Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Kicked to the Curb

From the bean of Green Bean.
It's that time of year. Time to rehash 2008 and make promises and predictions for 2009. I'm jumping on the bandwagon and am going to propose that, this year, we kick our bottles and cans to the curb.

And not in a recycling bin.

Which is often downcycling. And is often done in some rural Asian village submerged in a toxic soup.

No. I'm talking about dumping single use containers for good. They are wasteful, unnecessary, cheap-looking, and oh soooo last year. Let 2009 be the year we all enter into a long term, meaningful relationship with our food and beverage containers.

First Date


  • If you haven't already, invest in a quality reusable water bottle. At $20 or so a pop, it is an investment but one that will pay back itself when you can stop wasting money on bottled beverages and refill at will. Don't settle for a cheap knock off that tastes like aluminum and is lined with BPA. Go for a Kleen Kanteen or a Sigg. As a mother of two young'uns, I prefer Kleen Kanteens. Unlike our Siggs, the Kleen Kanteens have withstood the hard knocks of childhood lunches while retaining their youthful appearance.

  • Bring your own coffee cup. Many stores give a small reward but you'll feel your own reward when you put your lips to a well loved coffee cup instead engaging in a one-cup stand with some styrofoam.
Goin' Steady

  • Repackage yourself. Kiss individually wrapped packages good bye. Now that you've taken the plunge, you no longer need those itty bitty wrappers and can put your crackers and carrots in their own reusable container for lunches and snacks.

  • Hook up with containers that can be returned for reuse. You know the ones. The shapely glass milk bottles that remind you of your parents' childhood. The solid, reliable yogurt crocks that belong in a glossy European kitchen.

In It For the Long Haul

  • Bulk up. It happens to the best of us. We get into a long term relationship and, well, the pounds just suddenly appear. In this case, bulk is a good thing. Take some ziplocks or reusable bags to the bulk section and forgo the packaging all together. You can often find nuts, dried fruit, beans, grains, flour and maybe even something crazy-green like beeswax.
  • Make your own . . . granola bars, crackers, yogurt. It's not as hard as you might think and then you can package however you like.

  • Make date night a regular thing. Don't find a sitter for those reusable containers. Bring them with you for restaurant leftovers and give the styrofoam take out containers the cold shoulder.
Being a single use container is so 2008. This year, I'm ready for commitment. Are you?

20 comments:

Domestic Accident said...

Currently, I'm just in the going steady phase, but I'm looking to move into the long haul phase this year. Yipppeee!

The Pirate Farmer said...

I was lookin' for my Klean Kanteen the other day and I said out loud "Didn't I buy three of these last year?". And my husband replied "Yes, and one of them is at the bottom of the ocean."

Hardest for me is the tubs of ricotta and sour cream. I've mastered the yogurt making but am a little intimidated by those two. And, sadly, our last remaining dairy co-op that packaged in glass bottles just went out of business.

greeen sheeep said...

Last night I made butter, I can't believe how easy it is. Why in the world have I been buying it all these years?

For 2009 my to do list is:
butter, yogurt, sour cream, and get the whole bread baking thing figured out. I am having a heck of a time with that!

These are staples in our house that I buy multiples of weekly. We would eliminate a lot of packaging by making our own.

JAM said...

I have noticed that our recycling used to be overflowing, and now it is just manageable (of course our town in its infinite wisdom takes trash every week, but recycling only every two weeks). The things that bulk it up are the soy milk cartons. Not sure how to improve that. We've just tried switching to frozen orange juice from cartons - I'm not sure if my husband (the main orange juice drinker) will like it as much, but if so, then we've at least downsized the container a bit. Fruit in the winter is hard - in the Northeast we have nothing local so a lot of it is in clamshells for protection, but I still think it's good to eat fruit, even if non-local (and sometimes non-organic)...

Rosa said...

JAM, I got a soymilk maker this summer and I *love* it.

I'm not entirely sure it will end up being less plastic, over time - the machine itself is half plastic, and it's hard to know how many years I will be using it.

But for right now, all I'm bringing in to the house are brown paper bags of soybeans and barley, not tetrapak or plastic coated containers. And, the grains are light and can be stored at room temperature, so shipping and storing them uses less energy. Also, it is CHEAP.

We did find, with the glass milk bottles, that the plastic lids are almost as heavy as a plastic milk jug, and aren't recyclable here. So I'm not sure that's a win, except that we can't get organic, local milk in a recyclable plastic gallon jug, anyway - the choices are organic in glass or plastic-coated paper, or non-organic in a recyclable jug.

Lisa Sharp said...

I'm at the long haul phase. I need to make more of my own products and buy more in bulk but I'm lacking a good place to do that. Not sure I can talk my hubby in to three store stops when we do our monthly grocery shopping. And really four stops would be needed to do a really good job.

Green Bean said...

Domestic Accident: Go girl! I'm part-way thru the long haul but fell off the wagon with making some of my own stuff during the holidays. Trying to get back on.

Pirate Farmer: At the bottom of the ocean? Well, at least it won't break up into tiny pieces like plastic would, I guess. I too have only mastered yogurt on the dairy front. We rarely use the other stuff so I'll wait until you figure it out and then piggy back on your successes. ;-)

Greeen Sheeep: I know! Butter is crazy easy to make. Who knew?

JAM: Juice and fruit in clamshells are tough. I'm not sure frozen juice concentrate is the best bet because they have to be shipped frozen, blah blah blah. That is one of those eco-conundrums that I've never found the answer to. If you ever figure it out, let me know. As to the fruit, dude, ya gotta eat it! Still better than the processed junk.

Rosa: Never thought about the weight of the plastic caps. Ours are accepted for recycling here but I guess I always assumed it was more of a surface area v. weight thing. Anyone know?

Lisa: Right there with ya, sister. I really really need to remember to bring containers for dinners out. We only go out once every week or two but I always kick myself when there is leftover food and my options are to waste the food or pack it in some wasteful, single use container.

Amber said...

I'm reducing my single use containers by getting my laundry soap and dish detergent from a local environmental store that refills the containers you bring in.
I've replaced pretty much everything else with vinegar and baking soda. The baking soda I buy in bulk and take it out in a reusable container. The vinegar still comes in a plastic jug. Not sure if there is an alternative to that or not.

Right before the holidays my partner went to the grocery store for me, and although I normally don't buy prepared food, because it was a busy time, I asked him to get me some chick pea curry from the deli section. I sent him with a reusable container. However, the deli server wouldn't let my partner use it, due to health code restrictions or something.

I'm currently in touch with people from the store to see if I can change that.

I have a feeling they might come back with with a biodegradable or bio-plastic alternative. Not sure how sustainable that is and my hope is that we can come up with a real 'no waste' solution!

ruchi aka arduous said...

Ugh. Just reading this post makes me guilty!! :)

I have definitely fallen off the bandwagon with my waste consumption in the past few months ... I've been eating a lot of plastic wrapped sandwiches. Because, frankly, if I didn't buy the sandwiches, I probably would just not eat. Because I am *that* lazy.

I think the reality is that GB has to move next door and feed me, and then life would be perfect. For me, not for GB. But, hey, it's all in the name of lowering waste, right, GB?!

Heather @ SGF said...

I'm with you the whole way! I love telling waiters that I have my own to-go container when they ask me if I want one. I'm also switching this year from a plastic re-usable water container to an aluminum one. It doesn't hold as much water, but the water tastes better coming out of the aluminum one and there's no risk of those icky toxins :)

We're buying more and more in bulk these days and taking our own containers to the store to bring those bulk goods home in. I asked the cashier once if lots of people bring their own containers for bulk goods. "Not really," she said. Really? Isn't that the idea? Anyway, if you buy in bulk... try to bring your own container too...

The Pirate Farmer said...

GB- it fell off his kayak!

Green Bean said...

Amber: I need to do that re prepared food. Usually I just avoid it bc I can't figure out what to do w/packaging. As to the vinegar, I've bought the glass bottles a few times to avoid plastic but there is SO much less vinegar in those tiny glass bottles that I'm not sure it's worth it.

Ruchi: Sure, come on over. What's another mouth to feed. Warning, though, I'll make you do art projects with the kids and otherwise entertain them.

Heather: You are so "married" to the reusable containers. I really need to work on the eating out thing. And I totally agree with you on the bulk thing. Why buy in bulk then?

Pirate Farmer: Well, at least he was engaged in an ecologically friendly activity when he lost it.

Carla said...

Amber & Bean - I confess to buying white vinegar in plastic jugs (from Costco via my daughter) because it' so much cheaper & I use a lot of it. However, I reuse the containers thusly (thusly?):
I rinse them really well, fill w/water & stick in the chest freezer. Additional water storage and fill up empty space in the freezer.

kale for sale said...

I'm finally going to start carrying my own coffee cup in my purse (it's big). I keep telling myself I'll make coffee at the office and this is my last week getting coffee to go but I keep standing in line for more. It's too easy and so good. I have given up the lids they use and those sleeve things. Just getting the paper cup has been bad enough. No more one cup stands for me though! Thanks for making me smile and think. I'm going to take my containers on a virgin dinner date too. I can't wait.

Amber said...

Carla, filling up vinegar jugs with water is a great idea! I'm sooo doing that from now on. Thanks for the tip. Also, has anyone ever tried making their own vinegar?

Green Bean said...

Carla and Amber: Great idea. Do you think it's safe to fill those jugs up with water for emergency use - e.g., earthquakes? I think that they are No. 2 plastic which is supposed to be food safe? And, supposing there's an earthquake, I'm not sure if I'd really care if the water tasted a bit vinegary . . . or would I?

Katrina: You're totally on board with the theme! Have fun with your virgin containers at dinner. ;-)

"MissMeliss" said...

Great ideas!! :)

CindyW said...

Clearly, my new year started very slowly. Somehow somewhere along the way last year, I fell off the bring-my-own-coffee-mug wagon. Looking back, I don't even remember why I stopped. Perhaps because it was just so easy to grab a paper coffee cup. I also rationalized by thinking that my reusable one could be reheated. To eliminate any excuses, can someone suggest a portable glass mug?

littleecofootprints said...

At this stage am going steady but my aim this year is to move into it for the long haul....Plan to try making yoghurt and crackers very soon. One item of trash i would love to avoid is milk bottles....It frustrates me that the only organic version I can buy is in plastic bottles. My recycling is full of them every week. I'm not sure what the solutionis but i am searching for one....Organic powdered milk??

Green Bean said...

MissMeliss: Thank you.

Cindy: I don't know. My husband has an all stainless steel portable mug that he uses. I've never come across one that is all glass with a cover.

littleecofootprints: Not sure that powdered milk is the answer. Bleh. Have you tried using a bit less? That is what I've done in the past when I can't find something in suitable packaging or sourced locally. I just use less of it. Maybe switch over to local juice for drinking or eat less cereal and more toast and jam? Just throwing ideas out there. Congrats on moving into the long haul.

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