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Reduce Through Reuse  
Written by CAC AmeriCorps Service Member Lauren Watson

A Landfill
A landfill. Jani, Yahya (2018). Linnaeus University. Retrieved from https://lnu.se/en/meet-linnaeus-university/current/news/2018/landfills--a-future-source-of-raw-materials/

Because most of us are working remotely during this unprecedented pandemic, we may notice more of our waste going into our home trash and recycling bins, given that we’re not using bins at work or school. Many of us are also cleaning out our pantries and finally eating the dinners of frozen vegetables and canned beans that we purchased over six months ago. Once these products consumed, we are left with the disposable plastic containers and film that ends up in our trash—and ultimately in our landfill.

What if we were to consider the end of life of the packaging as much as the product when we make our purchases? Most of our waste ends up in a landfill, while some goes through the sorting line at the recycling facility to be baled, sold, and turned into new products. Unfortunately, some waste ends up as litter on the roadside, and if it isn’t picked up, it makes its way into storm drains, streams, rivers, and maybe even the ocean. When we also consider that plastic materials will not break down in our lifetime, it makes us realize that our waste has an impact long after the split-second decision to purchase it at the store.

While some disposable food packaging is unavoidable, with a little planning we can reduce the garbage produced by today’s meals so there is less waste around for our grandchildren. Below are simple and effective tips to reduce trash that will benefit the environment and save you money.

The Glass Jar - A Classic Airtight Container

There is a reason why glass was the predominant storage container before the production of plastic in the mid 1900s.

What are the benefits to using glass for bulk food storage?

*Glass can be reused over and over, unlike plastic! Glass does not chemically break down over time when exposed to heat.

*Glass is a healthy storage option because chemicals are not being released into food over time--unlike plastic.

*Glass will keep your dried goods fresher longer, because glass jars are airtight.

*Clean glass jars that previously contained your peanut butters, jams, or pickles make for excellent bulk storage containers, so there’s no need to buy new mason jars.

*The price per pound of bulk food items are often cheaper than buying the pre-packaged plastic covered items, so you’re reducing your spending and waste.

*The look of storing glass jars in your pantry looks much more stylish than a jumbled shelf full of plastic bags and film.

How to use:

*Use your glass jars next time you go grocery shopping. Most supermarkets now have a bulk foods section where you can find grains, beans, sugar, trail mix, candies, spices, and more. In Knoxville, you can find bulk storage bins at Three Rivers Market, Whole Foods, Kroger and Publix.

*Before filling up your glass jars with goods, visit the cashier or customer service to have them quickly weigh your glass jars and lids to get the tare weight. Have them write the tare weight on the lid. Weighing the jar ensures that you are only paying for the goods actually in the jar, and not the jar itself.

*Now you’re ready to fill up your jar with whatever bulk item you’d like. Just write the price lookup code (PLU) for the item on the jar so the cashier knows what you’re buying.

Glass Jars
Miles, Lindsay (2018). Treading My Own Path. Retrieved from https://treadingmyownpath.com/2018/01/25/first-time-bulk-store/

Don’t forget to use your glass jars for storage at home, too. Use them for fresh on-the-go smoothies, packing your lunch, and use them for items besides food—like holding makeup brushes or tooth brushes in your bathroom. There are endless possibilities for creatively using glass jars!

The Reusable Bag - Make Shopping Convenient

The concept of shopping with reusable bags is not new, rather, we’ve been asked to skip the plastic bag and bring—or purchase—reusable bags publicly for over a decade. The habit of remembering your reusable bags before shopping is more important than ever as the average amount of household waste increases along with the amount of plastic in the ocean.

How to Make Reusable Bags Convenient:

*No need to purchase new grocery totes because that only adds to the long-term waste and greenhouse gas emission problem. Many bags you probably already have can serve the purpose of carrying items from the grocery store, whether it’s a messenger bag, a thick cloth tote, or even a backpack.

*Reuse the materials you already have by making reusable bags out of old T-shirts. No sewing required! Check out how in this short video by Keep Knoxville Beautiful to see how.

Produce Bags

When it comes to buying wet produce, you have a few options to skip the thin plastic bag for your tomatoes or kale.

*Reuse the plastic grocery store bags that you already have under your sink (yes, the ones we want to eradicate with reusable totes). Thus, you can reuse those plastic bags over again by simply drying them out for a few hours.

*If you are really committed to reusables and you are out of plastic grocery bags, you can buy a cheap pack of reusable mesh or cloth produce bags at some stores and online.

*Ask yourself if you really need to place that produce in a bag at all. Bananas, oranges, carrots, cabbages, etc. are usually peeled, so you don’t need a bag for those items.

Remember To Use Your Bags

*If you have trouble remembering your reusable bags, you may want to consider rolling one up, putting a rubber band on it, and putting one into your car, purse or backpack. Once the bag is used, put it back into that place.

*Keep most of your reusable bags in your car, not in your house. As soon as you take groceries out of your reusable bags after your next trip to the store, set them right by the front door and bring them to your car the next time you go out.

More Simple Ways to Reduce Waste and Save Money

*Use paper-wrapped bar soap instead of plastic bottled liquid soap at the sink and in the shower.

*Use cloth napkins and rags for kitchen and automobile use instead of using paper towels. Toss them into the washing machine after use.

*See how to make your own tooth-paste with peppermint, coconut oil, and baking soda here.

*Create your own to-go silverware by wrapping a fork and spoon in a handkerchief or cloth napkin from your home.

*Since coffee cups are not recyclable, use a reusable mug to get coffee when you’re out! Many coffee shops offer a discount to those who bring their own cup.

*Switch to all online bill payments with your providers and opt-out of junk mail.

The Wrap Up

Ultimately, reducing waste doesn’t have to be complicated. We can choose to reuse items around the house such as containers or bags at the market, or to make essential items for our personal use. You can make a difference everyday by choosing to buy affordable, safe, non-plastic products for your family that reduce the impact on our natural environment.

If you have any unique waste reduction tips or general comments please send feedback to WRamericorps@knoxvilleTN.gov. Thanks for reading!
Posted by pmelnik On 20 April, 2020 at 9:48 PM