Tuesday, April 7, 2009

So You Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: Now What?

© photo copyright Carrie Boyko
Unpackaged Soap Means
Less Waste in the Landfill

On my journey to reducing my contribution to the landfills, I have perhaps become just a bit anal. Not to the point of becoming a pack rat; it's just that I really think through everything that goes into the trash.

The flip side of not throwing stuff away is not buying stuff I do not need. This is strategy number one. I have to give credit where credit is due. I adopted this attitude from Ed Begley Jr. When I shop, I seek out and choose items with less packaging. Less packaging means less trash. It is a simple concept that can have a big impact when we all employ it.

Strategy number 2 is to look for packaging that is biodegradable and compostable OR recyclable. I'd rather compost it that send it to a facility where it goes through more processing, but honestly, my compost piles are pretty full. The first one is nearly ready to harvest, which means this is not the time to add new materials to it. But it won't be long and I'll be adding to it from the bottom up...again.

I am seeing a move toward limiting packaging in some stores, although not in all product areas. Some products, pricey as they are, do not lend themselves well to minimal packaging. Small, expensive products are often packaged in large, difficult to open packages to discourage shoplifting. Such a shame!

One thing I can't help but notice is the lesser packaging at places like Whole Foods Markets. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! They carry a couple of lines of soaps that are shelved with only a bar code sticker on them--no box, plastic or shrink wrap at all. I have to sometimes wonder if we'll reach a point where we can do that with most products. It would do my heart good to see it. Don't you love the feeling of selecting each piece of produce, without having to negotiate through cellophane?

So, that brings me to my final point. How can we collectively encourage manufacturers and merchants to limit their packaging? Our greatest weapon is to choose products with very little packaging. When those products become the best sellers, the producers will sit up and take notice.

The reusable bag conversion is all but a sealed deal now. Can't we do better than that? When we buy bulk items from dispensers, such as nuts and dried fruits, why not bring our own containers for those? I don't use plastic bags for veggies at the market. I simply place all the veggies into one of my reusable bags to take to the checkout.

We bring reusable cups to Starbucks; why not reusable containers to the grocer's bulk aisle? We can change things. We can limit our packaging needs by simply being more responsible shoppers. Join in.

Next time you're thinking about a new lunch box for yourself or your kids, check out some of the new Bento Boxes--garbage free lunch containers:

I picked up a take off on this concept from Target. There are many options available now, but the goal is simply to use your own container and bring it home for reuse.

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