The Weston A. Price Way

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sustainable Friday: Little Things Mean a Lot

A simple string hung from side-to-side above our sink area
is working as a bag reusing 'station'.
There are the bigger things, like raising backyard chickens, and then, there are the little things that add up to something bigger.

Plastics made their debut all the way back in 1862. In the beginning, plastic was organic. Yes. Then someone wanted to make something instead of ivory for billiard balls, added camphor from the laurel tree. Still not so bad. But as time progressed, science added synthetic chemicals, then more, then more...anyway, you pretty much know where we are now, but if you want more information on the history of plastics, look here.

I will save the discussion of chemical concerns in plastics for another day...but today I want to focus on cutting back on it's use. And there are some very simple ways we can all help lessen the load on dumps, save the soil, and save more than a little pocket change in the process.

Ready? Let's begin.

Save your baggies. Wash them well with soapy water and hang 'em to dry. Use them again. Wash them well, hang 'em, use again. See? Some sustainability practices really are just that easy.

Another way to help is by cutting back on eating processed foods and make some of the easier things at home, storing them in glass storage containers, (even Rubbermaid is making them now!)...or as I and many of my friends do, in canning jars. Okay, not quite as easy as saving baggies, I know, but if you're ready to take a bigger step...  Our trash can used to overflow by the time trash day came. Now, it's rarely full. We don't realize just how much we use until we make some changes. It really surprised us.

And bringing us back to the bags...little sandwich bags aren't the only plastics we can be more careful about. It seems all the grocers across America are getting some free advertisement by stamping their name on reusable shopping bags. Many chains now have a recycling bin in their stores for returned plastic shopping bags as well. The most difficult thing for me in this has been my memory. I buy the bags, use them for my groceries, hang them up until the next trip and repeatedly walk out of the house without them. Ugh! Makes me really mad at myself when I get to the cashier. But my repeated failings in this area are slowly training me to do better and hopefully, it will be a simple habit before much longer. In the meantime, I have some really pretty bags and some really cool ones, (Trader Joe's has a retro surfboard scene I love), for carrying things to friends and family, as well as for beach and picnic trips. I don't have any problem remembering to use them for things like's just that taking an empty bag out to the car is foreign to me.

Speaking of foreign, an English friend of mine was pointing out to me recently that we Americans are so wasteful. She said that to us, it's such a novelty to take a bag to the store, but in England, they look at you like you're crazy if you don't because taking your own bags to market is a matter of course.

There is a lot of controversy about recycling plastics. It's so difficult to distinguish between this right guy and that right guy...So, I think the best answer is to reduce and reuse as much as possible before recycling.

Reduce by using less processed foods, by carrying your own bags, and when you don't, by saying, 'No, thanks" to bags that carry things you're getting ready to use, eat or put in your pocket, by watching the baggers and asking that they put more in bags rather than less, and by telling them they don't need to bag the big, carry-able items, like the laundry detergent bottle.

Reuse by, well, by reusing. Be creative and don't be ashamed to use a shopping bag in your small trash cans or as a lunch tote. We've used them to stuff between breakables in transit. I've even used them to give to the grandkids to carry their own 'set of supplies' to the beach or park. And they're wonderful take-alongs in the car trunk. Use them to protect car seats from wet bathing suits when leaving the beach. Or to carry wet bathing suits and sandy shoes. I know I'm honing in on summer activities, but it's getting really warm around my area. Still you get the idea...What about baggies for airplane trips? ...They want to be able to SEE your cosmetics now, you know. You could go to the drugstore and buy another plastic bag for five bucks or more, or you could spend zilch by reusing what you already have.

It's the little things and I do know we all know it already. We just have to train ourselves to do it. I helped create the problem. As with most, I just didn't consider the problems I was helping to create. I'm still far from 'there', if there even is a 'there'. But I'm starting to do little things. All I really have to do to work up some incentive is look at and consider the futures of my grandchildren. That's reason enough for me.

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