My latest project, the one I’m thinking about the most, is not knitting or baking or art journaling or making leather notebook covers, although those have all occupied a lot of my time and effort lately. No, my biggest project these days is making my home and my life greener. I’ve always considered myself an environmentalist, and I’ve written before about trying to reduce my consumption of single-use plastic. But over the years, I have really slacked off, often choosing convenience or lower price over earth-friendliness. I have three kids, and there’s only so much I can do. Whenever I felt guilty, I reminded myself (possibly a bit defensively) that I breastfed and cloth-diapered all my children, and that balanced out whatever environmental sins I was committing. And, of course, I recycle.
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A few weeks ago, however, I listened to an episode of the 99% Invisible podcast called “National Sword.” It describes how China is refusing to recycle US waste, and how a lot of the items we toss in our recycling bins actually aren’t getting recycled at all. I urge you to listen to it, but probably not on a day when you’re feeling depressed or hopeless because believe me, this will not make things better.
After listening to “National Sword,” I’m more determined than ever to reduce my use of plastic (especially single-use plastic) and reduce my trash production in general.
I’ve already mentioned that I use reusable grocery bags when I shop. I also recently bought reusable produce bags. They are made of a see-through mesh fabric, so they don’t add significant weight, and the supermarket cashier can see the code on the produce stickers. They’re just as easy to use as plastic. I also have started using beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap. They’re easy to use and clean. Much easier, actually, than wrestling with plastic wrap that’s hard to tear properly and always sticks to itself. I’ve tried two different brands, and I prefer the Green Bee wraps, as they stick better than the other one I’ve tried. I’ve also been transitioning to glass containers and jars instead of ziplock bags for freezing leftovers.
My next challenge is reducing my use of plastic bottles for toiletries and household cleansers. I use Method dish liquid and spray cleaner, and I buy the refills rather than buying more small bottles. I’m still buying plastic, I know. I could buy aluminum or glass spray bottles and make my own cleaner with vinegar, but I really love the scents that Method makes, and my husband is not a fan of the smell of vinegar. Just writing about it is making me feel guilty. Maybe I’ll switch over, but no promises. I’m also transitioning from paper towels to cloth napkins and cloth cleaning rags, and from regular sponges to biodegradable cellulose sponges.
It’s staggering how much plastic we use, and how much it has increased in just the past two to three decades. When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s, soda bottles and peanut butter jars were glass, and things such as cornstarch, drink mixes, oatmeal, and mixed nuts came in canisters made from metal or cardboard. Now most of these containers are plastic. Cold cereal used to be in waxed paper bags inside the box, instead of the plastic bags used now. Those paper bags were easier to open, and when you rolled them down they stayed rolled and kept the cereal fresh longer.
I’m going to see what my options are for avoiding plastic bottles of body lotion, face cream, deodorant, hair products, and the like. I’ll be blogging about the changes I make, so stay tuned!