Honestly, that habit took longer than I thought, because I wasn’t as proficient or consistent at reading labels. I never thought palm oil would be in tortilla shells, or crackers. Eventually, I learned if you don’t make it yourself, check the label.
Plastic has become quite villainized recently. Years ago, I learned about the great Pacific Garbage Patch, which I don’t think is really all that great. At the time, they estimated the blob of trash floating in the ocean was the size of Texas. Now they claim it’s three times the size of France, which is roughly close to the size of Texas.
The effects of this garbage soup patch are far-reaching. Birds, such as albatrosses, feed plastic to their young. Fish are eating particles, and then we eat the fish. Leatherback sea turtles, who normally dine on jellyfish, are confusing plastic bags for their food. Animals from seals to sharks to dolphins to whales are getting entangled in our trash.
Plastic is the big culprit, as it is a man-made product which never goes away. Sure, it can break down into smaller pieces, but it never goes away.
It’s important to recycle. If you have the ability to recycle your plastics, please be sure you do it. But, remember the motto for sustainability is REDUCE our waste first, REUSE our waste next, and then recycle. Recycling is the last resort we need to consider. It’s better to reduce our waste more than try to recycle it.
Which brings me to our 12th principle, one I admit I still struggle with. Because plastic is EVERYWHERE. It’s more pervasive than palm oil, and that is everywhere, too.
The 12th principle for Eating Green is to Pass on the Plastic. This is a tough one, but I won’t leave you alone in your quest to eat better for the planet.
Here are some of my favorite hacks I’ve used to reduce my plastic waste-
- The Bulk Section is your friend. You can find a lot of single ingredient, whole foods in the bulk section. It’s where I get my oats, raisins, almond flour, rice, lentils, spices, and even some of my tea. But there is a trick to this hack, as well. Bring your own containers. You’ll probably need to have the containers tared at the front of the store, or show an associate (although, I haven’t had too many problems with this, it may be because I live in a small community and they know me by now), but you most certainly can bring your own containers to fill at the bulk section.
- Remember your other principles. Particularly “Shop the Perimeter of the Store”. Avoid the center aisles, that’s where all the plastic wrap is. Well, a lot of it, at least.
- Look for glass and metal containers. I love my yogurt. I think it’s one of the main reasons I can’t go fully Paleo. But I am also very conscious about yogurt because the plastic containers aren’t recyclable where I live. Until I found yogurt in glass containers. Yoplait has a brand called Oui, which is in glass. Glass is better than plastic. So is metal. These are natural products, which may be around for a long time, but they do eventually break down. Canned foods aren’t always the best choice, health-wise, but if you look for BPA-free products, and organic, it’s better than plastic wrapped.
- Get friendly with your deli and butcher. If you are nice to them, they will recognize your desire to cut down on plastic, and will help you out with choosing meats and wrapping your meats in non-plastic waste. Some use compostable trays, or nice butcher paper, instead of plastic and styrofoam. You can also possibly use your own containers for your meat, too.
- Buy reusable utensils, water bottles, and canvas bags. Ditch Aquafina, and Dasani, and other bottled waters. Unless you live in Flint, or an area where the water is deemed non-potable, get your water from a faucet. Invest in a water filter if you are inclined, but just stop buying bottled water.
My biggest pet peeve is seeing WATER bottles in the trash. Especially next to a recycling bin. It’s WATER. Pour it out, or even throw it in the recycling filled with water. UGH! But better than remembering to recycle (why is that so freaking hard?) is to not have to remember to recycle. Aluminum bottles are best, but any bottle you can use forever will work great.
Same goes for your grocery bags. I’ve gotten really good at remembering my canvas bags not just at the store, but when I’m going to pick up medication at the pharmacy, or shopping at the mall (that doesn’t happen too often), or to a book store (that’s more my style), or a thrift store.
- Reuse, Recycle, Reduce Your Waist. I know this whole series is about Eating Green, but this is a great option if you can’t avoid plastic. Save it and make something creative. Or better yet, use it to make workout equipment. Most of my bags I have are reused for bulk section foods. But some of the bags I collected from kitty treats, jerky, or granola (it was a local brand, and I regret nothing) have been used to create sandbags. I used plastic lids to make an agility ladder, and I use strawberry containers and tofu containers for a variety of things for working out.
It doesn’t have to be fitness, that’s just what I am obsessed with. I also have made some great kitty enrichment toys from non-recyclable materials, and I’m sure if I thought about it enough, I could come up with some great life hacks from items destined for the landfill.
Again, this list is like my program, constantly expanding. Eliminating plastic completely isn’t easy, nor do I think completely feasible 100%. I haven’t figured out how to get grapes without buying them in a plastic bag. Same for Lara Bars and Epic Bars. But I get better every time I see the difference I am making when I reduce my waste at the grocery store.
I’d be glad to hear any of your ideas for cutting waste from our lives. Every little bit counts. Keep on eating and living green.