Reducing Your Waste

The company If You Care makes bags from potato starch. You can read about how they make these bags and why they are currently the best option for the environment on their website but here’s quick information on them. They are made from starch potatoes, which are not edible, they require less space and water than corn (which is what other compostable bags are made out of) and no plasticizers are added in the making of these bags.

Plastic bags might be cheaper than these alternatives but there are ways to reduce cost; by producing less waste and needing less of these bags. Cost is a funny thing. We’ve come to forget how far back our purchases go and what the real cost of things are. Plastic bags might cost less than these potato starch bags at the moment when we pay for them at the store, but overall the cost to the environment, wildlife and therefore also us, is much greater.

If you feel ready to make the change here are some ways to produce less waste;

Composting

If you are already composting in your backyard or at an ecology center, great. If you live in a city and have a very small apartment and not enough space for a bucket of worms (which really doesn’t take up much space), you can look into seeing if your city or community offers municipal food waste collection or if there are any ecology centers in your area taking in compost from the locals. You can also see if friends who have more space or a yard are interested in composting and save your scraps for them. Friends with animals, like chickens or ruminants, are also great for scraps. You can keep a container in your freezer that you add to and then take your scraps over to be composted once a week.

Not needing to buy more trash bags and not having your trash smell awful are two good reasons for composting but the MAIN reason why we want to compost and not throw food or scraps in the trash is because things with natural fibers like paper and vegetables naturally decompose in nature. As they decompose they release CO2 back into the air. When you compost, you are putting your food in a natural environment. When you throw your food in the trash and it gets trucked to a landfill where there is no oxygen and a lot of anaerobic action, the food starts releasing methane gas, which is a much worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to One Green Planet, “methane traps up to 100 times more heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide within a 5-year period and 72 times more within a 20-year period.”

Buying Bulk

Buying bulk foods and bringing your own fabric bags for them will reduce the amount of packaging you bring home. Instead of using those twisty things to write the code for the bulk items, you can start a list on your phone. ex. Red bag almonds #4859, green bag rolled oats #3894

Some people like to bring mason jars to the store, I don’t because they are heavy and make a lot of noise but give them a try and see wha you prefer. Whatever container you are bringing with you to the store, make sure to know, or write on the bag or jar, the weight of the empty bag or jar.

Cotton/Fabric Towels rather than Paper Towels

You can buy them in bulk from a restaurant store. Buying bulk means saving money, but you might not need 100 kitchen towels. Share the cost and the towels with a friend or a neighbor. Most of these towels sold at places where restaurants shop at are SO much better at absorbing water and not leaving lint than most dish rags we purchase from home stores. I bought mine a long time ago while I was working in the restaurant industry and unfortunately didn’t think twice to look for organic cotton. Cotton is one of the “dirtiest” crops, I highly recommend buying organic cotton towels.

Tissues and Paper Napkins

Start making (or purchase) a few handkerchiefs and use them daily. They are usually thinner than your average cotton dinner napkin so you can quickly hand wash and hang to dry, or throw them in with laundry. At meal times use cotton napkins, not paper. Just add them to your regular laundry – They barely take any space. If you are worried about water usage, just think about the water that goes into making paper towels and napkins. Water that cools the machines and water that gets polluted with chemicals used during production.

Think Twice Before Buying

If you don’t think what you’re buying is going to last or that you’re not going to be excited about it in a few months or a year, don’t buy it.

Learn to Repair and Buy More Durable

Learn basic skills to repair or repurpose things like old pillowcases, belts, shoes, etc. Internet is a great resource for this. You can also take your shoes to a shoe repair; they still exist… When buying something, buy the more durable option (which sometimes is more expensive). In terms of how long it lasts and how many times you have to re-buy the same item, you will end up saving money by buying the more durable and expensive option.

Reusable Bags

This is very obvious but bring your own reusable bags, hopefully made out of natural fibers like organic canvas. Etsy has a number of beautiful, handmade bags both for groceries and for bulk items.

Extra Packaging

Especially when it comes to food shopping, I don’t understand why things come wrapped in plastic.. If you see a lot of waste in, around or over the item you are thinking about buying, take a minute to decide if it’s worth all the waste..

Buy Food Storage Containers

Stop using saran wrap. There is really no need for it unless you are a baker or working in the restaurant industry. Buy stackable silicone or glass containers, and store your food in non-plastic containers. If you have something in a large bowl and don’t want to move it into a container, put a dinner plate over the bowl. Start decreasing your usage of unnecessary things that make life “convenient” for a human being but harms and kills marine animals. Here is a link to wellnessmama for other alternatives to plastics in the kitchen. Be sure to click on the mommypotamus link on the page for alternatives to saran wrap and aluminum foil.

Body Products and Cleaning Supplies

Start making your own body products and store them in mason jars. It’s both easy and so much fun to make your own creams, tooth paste, etc. You get to put whatever essential oil you want, and not have to worry about animal testing, dangerous chemicals and waste. Making your own body products and cleaning supplies doesn’t take much active time. Rosemary Gladstar has a few great books on making body products and using medicinal herbs. For cleaning supplies I suggest, “Make your place affordable, sustainable nesting skills” by Raleigh Briggs. You can also Google how to make shampoo, hand cream, toothpaste etc and see what you like most. There are a lot of recipes out there, the problem isn’t the lack of resources, it’s finding the right recipe for you.

Take Out

Instead of getting take out, either go out and eat out, or cook at home  Really quite simple. All those containers end up in the trash, or they get stored at home to be thrown out or recycled all at once when there are too many in the kitchen cabinet.

Recycle

Recycling isn’t on the top of the list unfortunately because most things we truck off to be recycled don’t in fact get recycled. Don’t purchase something thinking you will recycle it or the container it came in. If it’s glass or metal, it will most likely be recycled but plastics are very hard to recycle. There are so many different types of plastic and they are very hard to separate and distinguish between the types. Also a glass bottle can be recycled to become a glass bottle again but a plastic bottle that gets recycled can never be a plastic bottle again. Think twice before you buy bottled beverages in plastic…