I have a confession to make: I use ziplock bags, a lot of them. Before my son started kindergarten, it would take at least 6 months to go through the box of ziplock bags, but suddenly, with packing school lunches for a picky eater, I have been going through 1 box every month. I hate to think that I’m contributing to the giant trash gyre of the pacific, or to my family’s exposure to endocrine disruptors released by plastics. Plastic, a ubiquitous part of modern life, is very hard to eliminate from the household. I remember one playdate I went to where the house was pretty much plastic free. I was so envious of the amount of jars and pretty ceramic containers that they had. So, I’ve tried to start, with one container at a time, one less processed food at a time. After all, my cupboard used to be full of Teflon non-stick pans and one by one I replaced them with safer (and more expensive) options. One step at a time, I CAN do this!! I’m not much of a seamstress, so luckily there’s Etsy with lots of options for hand-made reusable bags. When choosing fabrics, you want to look for BPA and phthalate free material as the liner, as some are made with cheaper PVC plastic that is not safe for packaging food. When I googled “do it yourself sandwich bags”, the first link was to a better homes and garden article which says to use the PVC fabric because it is easier to sew than ripstop nylon. If you are handier at sewing than I am, you can look at do it yourself materials on the internet like this. Your kids will enjoy picking their own fabrics and you can teach them how to sew with this really easy first project. You can even sell them for your PTA fundraiser instead of candy or other junk food popularly used as fundraiser fare. So, who’s with me in dumping plastic ziplock bags?
Guest Blogger: Rebecca Wolthers, parent educator and aspiring green mom
Weekly Health & Green Tips
Each week, a new letter of the alphabet is introduced that represents a simple idea – a reminder of the small things we can do to make a big difference in the health of our families and the well-being of our planet.
R= Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle
The “reduce, reuse, recycle” slogan has been taught to school kids since the first Earth Day in 1970. Unfortunately, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the amount of waste generated in the United States has continued to increase over the last four decades. Despite the popularity of recycling programs and “go green” marketing campaigns, we still need to work hard to cut down on what we send to the landfill every week.
The average American creates over 4 pounds of waste every day. Easy Ways To Reduce Your Family’s Landfill Impact/
- Buy in bulk. One large container typically uses less packaging materials than several small, individually packaged items.
- Reuse lunch containers. Replace plastic baggies with reusable containers and pack everyone’s lunches into lunch boxes instead of paper or plastic bags.
- Bring your own coffee mug. Many stores will offer a discount for refills if you bring your own travel mug for coffee or soda drinks instead of using disposable cups.
- Reduce your junk mail. Ask to be removed from mailing lists to cut down on the piles of unwanted paper that end ob in your mailbox.
Although the mantra has been repeated for decades, reducing, reusing and recycling are still the three most powerful ways to cut down on the amount of waste you send to the landfill.
Learn More Get even more ideas for reducing the amount of trash you create. The EPA provides more information about the benefits of reducing waste. KidsBeGreen.org can help you teach kids the benefits of reducing, reusing and recycling.
U = Unplug
Do you tell your kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room? Most of us know that leaving a light on in an empty room is wasteful. However, even eco-conscious adults often waste massive amounts of unnecessary energy by leaving unused appliances plugged in. It’s estimated that the passive energy loss from electrical appliances ranging from TVs to garage door openers generates more than 6 million metric tons of carbon emissions each year in the United States. That’s enough leaking electricity to light more than 26 million homes. The solution? Don’t just turn it off, unplug it!
Approximately 23% of the total electricity used by a TV is from standby loss.
- Shut down your computer. When you’re finished with the computer, shut down and unplug the machine. This might also help you reduce the amount of time you spend online or obsessively checking email.
- Unplug the TV. Make a habit of unplugging the TV every night before you go to bed. In many houses, that could mean preventing energy leak for 12-18 hours each day.
- Unplug in the bathroom. Keep your counters clear by unplugging and putting away personal care items like toothbrushes or hair trimmers immediately after use.
- Switch to voicemail. Electronic answering machines leak a significant amount of energy. See if your phone company offers digital voicemail instead.
- Unplugging what you don’t use means you can stop paying for the energy you’re not really using!
An article on ScienceNews.org provides a list of common appliances that leak energy when plugged in and tells you how much energy you could save by unplugging. You can use the U.S. Department of Energy’s Standby Power Data Center to find products that have low standby power.
Composting is one of the ways that we get to practice the Reduce and ReUse elements of Reduce, ReUse, Recycle. By starting a composting practice you are reducing the amount of waste that makes its way to our landfills and you are creating a wonderful organic mixture to help your garden grow!
I have been interested in starting a compost pile ever since I saw my friends beautiful backyard filled with flowers and herbs and vegetables, etc. She walked around and pointed out several lovely plants telling me they were volunteers. In response to my puzzled look, she went on to explain that when you compost, seeds that dont decompose completely can actually grow a new plant, hence her lovely watermelon plant.
Click here for some good general information (and inspiration) to start your own compost pile.
So Ive started my compost at long last. I havent gotten through to the part where I get to put the humus in the ground, but it feels good every time I add to the bin instead of adding to the trash. I have notice at least a bag less of trash each week Reduce & Re-Use” in action!