So in order to try to mitigate a tiny, tiny bit of the intense anxiety triggered by stories of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or of straws and coffee-stirrer pollution, or of the terrifying amount of non-recyclable trash in the world (couldn’t even read this one because of all the doom), my husband and I both like to try new ways to avoid plastics and disposable things. (Exception: diapers. I use disposable, and for that I am sorry. #GUILT. Thus I have that much more to make up for on the non-disposable front … or at least that’s how I feel.)
Anyway, I am no angel and I am no expert — for an expert opinion on this and all things green, I highly recommend local mama Paige Wolf, and her book Spit That Out — but there are nevertheless a few “green” things we’ve come to really like that were very easy changes for our family to make and have helped us avoid the downsides of plastic and/or produce less garbage. Maybe everyone else has already been using/loving these things? But on the chance you’re not, here’s some very simple faves of ours:
Lunchskins recyclable and sealable lunch bags
A bag of 50 of these recyclable and compostable sandwich and snack baggies (pictured above) run about $6 on Amazon — so, more than a box of Ziploc baggies, for sure, but with zero plastic. (For the record, you can recycle Ziploc baggies anywhere you can recycle plastic shopping bags, too: I just don’t know anyone who does.) Still, these paper bags are sturdy and come in sandwich-, quart-, gallon- and tote-bag-sizes. And they’re cute, to boot. (They also make reusable cloth versions, too — I just don’t trust my four-year-old to bring them home.) (Ps. I’ve already shared many times here my deep love for LunchBots, but it bears repeating if you’re in the market for reusable lunch stuff.)
We’re big smoothie drinkers, and everybody knows that letting a young child drink a thick smoothie (with beets in it) without a straw is a fast recipe for a disaster. (Okay, same for grownups.) But we’ve tossed the plastic version in favor of these stainless steel straws, which are dishwasher safe and will last forever. (Also, our favorite hangout just switched to compostable straws — it occurred to me that we can all be asking our neighborhood restaurants to do the same, no?)
My husband has been using cloth over paper the entire 10 years I’ve known him. I thought it was nuts when I first met him, but he quickly converted me. It’s true that we do a bit more laundry this way, and I know there’s an energy cost to that (plus water, plus the pesticides/materials that go into growing the cotton), but we reuse our cloth napkins multiple times before it goes for a wash, and we also try to buy organic or linen when we need to replace. Before I used cloth, I was VERY liberal with the paper products, and now I am incredibly stingy with them — maybe just 2 or 3 rolls of paper towels in a year.
For $18 a month, we pay Bennett Compost to come and get all of our food waste, leaves and garden waste, which saves us a TON of stinky trash in our can (not to mention the trash bags). Bennett gave us a bucket, which we keep on the porch — we keep a smaller container in the kitchen and empty it every couple days into the big bucket. The bucket gets picked up once a week, and voila: City composting, no yard needed. (We do have a garden, and the two giant bags of dirt we get in return for our compost is a nice perk!) I also like the composting because it keeps the smelliest bits out of our trash can and food out of our garbage disposal, and in a city that has just once weekly pickup and 100-year-old pipes, these things are incredibly helpful.
PS. Haven’t tried them — am a smidge wary of the extra food-making and washing that they entail — but these Squooshi baby food pouches look very cool. So .. maybe!?