Think you can’t live without plastic and paper?
It’s not exactly an easy task when 99.9 % of everything in the stores is packaged in one material or the other. The good news is that we, as conscientious consumers, can change how companies do business by changing our buying habits.
When we become aware of an issue we’d like to change we often feel rather powerless against the odds. With this particular issue, though, your daily choice to use excellent quality reusable bags sends a direct message to stores and generates an immediate positive impact on the environment. One less plastic or paper bag used is one less that will harm our planet, oceans, and animals. As consumers, we control the market and we have the ability to change today!
The kind of change we're talking about does not require calling senators and protesting all day. It does require a deep commitment to understand that your small, daily actions do matter and when you use good quality, compostable, and responsibly sourced reusable bags, you are making a stand to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem.
Remember, packaging consists of one third of all municipal waste. That is a lot more packaging than is necessary if we are eating fresh, healthy, local, home-made foods and using reusable bags!!!
Throughout our website we elucidate the problems associated with plastic, paper, and single-use consumption. We hope what you’ve learned will inspire you to make different, more compassionate choices for the earth. In our solutions pages we provide you with some concrete actions you can take to begin making a difference regarding consumption habits today – no matter who you are or what you do.
Most of you will already have many of these solutions wired into your daily acts of intentionality. We encourage you to keep assessing your daily impacts and doing what you can to live according to your deepest values and give it your all!
Adventures in Source Reduction
Below are a sprinkling of some of the ways we are making our lives more environmentally compatible by REDUCING our consumption.
Use Reusable Bags:
Obviously we use Hands On Hemp reusable bags for our everyday edibles - we can't remember the last time we took a plastic bag from the grocery or any other store. This feels awesome, and now that we see the problem of wasteful consumption habits, there is a lot more work to be done!
Remember Our Reusable Bags!!!:
When we're out doing demos for our reusable produce and bulk bags, or just talking to friends about our business, the topic of remembering your reusable bags comes up. Even we forgot ours too sometimes until we made the commitment to never accept single-use plastic bags.
Once we made this commitment our memory improved quickly! We weren't likely to repeat carrying our groceries out in our arms, pockets, or shirts. If we forgot our Hands On Hemp reusable bags for produce, we carried out the lettuce, greens, or other fruit and veggies wet and in our hands. A couple of times we did without the bulk items we wanted to buy since we had no "green" way to carry them home. Now we actually never forget our bags. It's become a new habit - like wearing shoes or shirt when leaving the house.
Try making the commitment and see for yourself!
We found out that we don’t need to line trashcans with plastic bags! So now we just put our trash directly into the can. We're not bragging, but since we're vegan and we compost, there is never any messy mess in the trash that would warrant a plastic bag. Just remember, nothing warrants plastic. Plastic kills. For those of you who do eat meat, you can store any uneaten meat waste in freezer-proof glass Tupperware containers in the freezer until trash day. Voila, no plastic needed.
I tend to blow my nose a lot. I use a lot of toilet paper in this process (recycled, of course). But still, we I can fill up a whole trash bucket with tissues. So my commitment was to buy a few handkerchiefs made out of soft organic cotton and…. problem solved. The other solution to this problem is to make sure we compost our tissues when we use paper ones.
Pet Food Cans:
At a local sustainability festival we heard a guest speaker talk about how our astronomical consumption of pet food cans could circle the earth several times over. The actual numbers didn’t stick but the overwhelming feeling of horror did.
We have a cat and a dog, and they are not vegan like we are, although our cat does eat a lot of vegetables off of our plate! Today he at several spoonfuls of carrot, brown rice soup! Anyhow, we thought it would be healthier for our cat, not any more expensive and certainly less wasteful if we replaced part of his canned food with rotisserie chicken. We know it sounds deluxe, but after one week of that our cat was sick of it and wanted his canned food back again. So, we are still working on creating an alternative to canned cat and dog food.
Refilling Shampoo, lotion, dish soaps and other bottles:
We now refill as much as we can by buying in bulk using our own glass jars. Many things can be refilled like moisturizer, soap, honey, agave, nut butters, laundry detergent, etc…Most natural food grocery stores have a section for this, and many more traditional stores are beginning to offer bulk, too. There are also more and more stores popping up that only sell in bulk with no packaging. If you hear of a store like this around, please shop there---it's a great way to support an environmentally sound business that is trying to go against the flow of the packaging momentum.
Buy bulk beans, nuts, grains and other food items.
Our Hands On Hemp bulk bags are designed for this purpose and we have an entire section on our website about how to use them. Buying these foods in bulk is a huge way to reduce your packaging waste. Plus it's so much better for you to cook your own beans and grains from dried sources instead of canned or packaged. It's really simple, less expensive, and it saves you from the additives and sugars found in many canned and packaged varieties.
Tea Bag Accessories:
Our favorite tea company has been "shown up" by Celestial Seasonings (whose teas I also like, especially their “Tension Tamer” and "Roastaroma" herbal teas.) Celestial Seasonings has stopped using individual tea wrappers, strings, tags, and staples. We always pull all that useless stuff off before we even use the tea bag anyway. In conserving those things, Celestial Seasoning saves 3.5 million pounds of waste from entering landfills every year! You can imagine this must save Celestial Seasonings a good amount of money, too! It’s time we call our favorite tea company and request they change. It is also possible to buy herbs in bulk and to make your own teas.
Shopping at the local Farmers Market
The best way to give up a lot of plastic and packaging is to buy fresh, local foods or grow your own! Not only does it cut down on packaging, it also drastically reduces the carbon footprint caused by shipping food across the planet. The food you'll find at your local farmers market is fresh, healthy, in season, and sustainable. Most places have some kind of farmers market these days---check online to find locations and times around you. One issue we've found at our farmers market is that there is still a huge amount of plastic bags being used. This seems crazy to us, and we're always very proud to put our fresh produce into our own hemp bags, but we want to make a difference for as many people as possible! We sell our bags at our local farmers market and you can buy them here and take them with you to yours. (If you think our bags would be a great addition to your farmers market, contact us, give us the details, and we'll see what we can do.)
Taking your own to-go containers when you eat out:
If you're like we are, it's very common to get too much food to finish in the large servings at many restaurants. We now bring our own glass containers with us so we don't have to bring food home in the plastic or Styrofoam containers many places use. We have also found that we can do the same when we order takeout. It might take a bit more time, since we have to take the containers to the restaurant and wait for the order, but isn't it worth it in the long run? We also try to use our own glass jars for ordering drinks to-go. Sometimes this works out great. Unfortunately, sometimes the store or restaurant can't use our jars for health code reasons, which is a bummer. Still we keep trying and hopefully we'll encourage some stores to make some changes.
Start your own veggie garden and fruit trees:
Oh, my gosh, we love our garden! It's so amazing to walk outside and pick fresh greens and veggies for our daily food. It's a great way to be outside and contact the earth, too. Last year we had too much to eat ourselves, so we gave it away to our neighbors and friends. But, there were still a lot of veggies that went bad and got composted before we could eat them. This year we're going to give away what we don't need to food collections that feed the homeless and others in need in our community. Our fruit tree gave us an abundance of peaches this year! Try to make your own garden---we really think you'll love it.
What Else Can I Do? Lots!
Notice how much you use and make commitments to those changes you know you'll be willing and able to live up to. Remember every little bit helps so do what you can and see what you learn from there. Our experience has been that one change inspires us to discover and make other needed changes.
ReUse (For example, by using our Hands On Hemp bags again and again and again and again and again!) Plus challenge yourself to find other ways to reuse more.
Recycle as much packaging as possible. What about not buying food and other things in packaging that can't be recycled? This is another way to make our purchases count while supporting the businesses that do their part for the environment.
Buy Local. It's great for the local economy and really important for the welfare of the environment.
Compost your food items, tea bags, coffee grounds, tissues, leaves, and other yard waste. It is really crazy to imagine trash bags full of food items piled in landfills, but this happens all the time.
If you're not in touch with nature and this amazing beautiful planet we all are lucky enough to live on, it's much more difficult to be in touch with why we need to make changes in the first place. Unfortunately, for most of us, it's pretty easy to lose touch, and our culture isn't necessarily helping. Even living very near nature in Boulder, Colorado, we find that we really have to stay committed. So get outside, look around, and breathe!