Yesterday I wrote about the state of recycling in the city of Surrey and our new inability to put plastic bags in our curbside recycling bins. Also, I wrote about my inability to remember to bring my cloth bags into the store with me when I shop. Today’s theme is similar, except I’m thinking about all the plastic bags we ‘consume’ that aren’t grocery bags. Bread bags. Bags inside boxes of things like crackers and cereal, or pasta. Bagged veggies like cauliflower and lettuce and carrots. Cheese wrapped in plastic. Also, other plastic wrappers that aren’t quite a bag – cellophane around boxed tea bags. Chip bags and the bags coffee comes in. Or are those foil? Can they be recycled? And what about children’s toys? They are placed inside individual plastic shells, which are elasticked or wired to plastic-impregnated cardboard. Is this plastic recyclable? I put it in the bin, but do they chuck it into the garbage at the recycling plant?
My Nana was born on a farm in Manitoba. She grew up during the Depression and the 2nd World War. She went to school, became a nurse, and got the heck outta Dodge. She spent her whole adult life living in the suburbs in BC. She grew gardens and baked her own bread, but she was certainly glad for modern conveniences. When my son was an infant, I tried out some cloth diapers a friend had loaned to me – not old-fashioned cloth nappies with pins, a new-fangled variety that was shaped like a disposable diaper and had elastic at the legs and Velcro closures. One time she was visiting, and I was dealing with the diapers – trying to fold them out of the dryer, with the Velcro clinging to everything, and dealing with a bucket to soak the dirty ones until laundry time. She wondered why I was going to all the trouble. She thought disposables were so much easier, and that I had it so much better off than either my mother or she had had it, because I didn’t have to mess about with cloth diapers if I didn’t want to. I was easily swayed; life as a single mom was hard enough.
Which brings me to my point: we live like over-consuming gluttons in the Global North. We want everything to be shiny and new. We throw out perfectly usable goods because they’re not the latest and greatest. For example, my cell phone is about 5 years old. My mom gave it to me when she bought a new one. It doesn’t even have a camera. According to the laws of over-consumption, it is ridiculous that I still use this thing (and people actually laugh when they see my phone). But it works. And I don’t need a camera on my phone, that’s why I have a camera.
So I’m trying to find pathways to lowering my consumption in general, and specifically my reliance on plastic packaged products. The major culprits (that I see right now – this may change) are plastic bags for veggies and fruits, bread and coffee. I’ve already stopped placing my veggies and fruits in individual plastic bags at the produce store and I wash out the old plastic produce bags to reuse in the crisper drawer. I’d like to eventually move away from using these plastic bags entirely, but I’m not there, yet. Maybe I could wrap my celery in cloth to prevent it from going limp? Any suggestions?
To avoid plastic bread bags, I’m going to have to get into the habit of making my own, or start buying it from a bakery where I can get around using a new plastic bag each time. This means altering my shopping habits, and making a separate trip from the rest of my groceries. Changing my habits is doable, but also difficult – humans are creatures of habit, of course.
As for coffee, I’m just not sure… Hubby suggests buying coffee in bulk from the grocery store. But hubby doesn’t drink coffee, so he doesn’t know that I am a coffee snob; I don’t like the grocery store brand bulk coffee. I remember when I was a kid, my dad would buy his coffee for a specialty shop. This was before the days of a Starbucks on every other corner, it was actually a local business. They’re not around anymore, but maybe I can find another place? Again, more habits of convenience to change, but that’s the point of this blog, right?