Monday Monthly Mission #6

August 31st, 2009 - filed under: Furthermore » Monday Monthly Mission

On the first Monday of every month, we take on a ‘mission’ – a shift or habit or inspiration – to work on together. There’s strength (and support) in numbers! On the last Thursday of the month, we reconvene to see how far we’ve come.


Are you aware of how much plastic passes through your kitchen? Me, I consider myself a pretty savvy shopper – I buy in bulk, I shop at co-ops and produce stands, and I rely primarily on whole, unprocessed foods. Still . . .

Somehow, each month, I’m filling up trash bags with discarded plastic. Margarine tubs. Yoghurt containers. Lids and pull tops and safety seals. Juice/smoothie bottles. Snack wrappers. Gallon jugs. CLAMSHELLS! (ooh I hate those non-recyclable monsters so much!). That’s a lot of plastic, and plastic is oil!

Of course, I’m sure you’re recycling all that plastic, right? But I’ll tell you what’s even better than recycling: never even using. If you can omit it in the first place, you’re leaps and bounds better than trying to re-use it. And so that’s our goal for this month: Reduce the Plastics in Our Groceries.

This Mission is not about perfection, because it would be damn near impossible – now – to eliminate plastic completely. But, this Mission IS about choices. We can’t all do everything, always (and nor should we try). But what we can do is be aware. We can move with intention. When faced with the option of ‘glass bottle X’ vs ‘plastic bottle Y’, we can make the mindful choice. We can alter our habits to suit our ambitions, oh yes we can.

Are you old enough to remember the 80′s, when styrofoam was everywhere? (I am!) It was everywhere! Styrofoam is so antiquated now, virtually non-existent and totally taboo. That’s because of consumer demand; a campaign by people just like us. We can eliminate plastic too, and end our dependency on petroleum. It starts out small to make a snowball . . .

[Here's the one exception: the bulk bin allowance. For the sake of this Mission, it's okay to use plastic bags for bulk/produce as long as you are re-using them. So no grabbing a brand new baggie, but yes bring your used plastic bags / plastic tupperwares, and fill them from the bins. Fair?]

So, my socially conscious, totally fabulous friends: do you choose to accept this Mission??


  • Maureen Thomson

    I’ve gotten into the habit of bringing my own (preferably glass, but plastic will do in a pinch) containers to restaurants. That way, I can package up my leftovers without using yet another disposable plastic or Styrofoam container.

  • Farmingtheburbs

    You read my mind, literally. Today I was thinking about this very same issue and considering how to reduce my own usage of plastic. I most definitely recycle but between composting and recycling I am astounded by what we are throwing away. We have already eliminated paper towels and napkins by going to cloth but can’t believe how much still needs to be thrown. I am going to be working on this……

  • april

    what are plastic clamshells?

  • akeeyu

    At the risk of sounding like a doofus, what’s the non-plastic alternative when you buy medium to large quantities of fresh fruit? If I forgo a wee plastic bag, that means that my nectarines are going to roll around like marbles and get manhandled at the checkout.

    My girls just adore fresh fruit so we buy quite a bit, and although we do re-use the plastic bags, I’d be happy to eliminate them entirely.

    April, clamshells are those hard sealed plastic bubbly-poof shells that manufacturers put around products like phone accessories, disposable razors, and small electronic items. You know, the things you end up furiously hacking at with blunt scissors or box cutters when you get home?

    Apparently, they’re also responsible for dozens of ER visits a year, as people tend to mangle themselves while struggling to open them. You know, in case we need more reasons to hate these things?

  • J

    I love this one! I always forget to stock our car with bags, but that is definitely a goal for September. We have 10+ cloth grocery bags sitting here, so there’s no excuse really. EEW at styrofoam – the thought of it makes me cringe like nails on a chalkboard.

  • Sara

    I’d like to start this out by saying I totally agree with this statement and we personally don’t let any more plastic bags in our house.

    But if given the choice between local and better packaging, the best thing to do (surprisingly) is to choose the local produce packaged in plastic. Believe it or not, packaging as a whole only accounts for 15% of the waste in our landfills (mind you of course I’d like to eliminate this 15%!). A much much larger amount of waste produced is due to the transportation of the food you choose. So although it might pain you a bit to buy the plastic, and sometimes you don’t need to make the decision, but when it all comes down to it, the best buy is local.

    Mind you clamshells are evil.

  • Shana

    This mission has already been accepted! :) I am quite the crafty soul, if I do say so my self, and I have been re-using all kinds of plastic and even cardboard containers! If you check out the new magazine Green Craft you will see all kinds of ingenious uses for things we normally throw away. And ain’t that grand?

  • Sayward

    @ Maureen Thomson – Yes! This is a great habit to get into. You can also bring your own containers when ordering takeout – you just need to arrive a little early to let them know. Such a thoughtful thing to do!

    @ Farmingtheburbs – I feel the same way. I’m so ‘responsible’, and yet, I still produce so much. I guess it’s less compared to many, but still too much by my standards! I think we can all strive to do just a little bit more. =)

    @ April – Clamshells are those flip-top plastic containers that produce often comes in. I think strawberries are most common, and other berries as well. Trader Joe’s is notorious for using them for everything, and it’s awful! They’re not recyclable.

    @ Akeeyu – Paper! Small brown paper bags are great for produce, and although they’re also a limited resource, they’re much easier on the environment that plastic. You can re-use and re-use them, and then of course recycle them.

    Also, the plastics you describe are not clamshells (see my comment to April above), but they are just as evil! Maybe even more evil!! I don’t know what those are called, but they should be outlawed on principle, haha. What a pain in the butt!

    @ J – A good trick is AS SOON AS you unpack your groceries, go hang your cloth bags on the front door handle. This way, there’s no way you’ll miss them on your way out next time. This is how I broke my forgetful habit. I was pretty bad about that for a while.

    @ Sarah – I understand where you’re coming from, for sure. I do wonder though, if the packaging itself wasn’t made locally (and most likely wouldn’t be), it would also need to be shipped in, negating the act of buying local to avoid shipping in the first place. Just a thought and something I’ll admit I’m not too familiar with.

    Not that I’m arguing against buying local. I totally agree with you. Luckily, I think that’s a pretty rare choice. Most local stuff (produce, etc) is kept loose, and most pre-packaged stuff is definitely not local.

    @ Shana – Awesome, you should share some of your crafty tips! And thanks for the heads up on the magazine. I haven’t heard of that one before. Keep up the repurposing! =D

  • torie

    I read this article on a plane ride some time ago and it ties in perfectly with this month’s challenge!

  • Sayward

    @ torie – Wow, what a great story. I’m totally inspired by that place, it’s how I aspire to live and shop. And the owner seems like an awesome lady! Thanks for passing it along. =)

  • melissa

    I’m very lucky in that our recycling center takes all plastics numbers 1-7. Most of the clamshells I bring home are a number 5 or 7 (if I remember correctly). I’ve stopped throwing out margarine tubs and anything I can use as tupperware…why buy it when I can get it for free in a wide variety of sizes? It’s also nice when you have a large meal with friends and send them packing with leftovers–you don’t lose your good tupperware! :)

  • laurel

    I just dropped off several months worth of recycling this week, and I came to the exact same conclusion. We easily had 5 times as much plastic as we did anything else! We’ve moved to replacing plastic in our reusable containers, but I didn’t realize how much of the food we purchased came in plastic! Thanks for this!

  • Sayward

    @ melissa – That’s a great idea, to save plastic tupperware for sending food home with guests. I try to use glass for my stuff at home, but I’ll start keeping some plastic tubs just for that purpose. Thanks!

    @ laurel – It really is crazy when you realize how much plastic inundates your life. It;s a tough one to eliminate, but we can certainly make steps to cut down. Every little bit helps!

  • Nathan

    Plastic is hard to replace in durable manufactured items, but unnecessary for almost any of our daily household/disposable needs. is just one of many sources to replace all the little conveniences of plastic. There are also excellent biodegradable packing and packaging materials and disposable silverware, plates, etc.

    To inject a little policy (which sadly always seems to mean politic), no matter how much we contribute individually, some things just have to be done top-down. When there are good substitutes available, why not just outlaw dangerous products where they’re not absolutely necessary?

    Petroleum usage is a huge danger in pushing global warming, but we have serious landfill problems, too, and the Pacific Trash Vortex is a powerful reminder of the scale of our negligence.

  • Sayward

    @ Nathan – A agree, but I’m not convinced the alternatives are good enough (yet) to go and outlaw the current standards. The cost issue is the first thing that comes to mind.

    But I always have hope, of course. By creating demand, we spur industry to meet it, with low cost eco-friendly alternatives. I think that biobags is a great start. Thanks for the link!