Happy Earth Day! About this time last year, we decided to make some environmentally friendly changes in our household. These changes have basically all focused on the same thing: single-use plastic. While addressing climate change, pollution, negative environmental impacts, etc can seem too big and too daunting to even begin to tackle as a relatively small group of six, these changes have all been really easy for our family to implement. Here’s what we’ve largely cut out of our family culture (and what we’ve replaced them with):
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- Single-use plastic zipper-top bags: That’s kind of a mouthful, ha, but you know what I’m talking about. We used to be a family that used zipper-top plastic bags for everything: sandwiches, snacks, leftovers, etc. We went through a lot of them. We even had a whole drawer (the top drawer, no less) in our kitchen exclusively for them. We still have the remains of the giant multipack from Costco that we’ve had for over a year, and we do use them occasionally, but we’ve mostly cut those zipper-top bags out of our lives. So what do we use instead? We bought a few sets of these reusable, heavy duty Ziptuck bags from Full Circle over a year ago, and they’re still in amazing condition. We have the large, gallon-sized ones and the smaller, sandwich-sized ones. These have probably made the single largest contribution to our success in cutting down on pesky single-use plastics. I can’t say enough good things about them. They store flat, they are easy to clean (we always hand wash them and let them air day), they don’t hold onto stains or smells. They’re just really awesome. We also invested in some nice reusable containers like these Rubbermaid ones for leftovers. They’re sturdy enough to go in the dishwasher, and you can get a set with lots of different sizes.
- Single-use plastic drinking straws: After watching the video of the Sea Turtle getting a plastic straw removed from its nose, it was pretty easy to quit using plastic straws in our house. We bought a few sets of reusable straws last year to figure out what we liked best. The ones we use the most are these short, stainless steel ones from Mason Jar Lifestyle. They are just under 6″ long, have rounded edges, come with a little cleaning brush, and are the perfect size for little kid drinks. The company also offers longer sizes. Now, full disclosure: we are not always good about saying no to plastic straws when we are out and about. We need to be better. If we are at a sit-down place, my husband and I usually opt for no lid and no straw on our drinks, but it’s just harder with kids, and it’s almost impossible for everyone if we’re eating in the car. One thing that has worked for us (when we remember to do it), is keeping a package of paper straws in the glove box, and just telling the person at the drive-thru window we don’t need any straws.
- Single-use plastic wrap: This one has probably been the hardest to give up because it just is so convenient and does it’s job so well. Most of the time, we can get away with putting things in containers that have lids, but every so often, that just doesn’t work out. I have a few cake pans that I like to use that don’t have lids (I’m lucky to have a few that DO have lids!), and sometimes I offer to bring a salad or something to dinner and it really should be covered while it sits in the fridge or takes its ride in the car to so-and-so’s house. I really just try to avoid situations where I need plastic wrap, but I have a few things that I use when it seems unavoidable. Bee’s Wrap doesn’t seem like it will work at all, and yet it does!! It works brilliantly. It is organic cotton fabric dipped in a mixture of beeswax, jojoba oil, and tree resin. You use the warmth of your hands to make it flexible and tacky, and you wrap half a baguette in it, or use it to cover a bowl of fruit salad. When you are done using it, you just wash it gently in cool water, let it dry, and use it again! It lasts for about a year, and then you cut the fabric into strips and toss it in your compost pile or use it as kindling. It’s pretty amazing. I also recently bought some of these Now Designs reusable bowl covers. Because sometimes you just want to toss a cover on a bowl and be done with it! And these are great. When they need to be cleaned, you can toss them in the laundry (wash on warm) and let them air dry. One last thing that has helped us cut down on plastic wrap use: I stopped buying the good stuff from Costco. Seriously, Costco plastic wrap is amazing, but basically ever other brand is terrible. It doesn’t tear cleanly, and it sticks to itself but not to whatever you’re trying to cover. So I stopped buying the Costco kind, and I’m not even tempted to use whatever crappy brand is in my kitchen drawer right now. It is literally only there for emergencies (do plastic wrap emergencies even exist??). These other options work better and are less of a hassle.
And that is how we’ve made some small changes that have added up to a big impact in our single-use plastic use! I know making a difference can seem overwhelming/impossible, and that it’s hard to know where to even start. I hope this post is helpful. These products have worked for us, and all of these changes have been very doable. If we can do it, I promise that your family can do it too. If you have any go-to products that help your family have a more positive environmental impact, I’d love to hear about them.