As 2016 comes to a close, I have been thinking about this whole plastic thing and how I can continue to make choices that reduce waste in 2017. I always make New Years Resolutions. Last year, I was also thinking about plastic and made a resolution to reduce my plastic consumption. However, I was 7 months pregnant with twins and sort of lost focus when they were born in February. Also, my resolution wasn’t too specific. I did start packing my oldest daughter’s lunches without using Ziploc baggies but didn’t really make any other changes. I didn’t even stop buying Ziploc baggies. It was a baby step. But this year I am ready to make several more baby steps, a few at a time…all year long.
I’m about to lay out a month by month plan for me and my family, tackling one plastic item each month. This way, I only have to make one major change every 30 days or so and can ease my way through the struggles and loss of convenience that are sure to come.
January – Eliminate all plastic grocery bags, sandwich baggies, freezer bags and plastic wrap for food storage.
I am starting with an easy one since I am basically already doing this. For Christmas, I got some glass refrigerator boxes – perfect for leftovers. I will pack my daughter’s lunches in containers and reusable bags (which I already own) and will continue to refuse baggies and plastic wrap at parties. Finally, I will remember to ALWAYS carry reusable bags in the store, make sure to bring my own when I grocery shop online and as a last resort, insist on paper.
February – Milk
I am lucky to have a dairy about 10 minutes from my house that makes milk in glass bottles. It is a bit more expensive but this expense feels worth it. I am going to build in a weekly stop by me (or someone else in my family who drives right by for work) and transition to milk and coffee milk from Twin Brook Creamery. Added bonus, I get to support a local farm.
March – To-Go Coffee
The only way I will ever buy a coffee from a coffee shop in 2017 is in my own cup. To be successful with this one, I need a great ceramic mug that stays in my car for those unexpected stops. If friends or family offer to bring me a coffee, I will say no thank you. Most of the time, I don’t really need the coffees and will certainly benefit from this line item being removed from my budget.
April – Drinks in Plastic bottles
Refuse all drinks in plastic bottles for me and the kids. Always have water bottles in the car for the kids. Stop buying juice boxes, 2 liter bottles of anything or any other drinks that come in plastic. Try to educate the kids to hopefully make similar choices when they are away from the house. Drink water as much as possible.
May – Plan ahead for restaurants, avoid fast food and takeout as much as possible
It is almost impossible to avoid plastic at fast food restaurants, food courts or for take out. So the best strategy for me is just to avoid most kid friendly restaurants. However, when we do find ourselves eating out, we can choose restaurants that compost everything (like Taco Time or Fiamma Burger in Bellingham), bring our own paper straws and make menu choices that minimize plastic containers. To accomplish this, I will have a few sets of travel silverware in the car so we never have to take the disposable ones.
June – Plastic bags for produce and bulk items
By June, I will have purchased some reusable/mesh bags for produce and will figure out a way to get my bulk items into mason jars. Check out grocery store options (Co-op, Whole Foods and Win-Co) as well as visit farmer’s markets for produce that is not packaged.
July – Soap
Transition all soap in the house to bar soap. I have a friend who makes soap so I was thinking about having a little soap making party to make an annual supply. Research and purchase at bar shampoo.
August – Compost in order to reduce plastic trash bags
We are lucky to have a farm with chickens. It really cuts down on most food waste and wet garbage. However, we can step it up a bit and be sure that no food waste hits the garbage can. By this summer, I plan to assign feeding the chickens as a job to the older kids so that the bowl is emptied each day.
September – Granola bars
One thing I buy regularly that is individually wrapped is granola/protein bars. By September, I plan to research some good recipes and make my own! I will choose one day a month and have a bulk baking day. Luckily, I will have the help of my Dad who is retired. My parents live on our farm and are also interested in less plastic so I envision this as a project we can do together for both our families.
October – Toilet paper, paper towels & cleaning supplies
Research and find brands that do not come in plastic. If I can’t find any paper towels offered this way…make the switch to reusable dish rags. Make easy home-made cleaning supplies and when all else fails…buy Seventh Generation or other eco-friendly brands that at least use recycled plastic.
November – Party supplies and holiday décor
No more balloons or other plastic decorating items. Use only paper to decorate for Christmas or the décor we already have. Reuse happy birthday banners and resist the urge to buy any more Halloween or Christmas décor items. Use natural materials for wreaths and swag! This makes the best decorations anyways.
December – No new plastic for Christmas
This one will be tough which is why I am giving myself a whole year to work towards it. I am not sure that I can do a plastic free Christmas but am going to work really hard to drastically reduce the amount of gifts I buy that are made of or wrapped in plastic. A couple exceptions might be toothbrushes for the kids and second hand toys. Or a gift made of plastic that is durable like legos. I am going to wrap my gifts in recyclable paper (newsprint) and try to limit the amount of gifts for the kids. Move towards experience gifts and family adventure as opposed to more plastic things! I will especially be avoiding anything plastic and disposable like markers, some art supplies, beads, etc.
Wish me luck as I embark on my road to less plastic. I am sure I will need it. And best of luck to you in whichever self improvement areas you are working on!
Happy New Year!