Thursday, June 17, 2010

Less Impact Progress, Reducing Package Waste

It has been a month or so since I finished reading and watching "No Impact Man." I started blogging about my own little side project to reduce my/our waste. John and I have been doing well with our reduction in the time that the TV is on. We need to continue to improve, but it has been a good start. It is time to incorporate more life-long changes.

One thing that struck me the most about the book was the impact to the environment because of throw away products and individual packaging.
I looked around on the internet for statistics on this because I remember some type of statistic in the book. While I could not find exact numbers, I did read that the EPA says that packaging makes up about 32% of trash in a household. So, basically a third of your trash comes from food packaging. I imagine that if a formal study was conducted, we would find that the number was a lot higher.

I looked around on the internet to try and inform myself of the issue. I did not find all that much. I guess this is a topic that we are just ignoring. Well, not me, not any longer. I came across a website called Earth911 and an article that had green shopping tips. The tips are helpful not only for the environment, but for our wallet. While it is a good place to start, I think the effort has to go much further. I don't know how to get the packaging industry to change, so I have to change my own habits.

I thought about how the No Impact family did it and decided to make some serious changes ourselves. Therefore, we have decided to reduce the amount of individually packed items that we buy and plan to buy in bulk where possible.

We do not purchase many individually packaged items, but we do buy them. One such example is organic oatmeal. Every week, I used to purchase a box of organic, prepackaged servings of oatmeal in a variety of flavors. I always felt I was doing a good thing because I was buying vegan and organic. After reading the book, I had second thoughts.
Let's say that one box lasts me about two weeks. That means that I buy about 26 boxes and throw out about 260 oatmeal packets in a year. One person, me, wastes 260 packets of oatmeal wrappers in a year! WOW! I recycle the 26 boxes that the oatmeal comes in, but I have no way of recycling the individually packaged oatmeal packets. The 260 packets are just thrown away and end up in a landfill. This is only one product. I also sometimes buy vegan raw or energy bars and again, that packaging cannot be recycled.

It is certainly time for a change. No more packaged oatmeal for me! John and I decided to buy oatmeal in bulk and I have been making my own oatmeal concoctions in the mornings for weeks now.

My creations have been delicious! To my rolled oats, I have added yellow raisins, almonds (bought in bulk), flax seeds (bought in bulk), preserves, cinnamon, and other goodies found in our pantry. Every morning it is a little different but, loaded with flavor. In fact, it is better than any packet of oatmeal I have ever purchased.

You are probably wondering about the packaging I use for my bulk items. Well, we have mesh bags that we use for produce and they are a contender for bulk items that are larger. For the small items, such as flax seeds and oats, we have been using plastic bags. We don't ever get new produce bags from the grocery store, but we rinse out and dry our old ones (we stopped getting plastic produce bags years ago). We use the bags until they get holes and then we recycle them. I am on the search for reusable mesh bags with meshing that is small enough so that flax seeds won't fall out.

We are also continuing to examine the products that we buy or already have in packages to see if we can make the switch to bulk. We are fortunate enough to live in a place that has Earth Fare, Whole Foods, local health food stores, and co-ops that have bulk sections. Not only is bulk better for the environment, it is better for our wallet because we won't have to pay for the products packaging. So far, this change is an all around winner!


silentlotus creations said...

Amanda, thank you for sharing this! I am def going to seek out a copy fo this book. Your thoughts and tips are inspiring me to reevaluate ways to lessen my impact. I have gotten a little lazy about buying packaged foods and have not been buying much in bulk. Renewing efforts to do that! 260 oatmeal bags (I also eat oatmeal almost every morning) is a lot! :)

VeggieAmanda said...

Please tell me how you like the book when read it. I feel like it has changed my life! I thought I was doing so much for the earth before and then realized that I could do so much more. It was eye opening and overwhelming.

I am so excited that you are inspired to reevaluate ways to lessen your impact! Yay! :-)