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Be Green

Break up with plastic


Image courtesy verdavivo's eco-blog

Plastic is like the ultimate bad boyfriend/girlfriend, isn't it?
Seductive, easy, convenient, but ultimately bad for us. Last week, we discussed why plastic--even "biodegradable" plastic-- is such a bad idea for the environment. I encourage you to click on Verdavivo's link (above) to acquaint yourself with the real cost of the plastic you use. Especially if you believe that it's all okay because you put your old bags in the recycling.
This week, we're not stopping at plastic shopping bags. We're trying to avoid the most common disposable options: clingfilm, baggies, kitchen stuff...
I don't mean to imply that a plastic-free existence is possible (I wish!). For certain applications like putting out the garbage, some store packaging and disposable stuff in the healthcare industry, there's no option to plastic. But what about all the other things we use plastic for?
I got in touch with one of the most creative eco-minded people I know (and I know a few!): Véronique Vendette. She runs the Co-op du Grand Orme in St Anne de Bellevue. With Véronique's brain on the job, it's surprisingly easy to reduce your dependence on the plastic. It just takes a little creativity (and in most cases, LESS money!) Oh, and did I mention that I'm giving away a free organic cotton produce bag?s
You'll see. Read on. Or watch the video (after 7pm)
Watch


So here's the plan...

We're going to try and find sustainable alternatives to the most pervasive and disposable plastics in our everyday lives. Cue up the violins folks, because we're saying goodbye to:

PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS
You know what's a good way to make me have a fit? Use a cloth shopping bag (hey, they're stylish and more durable and easier to carry than plastic ones). But then put all your fruit and veg in individual clear plastic bags (the least likely to get reused) before dumping them in your cloth one. ARRRGHHH! Heart attack! It makes me completely loco (my husband Pat has become very good at the "calming touch"--ususally a casually draped arm around my shoulders that propels me away from the offending plastic-lover). But how, you ask, is one supposed to get 10 apples, 6 grapefruit and a dozen oranges to the cash for weighing?
Seemple my frrriends... use a bag. Just not a plastic one. In fact, I'll help. I'm giving away a Credobag (the one in the picture) to get you started. (Thanks to Credobags for sponsoring). You can also buy Credobags at any of these places. There are many advantages to doing so: Think about all the plastic shopping bags you'd be keeping out of the recycling and waste stream. Plus Credobags is Montreal-based, so you'd be supporting a small business and your local economy.
The flip side: Credo bags usually cost $4.50 or more.
Don't have the cash?
Simply use thrifted pillow cases (you can customize them or add a drawstring if you're at all crafty). Thrifted pillow cases or sheets are PERFECT for this because the material tends to be thin and well worn (which weighs less and adds less to what you have to pay for). Most cashiers are quite happy to adjust the scales for your Credobags.

PLASTIC BAGS FOR LUNCH
I mean around your lunch... not AS lunch (unless you're the poor turtle). This idea wasn't even mine. Viewer Alison Proteau sent in this awesome link. It should be a fun project to do with kids.



Image courtesy this fantastic painter.

SO LONG BAGGIES!

If you're addicted to sandwich baggies, listen up. Use a bandana! Erm, wash it first of course, but give that sandwich some attitude. Plus, as Véronique says, you end up with a lovely placemat to eat your sandwich on!. The greenest option is a hard container (like a Tupperware-style box). My favourites are the stainless steel ones that you can buy at many Chinese or Indian supermarkets. They're incredibly durable, easy to clean and nothing ends up in the landfill.

SAYONARA CLINGFILM
As someone who grew up without clingfilm and (debatably) turned out okay, can I just ask "Why?". You really don't need clingfilm at all! Sure it's pretty and convenient. But some of it has plasticizers like BPA, PVC, DEHA. There have been studies (of course) and there's tons of conflict (of course) about what's safe, how much and for how long. However debatable clingfilm's effects on your health may be, there's no question that the stuff is terrible for the environment. When's the last time you rinsed meat juice off your clingfilm and recycled it? Also, just because you put it in your green bin doesn't mean it gets recycled.

So, what can you use instead?
WAX PAPER: Try and buy the soy-based wax instead of the paraffin one (the latter's petroleum-based and non-renewable).
CHEESECLOTH:
Excellent for keeping cheese and things like pitas moist and fresh in the fridge. Ask me! Growing up, all my mum's chappatis would be prepared in the morning and then wrapped in moistened cheesecloth and put in a stainless steel box to preserve freshness. Mmm... yummy!
PYREX OR CORNINGWARE DISHES: These are best to marinade or store fatty foods like cheese and meat. Glass is inert (and microwave safe and ready to pop in the oven) and you won't have to worry about leaching.
And finally, if you really can't break your plastic habit, at least swap the clingfilm for a shower cap! Seriously, shower caps are great for all those odd-shaped dishes with no lids. As long as the plastic doesn't touch the food, it's all good (and reusable).


BUH-BYE PLASTIC SCRUBBIES

Toss out those icky plasticky scrub pads and switch to loofah or coconut fibre ones. Loofah is available at most health food or green stores (and most pharmacies in the bath section). It's completely sustainable and compostable (it's fibre from a kind of squash!). And for tougher scrubbing, use coconut. It may be a little harder to find (Co-op La Maison Verte and Co-Op du Grand Orme both have it) but it's so worth it.
Alternatively, get a knitter in your life (yes, you know one... everyone does!) to make you a set of cotton or linen dishcloths. I crochet them as housewarming prezzies and have used nothing but for nearly 2 years. I'm never going back to plastic!

So, you want one of those pretty Credo produce bags? All you have to do is leave me a comment or call in with what you're doing to cut plastic out of your life. The most creative answer wins!
(514) 597-5626.

PS: I notice some of you have been frustrated with the comments system. Here's what you have to do: leave the comment and just wait 5-10 seconds for the screen to go dark. That means that I've received it. I usually check comments the following day and upload them. So don't worry if your comment doesn't appear immediately... it's just the silly old technology.
Still worried that I'm not hearing from you? Send me an email: geeta.nadkarni@cbc.ca

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Comments (9)

Maria Confente

Montreal

Hi,

I am glad to express the fact that I have actually cut all plastic water bottles by switching to tap water and storing it in glass bottles.

Posted March 2, 2009 08:13 PM

Patricia Marcino

Ste_Julie_QC

Instead of plastic wrap I use small casserole dishes which I bought from a local charity shop (second-hand), thereby helping my pocket-book, my health, my community, as well as the environment.

Posted March 2, 2009 08:49 PM

Lily Desnoyers

From our Talkback Line

I have a lot of children and we all love milk. So I buy 4 litre bags that come in plastic bags. I was the plastic bags and use them to store things. I use them when I buy things in bulk and as freezer bags. They make really great bags for freezing. So I save money because I'm not buying freezer bags--and I save money when I buy things in bulk. And I reuse the plastic bags. It's a win-win situation.

Posted March 3, 2009 12:46 PM

Anonymous

from_our_Talkback_Line

To cut back on plastic, I use cash.

Geeta: Either this caller is a real wit, or he's missed the point entirely! I'm voting for the former!

Posted March 3, 2009 12:47 PM

Mark

fromourTalkbackLine

What I do to get rid of plastic bags is I wrap my sandwiches in a tea town. I then tie it with string. I hope that helps.

Geeta says: It sure does Mark. This is great!

Posted March 3, 2009 12:49 PM

Alison Proteau

Terrebonne

FAIL! I bought the mega huge cling wrap pack last week. DOH.
Good to know about stainless steel containersthough I have never found any. Will be looking!!

Geeta says: Awww Alison! Oh well, we all make mistakes. Hopefully this will be your last roll of clingfilm, mega or otherwise!

Posted March 3, 2009 12:52 PM

Dina Welte

Montreal

Hi Geeta,

can you find out if the water filter system BRITA is a good alternative to buying tons of plastic water bottles
every month.
I certainly will stop buying plastic bottles if I know that the water quality is somewhat the same. And I know for sure it will be much cheaper too.
Thanks for your advice...Dina.

Posted March 3, 2009 06:30 PM

Valérie Vendette

Quebec

I grow my own veggies and get an organic basket in which all the fruits and veggies are mixed up in one big reusable bag. No plastic needed!

Posted March 4, 2009 09:36 AM

Mary-Ann

Montreal

Dear Geeta,

I love your blog and have been recycling long before there were programs in place for curb side pick up.

I live in the country and have an organic hobby farm. We buy organic feed for our animals. The feed bags that their food comes in are used over and over again. Now I have sewn them into grocery bags with handles and they are very strong. At our local grocery store the cashiers always notice my new use for animal feed bags. It's better than throwing them out and adding them to the landfill's.

If I do get plastic bags especially ziploc, I wash and reuse them several times before they are added to the recycling box. People save them for me because they know that I reuse them. They are great for freezing garden produce quickly, if I don't have time to can.

Another tip I have is for all the left over bars of soap that get too small to use. I save them in a jar until I have a good cups worth then I put them all in an onion bag. You know the orange ones that you buy your onions in from the store. You can wash your hands like
that and the onion bag acts as a good scrubber. I even have one hanging outside by the hose, so when I finish working in the garden I can wash my hands before I come in the house.

Have lots more tips. Thanks for your be green series. Keep up the good work and I hope your 5 mins airtime turns into a show. That would be great!

Living from the land organically, lover of the earth, Mary-ann

Geeta says: Wow, I LOVE that onion bag and soap tip. I actually have a few soap scraps that I can do that to. And good job with the feed bags--I know they're a huge environmental disaster otherwise.

Posted March 4, 2009 12:07 PM

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