Friday, March 18, 2011

Change the World Wednesday - Daily challenge 3/18/11

Today's challenge for CTWW at Reduce Footprints is:

Avoid buying products that have lots of packaging. About a third of the waste we generate is from packaging to get items to our homes. Choose loose products and buy refillable containers when possible (food co-ops and health food stores usually offer these options.)

I really like this challenge. Sometimes I have to struggle with this because, I'm a pretty frugal person.  I love a deal.  Sometimes, a lot of times, the items with less packaging or recyclable packaging are more expensive.  So I struggle with the issue of being frugal and saving a buck or being eco-smart.  I'm definitely moved towards being more eco-smart, which makes me happy. I just watch the spending in other areas in order to compensate.

I've been buying my own nuts to make trail mix for several months now.  I take my own re-usable mesh bags, they have a tight weave, to the store and I use these to get nuts and other items out of the bins.  This allows me to buy just the amount I want and also saves on packaging.  My husband always points out the bag of almonds next to the bins and tells me to just grab that, but I refuse. I tell him I don't want the packaging. I also refuse to buy the nuts that have been put in plastic containers, from the bins, by the store for people to easily grab.

I've started to shop regularly at Whole Foods and they have sugar and flour in bins. I recently learned, thanks to a CTWW post, that you can bring in your own containers and have customer service weigh them or do something so that you can fill up the item and you aren't charged for the weight of your own container.  I had planned to start getting sugar and flour this way but had assumed I needed to use a nasty plastic bag, I'm happy I don't have to.

I also always buy my lettuce and fresh fruit/veggies loose. I put them in my own mesh or hemp bags. This way I don't have any waste.  If I have to buy lettuce in a container, I make sure to find the brand that used recycled plastic that can then be recycled.  This is pretty rare though.  I've only done this once in the last 6 months and that was because I couldn't get to Whole Foods for lettuce but was by a Trader Joes..and Trader Joes didn't have loose lettuce.  I didn't want to go to a different grocery store because I wanted organic.

Also at Whole Foods (can you see I love this store?) last month Husband and I went to get some frozen veggies out of the freezer section and they had several different brands. Not having used any we just randomly selected one that was low in cost.  As we got the bag out of the freezer I happened to notice a brand under it and the bags looked different. So I picked it up and the bags were biodegradable.  The item was the same size and cost.  We put back the other bag and now buy the brand with the biodegradable bag.  I know this is still a waste, but at least it's a better option.

Once again..back to Whole Foods. I did notice that near the bin area they have a machine to make your own almond butter and peanut butter.  I've glanced at it, I've been intimidated by it.   However, I think the next time I need peanut butter, instead of buying an organic variety, I'm going to take my own jar or Tupperware with me, get it weighed (or whatever) and then have somebody show me how to use the machine. Not only will it be fresh, I'll save on packaging.

Here's one that I bet a lot of people don't think about.  I bake from scratch.  I don't buy pre-made bakery items. I don't buy box or bag mixes.  I believe that not only does the item taste better but in a lot of cases it's cheaper.  Plus, you have the extra benefit of not having a lot of waste. No plastic containers.  No boxes with a plastic bag on the inside.    Of course, you can also factor in cooking from scratch. We do a lot of that too. Although I use the term "we" loosely, I don't like to cook so Husband does that. I do love to bake though.  

Another thing, I use a battery powered toothbrush where I only change the head of the toothbrush.  While this is still a waste, since it can't be recycled, it's much smaller than a normal sized toothbrush.  While we can't get away from packaging and plastic waste with this type of item yet, making a change like this so the item we throw away is smaller is worth it, in my opinion.  Plus, the packaging usually comes with 2 replacement heads, so I don't have as much waste there either.

Also, since I'm going towards making more of my own cleaning supplies, this means I have less waste in plastic bottles too.   For stainless steel cleaner and granite cleaner..I have one bottle that gets recycled and that's dish soap..and the bottle lasts for a very long time (I only use 2 tbsp at a time).

Here's a question for you all..see what your opinion is.  For dishwasher detergent.  Is it better to get 1 big bottle of a liquid detergent or a box of individual tabs wrapped in plastic?  I'm thinking the big bottle of liquid because you can at least recycled that bottle.  Yet..that's such a big bottle!  The individual tabs come wrapped in their own plastic, but at least it's small. But is it better to be able to recycle a big container than throw little bits of plastic in the landfill?  I'm thinking yes.  Yet I struggle with this.  Probably what holds me back is that I can get boxes of the tabs incredible cheap several times a year when they go on sale and I can match coupons.  This doesn't happen with the big containers.  So I'm guessing the frugal part of me is the one that is having the dilemma.  Of course, that won't be much of a dilemma once I make the permanent switch to an eco-friendly dishwasher detergent since the sales aren't nearly as good. haha


  1. Wow, Kris ... that's a brilliant list of ways to cut down on packaging waste. I like the tip about buying nuts in bulk to make your trail mix. Not only does it eliminate packaging waste, you're sure to get exactly what you like with no artificial ingredients. Nice!

    Regarding your question about dish detergent. Generally speaking, I think powdered detergent is more Eco-friendly than liquid (I wrote about it here: However, I'm a little put off by those individual packets wrapped in plastic. They come in plastic bags and I don't have a good feeling about a plastic that dissolves in water ... even though some of the manufacturers claim that they are Eco-friendly. I, personally, use a dry detergent which comes in a cardboard box. Have you considered that? I guess that if I had to make a choice between the liquid and the small packets, I'd choose the small packets ... but as I said, I'd try to avoid either.

  2. Small Footprints - another thing I like about making my own trial mix is that, while still expensive, it's a lot cheaper than buying a pre-packed trail mix. I eat it at 6-7 days a week, so it can be expensive. The only bad thing I put in mine are m&m's..can't get away from those. haha!

    Thanks for your comments regarding the dish detergent. I forgot that some does come in a box. I have a good amount stashed at the house so it's not something I'll be buying soon, but it never hurts to start doing your research early and be thinking about it.