A GUIDE TO REDUCING WASTE
Over the past year, I've taken a closer look at my consumption of plastic and how much waste I create. I've focused on changes that are not much of an inconvenience and actually result in an upgraded experience. A lot of times, all it takes is breaking the habit of being on plastic bag/cup auto pilot (veggies at the grocery store, clothes at the dry cleaner, wherever).
If you're interested in making small changes, pick a couple of things that would be easy switches and start there. I am not plastic free by any means. It still wanders into my life (cleaning products, take-out orders, toiletries), but I've gradually cut back and it's incredible how much less waste I create and how much less plastic I use just by being mindful.
- NAPKINS/TOWELS: Use cloth towels and napkins instead of paper (Heather Taylor anyone?). So much chicer, and you just throw them in the laundry. I keep a roll of paper towels around for the odd job, but it takes me about six months to use it up. There are reusable paper towels too, if you're interested. Try putting your paper towels under the sink and cloth towels out and ready to use.
- WATER DELIVERY: If you want to know what's in your local tap water, enter your zip code here. If you want to know what's in plastic bottled water, read this. Water is the thing we consume the most of, make sure it's high quality. I get Mountain Valley water delivered in glass jugs once a month. My doctor loves Castelrock water too.
- WATER FILTERS: Erica Chidi Cohen recommends the Berkey, Ashley Hollister recommends Beyond 02. Both require an investment, but are more affordable longterm than water delivery (maybe I should switch). And Bo Carney likes Zero Water filters.
- STORING LEFTOVERS: Try Beeswax wraps, Silicone covers, Stasherbags, glass Tupperware, or simply putting an upside down plate on top of the dish à la Beatrice Valenzuela. And here are some gorgeous, very luxe ceramic options.
- COFFEE FILTERS: Chemex filters are the best. And they make these reusable ones. Just ordered.
- STORAGE CONTAINERS: Glass jugs for nut milk, glass jars to store dry goods (I reorganized my entire pantry with these and it is such an elevated and pleasant experience to scoop ingredients out of glass jars versus plastic bags - not to mention my pantry looks great and is so easy to maintain).
- STORING GREENS/HERBS IN FRIDGE: Put the greens in a salad spinner, fill with cold water, let sit 10 minutes so dirt falls to the bottom, lift the basket out, dump the water/dirt, put the basket back in, put the top on and leave it in the fridge. Greens stay fresh so long. I sometimes wrap a damp dish towel around veggies like carrots or beets in fridge too. There are re-usable storage bags for them as well, but I've never used them.
- COMPOST: I am going to start composting, so will do a separate post when I figure it out. If you have tips, please comment :)
GROCERY / FARMERS MARKET
- PLASTIC PRODUCE BAGS: When a plastic bag literally serves no purpose (bananas, potatoes, and so on), definitely skip it. For something like loose spinach leaves, see bulk bin bags below. I bring a mini straw tote to the farmers market and put loose greens and berries in it; nothing gets crushed, it's so functional and fits right inside a larger tote.
- BULK BINS: Those glass jars I mentioned can be filled with flours/nuts/seeds/etc from the bulk bins. Get basic muslin bags like these or cute Navy ones like these and bring them with you if you want to avoid plastic bags. Shopping in "bulk" is cheaper, and you can buy exactly how much you need. The Navy bags make me want to remember to use them a lot more than the basic muslin. Do it in a way that gives you pleasure, and you'll get in the habit.
- FRUIT/VEGGIES: I love Michael Pollen's advice to use the dollars you spend to essentially vote for the products you want. When you buy something, you're encouraging the store to restock it. A lot of produce is sold both with and without a plastic container. You could, for example, go for the loose arugula, rather than the one in a plastic box. Tip: Try to buy herbs at the farmers market (they're usually in plastic at grocery stores). I know Trader Joe's is a great deal, but they put almost all of their produce in plastic containers, so I don't go there.
- JARRED GOODS: Choose Mayo, Honey, etc in a glass jar. Bonus: pick the most attractive jar and then reuse it.
- MARKET BAGS: Classic straw, French net, etc.
ON THE GO
- RE-USABLE WATER BOTTLES: BKR, Klean Kanteen, these Seletti glass bottles are more elegant and less outdoorsy looking, one more glass option, and I love re-using the glass bottles Erewhon juices come in. Also: Que water bottles are plastic free and collapsible.
- RE-USABLE COFFEE CUPS: Keepcup and this ceramic one.
- MAYBE STAY: Do you have 10 or so minutes to spare? Sit down and eat/drink at the place where you're getting your coffee/sandwich/etc. Ask for real dishes if you're staying - most places will automatically give you take-away packaging.
- ASK FOR PAPER: When you're taking something to go, ask for it in a paper or compostable container instead of plastic.
- DRY CLEANER: skip the plastic covering - my dry cleaner is happy to!
- TAKE OUT: If you're having it delivered to your home, ask them not to include napkins and cutlery. If you pick it up and don't need the bag, skip the bag too.
CURATED BY KATHERINE KLEVELAND,
CO-FOUNDER OF DOEN
- LUNCH BOX: Super durable, easy to clean, and the healthiest option for kiddos. My kids love theirs and have used from pre-school now into elementary.
- PAPER SNACK BAGS: Instead of ziplocks.
- COMPOSTABLE TRASH BAGS: Instead of using the typical plastic bags for diaper pails, we use compostable trash bags.
- STAINLESS STEEL WATER BOTTLE: They go everywhere with us.
- KID LUGGY: for the farmers mkt to avoid using plastic bags for produce - we have the adult one too.
- STAINLESS STEEL STRAWS
- TRASH: We currently have 3 trash pails in our kitchen, 1 for recycling, 1 for compostable food, and 1 for trash. It is great to teach the kids about the difference, and also see how much trash we have cut down on since making the change.
- KEEP KIDS IN THE LOOP: We really try to include the kids in the conversation about what a single use plastic is and why its bad for the earth. They like being part of the solution, they really get on board, it's inspiring.
- EATING OUT: At restaurants we try to always mention to waiters before being served water that our kids are fine with glass, as opposed to plastic cups with lids, and that they do not need straws. Our kids have used glass drinking cups since they were little so it is no inconvenience to us.