September 22, 2011

Greener Shopping: Plastics - part 2

Last week I wrote about plastic resin codes.  This week, I’m going to further discuss what we, the consumer, can do to wisely use and reduce plastics in our daily lives.  If take three small steps to understand plastic, we can make better choices for our health and the health of the planet.

Recycling is a big part of using plastics.  The first thing you can do is find out what you can recycle locally.  Not all recycling programs take all seven resin codes so check with your county to see available options.
Sustainable living options aren’t huge here in the South, so I am excited to say that our curbside recycling program takes all seven codes, everything but Styrofoam and plastic bags!  Our local zoo will recycle Styrofoam, and of course grocery stores and office supply stores will recycle the plastic bags. Realizing that I could recycle all the plastic I was using was a big start to a greener shopping list!

The second step is reducing the amount of plastic we use. I’ve spent the last two years trying to find ways to reduce the plastic in our life. I thought I’d share a few of them that have been successful with our family of four:

Reduce sandwich bag use.  When our daughter started school we invested in some adorable reusable cloth sandwich bags on Etsy.  They have been great and easy to clean.  I still use sandwich bags for things like freezing the fish that we catch but I am using at least 5 less bags a week, so that’s 260+ plastic sandwich a year that don’t go into the environment, (and I don’t have to pay for them).   Sandwich bag shown in photo was created by Upcyclers team member Greener Route.

Replace plastic with glass when possible. Each time my plastic salad dressing bottle was empty, I would replace it with a glass salad dressing bottle.  Sometimes there isn’t an option for glass (i.e. mayo, yogurt, cream cheese, etc), but I found I could find most condiments were available in a glass container.   

Stop using plastic water bottles. Use stainless steel water bottles or other reusable bottle options. This was one of the first things I tried to tackle, and it was easier that I thought it would be!

Use cloth bags.  Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard of this popular way of reducing plastic.   Plastic bags are offered to shoppers everywhere.  I use my cloth bags for more than grocery shopping though.  I try to keep different sized bags in my car so when I’m out running errands I can keep from using plastic everywhere I go.    A quick trip to the pharmacy I grab a small cloth bag I keep in my purse.  A trip to the local library and I grab the medium sized bag that is behind the seat of my car.  At the farmers market, I pull out my reusable produce bags.  When I forget them (because sometimes they bring the items in to the house and they don’t go back out), I ask for paper or just carry the items without a bag.  Produce bag shown in photo was created by Upcyclers team member TNTees

Upcycle plastic containers for non-food related tasks. We store crayons, toys, screws, beads, and an assortment of other household items in our leftover plastic containers. My favorite plastic containers to upcycle: yogurt, spinach, and nut.

Start small and pick one way you can reduce plastic in your life.  I didn’t change everything at once.  I would integrate one new method, and then I would move on to the next one.  

The third step is using plastic smarter.  We can’t eliminate all the plastic in our daily lives.  My two year old isn’t going to use a glass sippy cup, so I make sure that the plastic cups she does use are BPA free and have a resin code 2, 4 or 5 on them.  I make sure my food storage containers and other plastic wares display these less toxic resin codes on them as well.

If there is NO resin code on your plastic containers, call the manufacture and ask. Since the resin codes are only for recycling, this would tell me that the manufacture doesn’t care about the environment and recycling the plastic they are creating!
To help remember the resin codes, I hang a list on the inside of my kitchen cabinet ----->
See what else you can do to reduce and wisely use plastic, by visiting Healthy Child, Healthy World’s list of plastic solutions:

Whether it is buying organic, handmade or reducing plastic use, becoming ethical consumers is something that everyone should look into. Does value or values determine your purchases? Educating yourself about the products you buy & their affect on the environment is vital to our future and the future of our planet.


  1. Thanks so much for including TrashN2Tees reusable produce bags. We too are trying to reduce our plastic consumption, and I completely understand what you're saying about a 2y with a glass? HA! Check out some other alternative like Klean Kanteen (stainless steel) they offer different types of spouts and my boys really love them!

  2. Jenelle, we love Klean Kanteen! We have one for everyone in the family! :) I think they keep your drink colder longer too! ;) Thanks.

  3. Thank you for all of these wonderful tips. I am already following a lot of them, but am always learning something new every day:)

  4. I'm a big believer in cutting out plastic also. If I have to use it for my business, I only use parially recycled. It makes things a little more expensive and harder to find, but I sleep like a baby at night knowing I'm doing my part.

  5. Yay! That's great to hear! I could have put so many tips and ideas into the article. I didn't want to make it too long. lol :)