Posts filed under ‘Plastic packaging’

Grocery shopping: avoiding plastic packaging

Pesky plastic is hard to avoid

I’ve had a few things to say in previous posts about avoiding plastic bags while grocery shopping. As I hit my local market last night, it occurred to me that I could shop differently to avoid a lot more plastic. It just means being open to different choices.

You’re going to be thinking “Well, duh!” here, but it was a bit of an Aha moment for me when I thought I’d just look around the veggie section for things that aren’t packaged. So if I want tomatoes, sometimes I’m going to buy tomatoes on the vine, not grape tomatoes (pesky plastic boxes). And if I want mushrooms, I’m going to skip button mushrooms and go for cremenies or portobellos, and put them in a produce bag or paper bag, not buy a little blue box of them covered in plastic wrap. The store has lots of choices, from celery in a plastic sleeve and naked celery, temping Californian berries in plastic boxes or loose local apples, to even cheeses in paper wrapping or cheeses in plastic and meat in butcher paper instead of on foam trays (wrapped in plastic, sometimes two layers!).

It isn’t always easy to shop plastic-free, since sometimes there just aren’t any good choices, particularly at smaller stores that shrink-wrap everything to try to preserve freshness (and therefore reduce waste). Food packaging so quickly becomes recycling or garbage, it’s great for the earth if we can find ways to do without it.

How are you reducing the waste you bring home? Have you swapped one food for another to avoid waste?

November 17, 2009 at 5:39 PM Leave a comment

Gift from Grandma: glass mixing bowls

iStock_glassbowlWhile mixing up ingredients for Homemakers magazine’s Fresh Tomato Lasagna (mmm, ripe tomatoes and fresh basil, my favourite combination!) last week, I opened my drawer of too-rarely-used baking dishes and mixing bowls to pick a dish for the wet ingredients. If the recipe isn’t too large in volume, I pick my mom’s mom’s glass Pyrex mixing bowls (stamped “Made in Canada” on the bottom), bowls she used to make many many dishes, bowls with some light scoring from all the baking whipped to form within, bowls that are thick and heavy and hard to break.

Sure, I could get a set of matching plastic or ceramic bowls for a surprisingly small sum at any home store. They would be lovely. They would get used. They would chip, crack and eventually be tossed out. But grandma’s bowls stood up to everything she could dish out, so they’ll have no problem with my occasional baking whims. If anything, I’ll be hunting around antique shows (including the Odessa Antique Show, on west of Kingston this weekend) for a larger bowl to go with grandma’s set.

Do you have a favourite kitchen item, at home or at the cottage, that has stood the test of time?

August 7, 2009 at 10:55 AM 3 comments

Finally it’s garbage day

Finally, it's recycling day

Finally, it's recycling day

With the municipal workers strike in Toronto finally over, it’s finally garbage day in Toronto. In the first week the city is taking recycling and green bin (compost) material; next week they’ll take garbage and yard waste. As I walked to work this morning, I chatted with a few neighbours about how they dealt with the five-week strike. Most noted that they had much more recycling material than garbage. As I peeked in the clear bags (recycling overflow) that lined the streets in my neighbourhood, I noticed an interesting phenomenon: while one bag often had a lot of uncompressed boxes and cans in it, subsequent bags often had flattened boxes and cans, and there seemed to be fewer glass bottles and rigid plastic packages. Yes, Toronto, I think we learned a few things about how to handle our waste and what not to bring home.

One woman told me that a couple of her neighbours were sheepish about their lack of recycling (and bags of garbage) and asked if she would put  one of her bags of recycling in front of their house. Talk about keeping up appearances!

Here is my recycling bin, waiting for the truck. I did have some extra recycling, shown here in the bag my new rain barrel came in. I could have held it until the next cycle, but it did feel good to purge out all of the waste along with my neighbours. (Besides, fruit flies found something among the recycling.) My green bin was almost full, but I’m happy to say that we still have lots of room in our garbage bin. 

Did you do OK through the garbage strike?

Have you changed your mind about something you were going to bring home – knowing that you would have to dispose of it, or its packaging, later?

August 6, 2009 at 9:26 AM 1 comment

Plastic-free reuseable food storage containers

Container for snacks to go

Container for snacks to go

Yesterday’s post on favourite reuseable water bottles seemed pretty popular, so I thought I’d get the discussion going on reuseable food containers. I would rather not store my food in plastic containers, particularly if I intend to heat it up. I love these stainless-steel containers available at Grassroots. They come in a couple of sizes, and they are water tight thanks to the silicone lid liner and metal clamps, so you can bring your leftover saag paneer for lunch without worrying about unleashing a green, cheesy mess in your purse. Of course I have to dump the food onto a plate to microwave it, but I can handle that.

I also have a glass lunch box from Ikea, outfitted with a silicone seal to connect the lid. I love it because it’s microwaveable, but unfortunately Ikea doesn’t offer these anymore.

How do you take your lunch to work, or pack snacks to go?

July 8, 2009 at 11:16 AM 5 comments

A better water bottle



SIGG bottle

SIGG bottle

As I noted in my earlier post about bottled water, it seems there is a link between education and deciding to consume bottled water. And as I’ve learned in reading health research for Homemakers magazine, a reuseable bottle isn’t a reuseable bottle. While the bottles that bottled water comes in are safe to drink from, they become less so over many refills, since it’s hard to clean the narrow-necked bottles thoroughly. And, of course, there’s the concern over the health effects of long-term exposure to bisphenol A (BPA) from some types of plastic food and drink containers.

Luckily there are lots of great reuseable water bottle options on the market. I really like stainless-steel bottles, since it’s a durable, food-safe material I can scrub away at and put in the dishwasher as well. I have an “Otterbottle”, which is from an Alberta-based company (although the bottles are manufactured in China), and I also have a larger SIGG bottle, made in Switzerland, which is aluminum, made with a can liner that’s BPA and phthalate free. I’ve even seen glass bottles shaped like plastic water bottles!

What’s your favourite way to tote refreshment on the go?

July 7, 2009 at 12:21 PM 9 comments

Who’s drinking bottled water?


I was looking for some statistics on Canada’s bottled water consumption recently, and I came across an interesting fact.
According to Statistics Canada, while there is there is a strong relationship between wealth and drinking bottled water, and there is also a strong relationship between having a university education and having wealth, there is a lower likelihood of drinking bottled water in the home IF members of the household have a university degree. The StatCan report says, “It is possible that university graduates are more aware of the environmental issues surrounding bottled water. They may also be more sceptical of the claims that bottled water is a healthier choice than tap water.”

I hope that this shows, at minimum, that education can make a difference in helping people make better choices, be they about packaging and waste, habitat preservation, the global effects of burning fossil fuels… or any other important issue.

Did you have a turning point in your environmental thinking, where learning something new made you change what you do?

June 18, 2009 at 1:43 PM 4 comments

Great documentary: Addicted to Plastic

plasticsonbeachI had a chance to watch the documentary Addicted to Plastic over the weekend. Although I had heard about the areas of the ocean that tend to accumulate plastic, it was fascinating (and scary) to see just how much plastic was in the area of the Pacific shown in the film (especially compared to the relatively insignificant amount of plankton in the same area). It was scary to see just how much plastics have infiltrated our food chain — the film shows a dissections of dead gulls from a beach in Holland; their stomachs are loaded with bits of plastics, and shows how toxins from plastics make their way into the fish we eat.

I appreciated that the film doesn’t lay blame on society for becoming reliant on plastics, showing that we just got caught up in its convenience without seeing the looming issues down the road. It seems that if we can contain plastics, largely by avoiding convenience plastics and reusing as much of the material as we can for new things, we’ll really reduce the severity of the plastics pollution problem. Beyond that, Addicted to Plastic shows many case studies of people who are doing a terrific job of recycling plastic into new goods (such as Interface carpets), or creating plastics from plant material such as corn.

My bet: We’ll be mining old landfills for plastics, metals and other valuable materials within 15 years.

Do you think you could live without plastic?

June 15, 2009 at 2:07 PM 3 comments

Eating outside the box: Takeout food packaging

Empty styrofoam box
At the end of a restaurant meal, I always feel torn when there’s a good portion of food left on my plate and the server asks, “Would you like to take that home?” By taking food home, I make my money go further, I reduce waste and I probably eat less per meal, too (not a bad thing for me). But on the other hand, I know a lot of cities don’t recycle foam. Even if they do, it’s made with petroleum and will never break down in landfills – not something I want to support.

By the time I’ve thought this through, the server usually gets a little impatient. But a couple of weeks ago, out dining in our new neighbourhood in Toronto, the night was a little slow. So when the gentleman asked, “Would you like that to go?” I explained my dilemma, expecting to get a frustrated sigh in return. But instead, he offered me tin foil as an alternative to a foam box. Hey, that’s something that I can recycle — or even reuse if I’m being thrifty.

Have you noticed any decent foam alternatives when you get your meals to go?

March 17, 2009 at 8:05 AM 9 comments

What’s in your garbage bag?

What's left after composting and recycling?

What’s left in the garbage when you can recycle and compost?

I’ve been composting for the past few months since I moved from an apartment to a house. My partner and I are pretty good at making sure everything recyclable goes into the right bin. So if it’s not compostable or recyclable, what is it?

Looking at the small bag of stuff I was about to take to the trash — the first full kitchen bag we produced in three weeks — I realized that what was inside was all plastic. It’s full of plastic bags and wrappings that stuff comes in.

Some of these bags may be recyclable, but without any symbols on them, I can’t be sure.

Does anyone know if bags you put produce in count? Do you have a better way of bagging produce at the store?

When I was a kid, sometimes my mom would send my lunch in reused bags from English muffins, milk and so forth. Wasn’t she smart?! Other kids got fresh new paper bags, which they threw out everyday. Maybe I’ll try reusing some of those bags for lunches and snacks.

March 11, 2009 at 8:00 AM 10 comments

A greener cup of tea

Tea and infuser While sometimes I crave a hot creamy latté to kick off the day, most days I’m a tea drinker.
I enjoy Earl Grey’s fragrant bergamot, Chai’s soothing cloves or Irish Breakfast’s polite caffeine kick-in-the-pants.

Some time last year, I realized that the tea bags lined with foil keep tea the freshest. But while visiting a friend in Vancouver recently, we walked around a shop with a lot of loose teas in tins and I realized that by seeking out fair trade, organic tea, I could help keep tea workers healthier; and by brewing loose tea, I could reuse or recycle the tin, and compost the tea.

To do this, of course, I need to buy something. I like Bodum products (love their double-walled borosilicate glasses that keep your drinks hot for a long time), and I know they have a tea pot with brewer. Or I could go to the dollar store and get a tea ball.

Do you use loose tea to make your morning cuppa?
Can you share your tips for brewing loose tea fuss-free and with less mess?

March 9, 2009 at 12:43 PM 9 comments

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