Tips on How to Reduce Food Packaging Waste
We can't avoid all the wasteful packaging in our lives, but we can try to reduce it.
There's a Jack Johnson song called "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle," and we all know these three R's are a good place to start when it comes to living a more sustainable life. While recycling tends to get the most attention, reducing and reusing can be equally effective tools in the battle to get by without creating a mountain of waste in the meantime.
Take, for example, eating. We all eat. We eat on the go, at home, at restaurants, in the car, at the office, at school, alone, socially-meals are an integral part our lives. Meals are also an easy place to make a difference environmentally: nearly one third of the waste produced in the United States is from packaging, and food packaging accounts for much of that.
Start by paying attention to your grocery shopping. Look at the way things are packaged, and opt for items with as little packaging as possible. Choose glass or paper packaging over plastic and Styrofoam. Go to the deli section for meats and cheeses. Prepackaged meats and cheeses often come on Styrofoam and wrapped in plastic. The butcher or deli at your grocery store will usually wrap your purchase in a bit of waxed paper.
Purchase fruits and vegetables from local farmer's markets or produce stands. If that's not an option, avoid produce in plastic containers and skip the baggie-your selections can be weighed just the same at the register. If possible, avoid individually wrapped items altogether by buying in bulk. Bringing your own bags with you whenever possible helps a great deal. Leave a few in your car and by the front door so you can grab them before you go.
When packing meals or snacks, chose reusable options for packaging. Love My Planet Lunches is a great company that makes washable, reusable bags you can take on the go. Keep a coffee mug and water bottle in the car, at the office, or by the front door. When you get a drink, you can opt for your reusable bottles and avoid adding to the 2.5 million plastic bottles thrown away each hour. Some stores offer a discount for those who bring their own cups.
When getting a snack, take it without a bag or box. If you order a bagel, ask that they put the cream cheese on it for you. This eliminates the plastic knife and container for the spread. If you are ordering takeout or bringing home leftovers, ask that they not include napkins, utensils, coupons, or condiments. If your office orders in, keep silverware and cloth napkins in your desk. In general, use storage containers instead of plastic bags, foil, and plastic wrap. Bringing awareness to your daily life is the biggest step.
It's inevitable that we will purchase packaged items and that will create some waste. But, we can do our part to change the amount of packaging and waste we put out. Quite often, making these changes will benefit your wallet as well. Price tags are affected by packaging. When you buy local or in bulk, you remove the added cost of packaging. Not only does the earth win, your wallet wins too. A lovely shade of green for everyone.
Guest blogger Milissa Skoro is an actress and works on the Leadership Council for NRDC. Photo (cc) by Flickr user oceandesetoiles.