Healthcare is an industry that uses a lot of plastic. That use is necessary to save lives, prevent the spread of illness, and make it possible to provide better care. Plastic cups are an exception as there are other options that are equally safe and less toxic to the environment. There is little I can do about the amount of plastic used in a hospital, but it serves as a reminder to do all I can in my personal life and that as a society, we could do to reduce the use of plastics. The grocery store is a prime example. It might be the first step in saving our environment and all beings.
However innumerable beings are, I vow to save them.
I shop at three grocery stores on a regular basis. Krogers is a big corporation that caters to all manner of shopper and is highly unlikely to make any changes without a massive community effort. Earth Fare attempts to be conscious of their impact on the earth but does a poor job with all manner of plastic containers. Three Reivers Coop is much better but still falls short on plastics, but is the most likely to be willing to make changes.
Step 1: Do What is Easy
I would like to imagine a world where when I go to buy a bicycle lock it isn’t packaged in plastic and where all plastic is recycled. When I examined all the single-use plastics in my house it was easy to figure out that the majority of them actually came from the grocery store.
Plastics Easy to Avoid
- Milk in plastic bottles
- Soft drinks in plastic bottles
- Water bottles
- Drink cups (except at sporting events or concerts)
- Plastic forks for lunch
- Plastic tubs of lettuce
- Plastic produce bags
- Plastic grocery bags (though I grab these for kitty litter and don’t know an alternative)
There are things that we can all do to help, but we must remember to help within our means and not expect all people can do the same. I buy milk in glass bottles and then return the bottle for a deposit. Without the deposit 64 ounces of milk cost me $6. A half gallon in a carton is about $2.89. However, I realize that a family of four with an income at or slightly above the poverty line would never be able to afford the milk in glass bottles and it would be a poor use of their money. God help them if they had four teenage boys. They could, however, avoid plastic by using a carton.
I buy my ginger ale in cans. I haven’t bought a bottle of water in almost a year and carry my Hydro Flask with me everywhere. The $20 for the hydro flask seems expensive until you count how much one spends on bottled water. I actually prefer my mesh reusable bags for fresh produce to the plastic ones. I suspect if everyone used mesh bags the cost savings to the stores would be enough they could lower prices though it isn’t clear they would.
Step 2: Work on What is Hard
There are things that I haven’t figured out where to buy without the plastic or how to avoid without taking a considerable amount of my time. Time is a valuable commodity to me. I’m much more stingy with my time than my money and probably because I feel like I have less of it.
Plastics Hard to Avoid
- Plastic containers for prepared foods (yogurt is the biggest one, pimento cheese 2nd)
- Things wrapped in plastic like cheese, veggie burgers, veggie sausage, etc.
- Pill bottles
- Dishwashing liquid
- Laundry detergent
- Shampoo and Conditioner
- Condiments almost all now come in plastic
Today I bought a yogurt maker. It is one step to reduce my use of plastic and at the same time reduces sugar. Unfortunately, it is time-consuming though appears it will be cheaper than buying the yogurt. I make my own bread at times, but it is also time-consuming and so unrealistic to do it all the time. I love to buy crumbled goat, feta, and blue cheese, but it comes in plastic containers. Even if I buy it in a block it is still wrapped in plastic.
Step 3: Work Local
I think that the local coop could do more to promote reduced plastic use. Why can’t I bring containers for prepared products the same as I do for produce? Rather than putting the deli product in a plastic container, they could put the portion in my reusable container. How hard would it be to bring a shampoo bottle to refill or refillable laundry detergent?
I have neither the time or knowledge to make all of the things I use on a regular basis, but it seems like the coop could do more to make options available. If I can bring a spice jar to refill why not laundry detergent bottles? There must be like-minded people that want to significantly reduce the use of plastic in my community and think that we are losing the battle fight the government so maybe we start local and grow.
“It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.”