will mean getting my salmon at a place where I can get it fresh wrapped – a separate trip. I will talk to the folks at the store I buy my organic chicken thighs from – yet again – and see if I can get them in something other than styrofoam.
- Bread – see my whining comments above…
- Produce pre-wrapped or boxed in plastic – I don’t do this one any more, so I already gave it up…another phew.
- Fast-Food Plastic – The one drive-in I go to is a local outfit that puts the food in cardboard boxes… yea! Thank you Casablanca! If you still do fast food – ask for cardboard or bring your own container (and fork!).
- Frozen veggies and fruit in plastic bags (my addition to her list) – I only get the blueberries, so this year I will plan to go to a “you-pick” place if I don’t get enough from my bushes. I freeze in glass mostly.
We will each have things that we are attached to, that happen to be packaged in plastic – and are really hard to give up. All those things I gave up I did over a period of years, so it wasn’t such an awful cold turkey sort of thing. The thing is – I hope you will not give up giving up, simply because it’s hard or makes your life less convenient. Maybe if enough of us stop buying things in plastic they will stop using it to package things and it won’t be such an ordeal for the next generation. It can happen. It DOES happen, when enough of us put pressure on the system. Complain to the manager of your favorite store. Tell them you are going to have to buy your (fill in the blank) somewhere where you don’t have to have plastic packaging, but would rather shop there if they would only come up with an alternative.
Using your local farmers markets is one really fun and friendly and pleasant way to get fresh unpackaged food of all kinds. We are lucky that ours moves indoors in the winter – and keeps on going – and that we have people who make cheese and sell meat and fish and all sorts of great food products.
No matter what else happens in this world – we will ALWAYS have plastic! It’s something that we really must simply stop using or it will slowly do us all in no matter how many other things we fix. Together we can do this. People managed for a very long time without it, so I know we can too.
There are several things that can be bought in bulk from Gooseberries. Bring your bottles and refill them at the store. I still love making my own bread and I did come up with decent gluten-free breads when I was baking for others, but they are NOT as good as wheat and have stuff like xanthan gum. I haven’t figured out what to use to clean out the cat box, so any plastic bags I get are used for that…especially when I’m fostering kittens! It isn’t as good as not taking in any bags, but at least I’m using them for something that seems to have no other solution. Burying it is a no-no for where I live so close to the creek.
I used my bread bags for cat litter but this last year I have been using chicken feed pellets or crumble for cat litter – totally flushable or compostable. Works very well… Also just read about using wood pellets (for heating) that are WAY cheaper and work just as well supposedly. I will try that when I run out of chicken pellets (which my chickens will NOT eat by the way – they avoid it like it is poison – even the organic stuff! Maybe they are just spoiled by whole grains) .
There are so many things you can buy bulk and so many options for storage… it’s nice.
This is a good reminder and a “pat on the back” for the many folks that have been conscientious about using less plastic. We should be satisfied with using less (and a lot less) plastic in our daily lives, maybe never achieving the totally plastic-free mark. Personally I use a lot of “old” plastic, that has been around for a long time(maybe even two generations), such as those rugged Tupperware containers, and my “lunch-box” mini-cooler. One area that is heavily endowed in plastic is the nursery business – almost every plant or veggie start has been brought up in a plastic container of some sort. We can set up drip irrigation systems and collect rainwater because of plastic tubing and containers. It will be nearly impossible to go plastic-free in this society. We drive cars made of lots of plastic, and just look at the computer and phone we use for our socializing. Even my food dehydrator is mostly plastic! Our clothes and shoes very often have synthetic components, which have made the fabric fabulous ( think about fleece jackets, linings, blankets, soles, shoelaces, etc), and if we go outdoors and hike or camp, there is again lots of synthetic materials in each item- everything from walking poles to tents to backpacks and GPS devices. In the realm of foods that we buy, we may purchase it in a paper bag, or no bag, but how was it handled at the farm(big crates), or in the boat out on the ocean(coolers) before it got to the deli counter? Even the paint on our homes, furniture, wheelbarrows, etc is a plastic. Even re-using plastic bags(grocery or baggie type) and milk jugs has become a challenge because of the emphasis on biodegradability. So, don’t feel so guilty about using some plastic, be glad that you have made efforts to use less!
Interesting that you should mention the nursery business. As I was writing this this morning I thought about all the little (many times used) plastic 6 packs that I used to start a bunch of veggie seeds this morning… and how that is another huge area to deal with one day. I know – such a major part of our world is run using plastic. Hard to know how we will ever deal with all that.
The first article I wrote was really aimed at the plastic that we use once and throw away – like the plastic bags that are killing animals and fish in the oceans – that whale that had 30 bags in it’s stomach… Those are simple changes that we can make – that we have simple do-able alternatives to… I have no clue about the rest. I have read about some micro-organisms that will eat some types of plastic – maybe over time we will discover organisms that can transform it all into something biodegradable. Wouldn’t that be nice.
Thanks for the encouragement and support… 🙂
Plastic and recycling seems to be on the minds of many folks! In one of my other newsletters today, I found that Martha Stewart has started a new item called “Change the Day”. See it here https://www.marthastewart.com/1525937/change-day There is an article linked on the site about plastic and how to avoid it, and recycle it properly, it is titled “Here’s what really happens to all of our Trash.”
Thanks Helga! I look forward to reading it…
Good that you are aware of further ways to avoid plastic packaging but I don’t think you need to beat yourself up about it! I tried buying cheese from a deli to avoid plastic wrapping but it was too expensive and we don’t have one near us. We also still eat tofu occasionally – and unfortunately, my organic butcher is obliged to see his meat pre-packaged in plastic because the shop currently doesn’t have a proper roof.
However, if I were to drive further for cheese and eat non-organic meat that would bring other unwanted consequences…
I thought the same thing about driving to the other side of town for salmon… many miles extra added to my trip.. We live in a very complex world and there don’t appear to be simple answers to many of our problems..
My friend had the weird experience of going into the bulk foods bin section of a “big box” store and as she was putting food in her reusable nylon produce bags was told by a clerk she couldn’t use those bags – she had to use their plastic ones! She ended up going to the manager over the issue! Sometimes even when we try to do the right thing…