Ready to cut down on single-use plastics? Here are a few ways to start.

Orly Keiner, TPSS Board of Representatives

Are you among the 72% of consumers concerned about the growth in the use of single use plastics but don’t know what to do about it because PLASTIC IS EVERYWHERE?  Are you troubled by knowing that even the “recyclable” plastics that surround the foods we purchase are rarely truly recycled?  Instead these so-called recyclables will either take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill or end up polluting our waterways and environment.  

The good news is that TPSS Co-op has options to help you significantly reduce plastic packaging waste in your kitchen!   

Here are some steps you can take:

1)  Conduct a trash audit! Take a cold, hard look at the contents of your trash and recycling bins and determine which food products are your top 10 worst kitchen-plastic-packaging culprits. Milk jugs? Peanut butter jars? Potato chip bags? Plastic produce clamshells?  Oil bottles?  

2)  Consider a substitution search! Be honest with yourself about what types of changes you would be willing to make in regards to each of your culprits. 

Some ideas could include:

  • Packaging substitutions: Could you get the same product in a greener container – such as buying milk in returnable glass bottles instead of in a plastic jug? Switch bulk-bin macaroni for macaroni in a plastic bag? Buy a head of lettuce instead of lettuce in a plastic box?
  • Product substitutions: Consider whether you would be willing to substitute an entirely different product that you are able to get in greener packaging. For instance, instead of snacking on chips that come in a plastic bag, could you switch to nuts or trail mix that come plastic-free from the Co-op’s bulk section?  
  • Seasonal substitutions: Do you have to eat strawberries in the winter when the only option comes in a plastic box?  Could you switch in the winter to more seasonal, plastic-free choices, such as the Co-op’s locally grown apples and pears, or winter citrus bought loose from a bin? 
  • Homemade substitutions: Would you consider making homemade mayonnaise instead of buying it in plastic jars? It’s actually tastier and so quickly made with eggs and bulk-section oil. Would you bake your own easy no-knead bread instead of buying plastic-wrapped loaves? Make homemade granola bars out of bulk-section ingredients to skip the wrappers? Of course, you don’t have time to handmake all the products that are behind all the plastic in your life, so you’ll need to think about where the biggest impact for the least effort might be for you.

3)  Make a list and bring your containers! The co-op’s bulk section is the best friend of the plastic reducer, but you’ll want to plan ahead if you plan to purchase certain items. Bulk liquids like oil, vinegar, soy sauce, or honey will require you to be prepared with a clean bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid. And the super delicious bulk feta cheese and tofu will similarly require a container. So review your list before you leave the house and grab the containers you need.  Don’t forget to stop by the register when you enter the store to have your containers pre-weighed and labeled before filling them for the first time!

In today’s world, fully eliminating single-use plastic from your life is nearly impossible. However, we live in a community that provides the space to reduce waste where we can. 

I’m grateful that TPSS Co-op remains committed to offering our community sustainable choices.

Orly Keiner serves on TPSS Co-op’s Board of Representatives.