In my first blog post on conscious consumption, I listed some ways we decrease consumerism in my family. It focused on getting the most out of your products and being conscious of things you use that you may not need.
In my pursuit of a more minimal lifestyle, there are additional things I’ve found to curb unconscious consumerism as I slowly inch toward the lofty aspiration of zero waste. This sequel post focuses on convenience and disposable items and an attempt to ween ourselves from them.
Juice box detox
The addiction was strong for my kids and their friends. It was too easy for them to open the fridge and grab one every time they got thirsty, far easier than getting a cup and pouring a drink. It was convenient for me too because the later resulted in spills.
Juice boxes and pouches are designed for drinks on the go. They are super handy to pack in lunches, but we were using them beyond that, buying one and sometimes two cases each week without a second thought. They are not recyclable in my area and I regret using so many.
At the beginning of last summer, I decided to stop buying juice boxes. There was some resistance at first, but new habits were formed within a short time and juice boxes were forgotten. The kids survived, my daughter mastered pouring her own drink, and everyone drank more water. Now when we need a drink to go, it’s poured in our reusable water bottles. We use a thermos to pack drinks for lunch, and I feel good about eliminating this convenience item from the grocery list, not to mention the money we’re saving!
Bagless food storage
Lunch box packing also wiped out a box of plastic food storage bags in a snap. The longer I recycled, the more I questioned everything we threw away so I was bothered by how many we used.
A really simple fix for lunches was to get reusable containers to fit the food we packed. But our unconscious use of these bags didn’t stop there. I realized how often I use them when there are other substitutes with a little effort and creativity.
Instead of habitually reaching for a bag when cleaning leftovers, I forced myself to find alternatives. Sometimes I take storage containers out of the dishwasher and wash them if nothing’s left in the cabinet, or use a covered casserole dish to store similar leftovers together.
Mason jars are wonderful for storing all sorts of things I used to put in bags. They have become my favorite way to store food and have moved from the garage to a more prominent shelf in the kitchen.
I recently took them to an out-of-town Whole Foods to carry bulk bin groceries home. I’m also amazed at how well they store dinner leftovers that I never considered putting in jars before.
Now we hardly use plastic bags at all and I rarely buy them. If one makes its way home with school projects or things we’re given and it’s clean, it’s set aside for use with other things such as packing toiletries for travel or bagging items to sell at consignment.
Plastic party purge
Buying disposable dinnerware each time we had a party was second nature. My everyday dishes were several place settings short of enough to serve our guests, and my China rarely fit the occasions, which were most often kids’ birthday parties. Plus, disposable plates and cups that matched the theme added to the décor.
I’m finding now that using real plates, cups, silverware, and tablecloths makes the party seem more special and that there are plenty of other environmentally friendly alternatives to carry the party theme. It has been worth buying the extra dishes to have enough for the usual amount of guests we serve.
When you have white or neutral-colored dishes and linens, the food you serve takes center stage. Nature provides an abundance of decorations that are affordable and available at garden centers, farmers markets, or your backyard depending on the season.
For kids’ parties, my favorite decorations are made with tissue paper, which is recycled after the party. I’ve made pompoms to hang from the ceiling, flowers to decorate tables, the Hollywood hills sign, Winnie the Pooh’s house, tiki torches, and much more all from tissue paper and cardboard.
Knowing what I know now about how unlikely it is that almost any type of garbage will decompose in a landfill, I cringe at the thought of all the plastic silverware, cups, and plates I’ve sent there over the years.
For a while, I switched to paper plates thinking it helped, but I can’t deny that the best option is to avoid all disposables when possible. Cleanup is worth the small amount of extra effort when you think about how clean you’re keeping the environment.
I’m amazed at how easy it’s been to slow or eliminate our consumption of some products that I never considered alternatives to before. Reconditioning hasn’t required any major sacrifices, and going back to the way we did things just a short while ago isn’t appealing anymore.
Have you had luck eliminating disposable products that your family had grown accustomed to? I look forward to sharing new discoveries with you as I search for more myself and hope you will do the same!
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