Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Enemy, thy name is plastic

Today's grocery trip was a bit of an experiment. I read on another blog (sorry, I can't remember which one, so no credit here, just not my original idea) that they were trying to reduce their dependence on plastic. So my goal was to buy the least amount of plastic that I could.

Well, this was a more daunting goal than I anticipated, because once you start paying attention to how much plastic there is at the grocery store, it's virtually impossible to make a regular trip without it.

I have some plastic produce bags saved that I reuse, so that reduces one section of the store. However, it is more difficult to find organic produce. Normally Wegmans has organic lemons, but today I couldn't find any, so I had to buy a regular one. Next dilemma: organic tomatoes in a plastic container, or local tomatoes from a bin? That's a tough choice. This also comes up with milk. We have several great dairies around here, that sell milk in glass bottles. Not organic milk though. So today I bought organic tomatoes & organic milk, both in plastic. Sigh.

Next stop, the aisles. Here are some items for which a consumer has no choice but to buy plastic, at least at the store I was in:
-lemon juice
-organic eggs
-cheese (except shredded parmesan, which I managed to find in a glass jar!)

Now I realize that there are certainly alternatives to many of these items, and today for various reasons I wasn't able to utilize these alternatives. However, it's to my advantage to have learned this firsthand, so next time I can plan a little better.

One of the reasons that I want to reduce our dependence on plastic is that it's not all recyclable. Last week a friend watched me put a plastic container in our recycling box and asked incredulously, "You can recycle 5s here?!" Another suburb where she housesits only takes 1s & 2s. I told her that I wasn't sure if there were restrictions on the plastic numbers, but the truck picks up whatever I put out. It doesn't get sorted by the guy driving the truck. So I'll have to look into that. What do you do with the plastic that your town won't recycle? Any ideas out there?

Same goes for styrofoam. That doesn't come through too often, but occasionally a package will get delivered with styrofoam packing. I just unpacked a box of dishes we got for our wedding (a lot of our wedding presents were in storage because our apartment had no space for them) and there was styrofoam between the dishes, so right now there's a small pile waiting for someplace to go that's not the garbage.

So today's lesson, plastic is everywhere. Tomorrow, getting an estimate for a new efficient furnace, and converting to gas from oil. I'm sure there'll be a post to come from that experience!


Michelle said...

No plastic is hard. I read your blog this morning and throughout the day made a mental note of everything that had plastic.... here are some of them, the frozen pancakes that we get for Reed, graham crackers, cereal, sliced bread, American cheese (each individually wrapped!), Pepsi (at least it was a 2 liter and not a small one), frozen broccoli, etc, etc, etc.

Amanda said...

I think there are places that will except Styrofoam. Some only accept the styro peanuts. But if you look it up online you will most likely find that they are usually places that do a lot of shipping and deliveries. Good luck!

Amanda said...


That is a link to the Good Morning America website about how a lot of products (like Lays Potato chips, juices, etc) are changing their packaging to "PLA" packages that are biodegradable within 2 months of disposal.

KQ said...

Amanda- thanks for the link. I started researching the information from that site, and hopefully will get to report some results in a future post.

Michelle- isn't it crazy how much stuff is in plastic? Even when you get something in a cardboard box, like cereal or waffles, there's a plastic bag inside that box. I'm not ready to give up some of my favorite foods that come in plastic!

MissTay23 said...

Just out of curiousity, what about Farmer's markets? That might cut down on plastics for produce? I won't lie, I have no idea what I'm talking about, this comment just popped into my head.

KQ said...

Tay, you're right, farmer's markets are perfect for buying produce without packaging. I just found a whole list of them for Rochester and surrounding areas in City magazine last week, and I saved it if anyone wants a copy. Also, Lori's offers paper bags as an alternative to plastic in their produce section. Their selection is pretty limited so I definitely would have do a combo with another source to get all our produce.

Katie said...

Hey Kate!! I'm glad you're trying to reduce plastic, keep trying! I think about being here, and it scares me to think they don't even recycle here on the island! Cans, plastic, everything just gets thrown in the trash! It makes me sad, and I wish I could do something. But anyways, so I just wanted to offer a suggestion about the furnace situation. I don't know if you looked into it, but pellet stoves are a really good option for heating. It might be too late, maybe you've already made a decision about the furnace, but I just wanted to offer the suggestion. The family I was a nanny for (remember the twin devil-children I used to talk about? yeah, them) had two in their house because they were always trying to be eco-friendly. Also because the cost of oil was expensive, and their bills were getting high with gas prices skyrocketing last winter. They had a fairly large four bedroom house out near Ithaca that they kept nice and toasty with their stoves, and they're pretty easy to set up (a little construction in necessary) and super easy to use, even I could do it! Again, just a suggestion if you're still thinking about it and/or didn't know about it. Take care! Love the blog! :) ~Katie S.