Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Being Green(er)

I had not tallied the number of changes I made in an effort to be "greener" until my friend Sarah texted me this: "I really want to go green(er)...what are some of the first steps I can take to improve?" I was flattered that she sought me out because I don't consider myself a spokesperson on the subject by any means. However, in the past two years I have started making some small "green" changes due in large part to my bleeding heart fiancee--Ryan. He can go on and on about global warming, greenhouse gases, pollution, and The Pacific Trash Vortex until your ears want to fall off. He means well, I promise. We aren't perfect and we don't live a zero waste lifestyle by a long shot but here's hoping!

Here are the options that I presented to Sarah:

  • Reusable grocery bags. Many people already do this and that's great! It's almost trendy. You'll feel so cool walking into the store with your bags in tow. I always smile more at people that have reusable bags in hand. No, I'm kidding...or am I? I also love that many retail stores have ditched paper and plastic bags and replaced them with reusable bags. My two largest grocery bags are from Steve Madden (shoe store). I was also told that they recycle their shoe boxes as well--so consider leaving them at the store if you don't recycle at home. 
  • Don't use the thin plastic bags for produce. Those thin plastic bags as well as grocery bags can not be recycled (from your city recycling bins). They get pulled from conveyors at recycling plants because they clog the machines. Where do they end up? Landfills or the ocean. The produce at the store is dirty and you'll have to wash it anyway so consider setting it in or on top of your reusable bag in the cart. Organizing it at the check out doesn't take much time. Now if you're one of those people who has a large growing collection of these bags in the cabinet under your sink and you want them off your conscience asap, many grocery stores will take bags back. However, that's just a band aid on a festering boo boo, y'all.
  • Buy in Bulk. This can be tricky because not many grocery stores offer a diverse selection of bulk items. Sure, you can get your Asian cracker mix, wasabi peas and granola in bulk almost anywhere. Until recently I didn't know that there are stores that have SO MUCH MORE to offer in the bulk department. WinCo Foods, where I shop has almost any thing you would need available in bulk: flour, sugar, brown sugar, flax seeds, barley, rices, quinoa, legumes, powdered sauces, spices, pastas, cereals, nuts, nut butters, oils and much more. WinCo items average about .30c to a dollar cheaper. They don't accept credit cards and therefore they avoid fees and save you money! They are located in these states (for now): AZ, CA, ID, NV, OR, TX, UT and WA. Unfortunately WinCo does not allow the use of reusable bulk bags. I have contacted them about it and I'm working on that. This sounds crazy but I do try to reuse plastic bulk bags. Turn them inside out, wipe them down, throw them in with your reusable grocery bags--no big deal. Whole Foods does have a decent bulk selection but I prefer WinCo prices. 
    The glorious spice section at WinCo.

  • Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The guiltless trashcan contains mostly or only biodegradable material. Food scraps, peeling, etc. Almost everything can be recycled. But not everything can conveniently be tossed into your cities recycling container. Your city has a designated recycling plant that has specific capabilities. If you're tossing glass into your bin when your plant doesn't recycle glass, you may as well have just thrown it into the regular trash. Be sure to look up the correct information about your city and the materials that can be recycled. Here's mine! Often there are nearby locations for other materials like glass and film plastic. 
  • Use Tupperware for left overs at restaurants. Ryan and I try to have a few Tupperware containers in the car at all times. I thought this was absolutely nuts at first and I thought we would get the strangest looks for sure. But quite the opposite has happened. We've had some great conversations with our servers about it and hopefully planted a good idea in the process. Many materials can not be recycled once it has been in contact with grease or food waste. Along that line--you can recycle the non greasy tops of pizza boxes and other plastic containers once they've been rinsed off.

There are many other things you can do to have a positive impact. This is where Ryan and I started. Please do not buy into the myth that your choices don't matter in the long run. You do have an impact on this planet and in turn an impact on your health and well being. 

Please let me know if you have other ideas. I would love to talk about it! 

-Christen

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