11 tips to fight plastic pollution during a pandemic.

 

We used to bring home just one or two plastic-packaged groceries home from the store.  Now, with stores closing bulk bins due to COVID-19,  it feels like almost half of our groceries are in plastic.  Plastic is our clogging our waterways, polluting our planet, killing wildlife, and ending up in our bodies.  Even though our world feels upside-down during the pandemic, there are still ways to fight plastic pollution.

 

Instead of giving up altogether, I’ve put together 11 ways to fight plastic pollution during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

At home:

 

1. If your tap water is safe, drink it instead of bottled water.

 

Avoid the packaging and cut down on the amount of microplastics that you eat at the same time! According to a 2018 study, bottled water has twice as many microplastics as tap water.  If your tap water is safe (i.e., you don’t live in Flint, MI or one of many other communities where contamination has occurred), it’s better for you and the planet than bottled water.  See where your communities stands here:  https://www.ewg.org/tapwater/

 

2. Store your food without plastic.

Certain plastic containers may leach harmful chemicals into foods, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Save your old plastic containers for non-food stuff, like organizing your kids art supplies or pebble collection.  Use plastic-free containers instead for your food like glass jars, pyrex, stainless steel, and wax wraps.  You can get plastic-free containers at LifeWithoutPlastic.com and wax wraps from yours truly at https://notraceshop.com/beeswaxwraps/

3. Choose to cook at home most of the time.  

 

I admit, this one is kinda tough for me.  I mean, cooking &/or washing dishes everyday and night gets old, amiright?  But we try to limit our take out to once a week.  One of our local pizza shops delivers vegan pizza (no plastic box topper!) so we’ll enjoy it and then compost the box.  And we’re trying to support our favorite restaurants during the pandemic.  Normally we’d dine in.  But we’ve opted for takeout in plastic, just sparingly.  

 

I’ve got a few posts on easy, low waste, vegan dinner ideas here and here  and here.

 

4. Keep microplastics out of our water.

 

Put your synthetic fabrics into a Guppyfriend bag or toss a Cora ball into your wash to catch the microfibers released by your fabrics.  You can get a Guppyfriend bag at Ethos in Capitola (shop online here) and a Cora ball from Earthhero.com. Microplastics are polluting our water and ending up in our bodies.  Stopping them at the source is key.

 

At the store:

 

 

 

 

 

 

5. Buy larger quantities.

 

If you can’t shop into your own containers, like we can’t right now, opt for the largest portion you can find that won’t spoil.  Pantry staples like beans and grains are a safe bet, as well as flour, sugar, salt, and other baking supplies.  

 

6. Look for paper over plastic packaging.

 

Since bulk foods aren’t available in bulk right now, we’ve been searching for paper-packaged versions instead.  We’ve been able to find paper alternatives for pasta, sugar, salt, pinto beans, lentils, rice, & flour.  We recycle the paper packaging if it’s clean, and compost it if it’s not.  

 

We’re also looking for glass and metal options over plastic – e.g., certain peanut butter and olive oil brands come in large plastic-free packaging.

 

7. Rethink certain ingredients.  

Can you substitute something in plastic for something not?  Can you find a lower waste alternative?  Opt for unpackaged fruits & veggies in the produce aisle.  Now’s the time to show your flexibility with food.  In our house, rather than buy green lentils in plastic, e.g., we’re eating mostly red lentils that we were able to buy in a huge paper bag.  

 

8. If you can’t bring your own bags, skip the bag altogether.  

 

Lots of stores will let you put your groceries into your cart, then use your own bags at your bike or car or on the curb.  We’ll place loose produce in our cart and then bag it at home in our own cloth bags.  You can shop for cloth bags made by No Trace here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In your community…

9. Write a letter to your local paper

AND

10. Write to your favorite local business thanking them for positive steps and asking for more.

Tell them that we need to return to/move towards reusable options in our shops, restaurants, and cafes.

Wondering if your own containers are safe during COVID-19?  The short answer is YES!

 

More than 100 scientists have signed a statement that “reusable systems can be used safely by employing basic hygiene”.  As long as we follow basic hygiene recommendations, there’s no reason to think that reusable containers are riskier than disposable containers.  In fact, the virus lives longer on plastic than on cloth, glass, and paper (

read the statement by scientists here

.  Also, although washing your hands and not touching your face is still important, the spread of COVID-19 is happening through aerosolized droplets, not from germs that remain behind on surfaces.  Spread the word!  

In the global community…

11.  Reach out to the biggest plastic polluters and demand action.

 According to a

report by Break Free From Plastic

, the 3 biggest polluters in 2019 include Coca Cola, Nestle, and PepsiCo.  Break Free From Plastic demands that corporations “reveal their plastic footprint, reduce the plastic they produce, and reinvent their packaging to be reusable”.  Reach out to them through social media or their websites. Ask your friends and family to do the same.  Take & share pictures of their plastic litter.  Demand that corporations take responsibility for their plastic pollution.

 

 

 

 

There you have it – my top 11 ways to fight plastic pollution during apandemic.  Do you have any to add?  Share in the comments below!

 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Liz

One of the bestsellers at No Trace is beeswax wraps – it’s also the one item that needs an explanation for many folks. So, I thought I’d take a minute to talk about the wonders of beeswax wraps.

Beeswax wraps are an all natural, reusable, biodegradable alternative to plastic wrap. They can be used throughout your kitchen and lunch bag in the same way that plastic wrap and plastic bags might be used. Beeswax wraps are washable and last a year or longer.  They are great for fruits, veggies, sandwiches, burritos, cheeses, and more.  

Here’s a list of the ways you might want to use a beeswax wrap:

  • wrap half of a lemon
  • wrap the cut end of a cucumber
  • cover a bowl for extra freshness
  • wrap apple slices in your kid’s lunch
  • wrap your sandwich
  • wrap your burrito
  • wrap fresh carrots from the market to keep them crisp
  • wrap your carrot sticks in your lunch
  • wrap cheese from the store
  • wrap cheese slices for your snack
  • cover a jar that’s missing a lid
  • wrap your cookie dough 
  • wrap your pizza dough
  • wrap a cut melon

The wraps keep your food fresh, just like plastic wrap, without sending plastic to the landfill.  They are functional and economical for you and green for the earth.  And they add color and cheer to your kitchen!  

How to use it

Using your wrap is simple – just wrap it around your food or bowl.  The warmth of your hands will help the wax soften slightly and mold into the corresponding shape.  The wraps aren’t sticky but can be folded into a tight seal.  Each wrap also comes with a matching tie made from fabric scraps.  You can use your tie for an extra strong seal if you are taking your food on the go or just want an extra firm closure.

How it’s made

Each beeswax wrap is handmade with organic cotton and beeswax – nothing else.  Wax is melted onto the cotton to create a breathable, moisture tight barrier for your food.  Each wrap comes with a handmade tie, made from scraps of the matching fabric.

Care information

Beeswax wraps should be handwashed in cold water with gentle soap.  You can let your wrap air dry or wipe it dry with a hand towel.  Beeswax wraps should not be used in the microwave or oven.  The wraps should be kept out of direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.  The matching ties can be washed in washing machines.  If you care for your wrap, it should last a year or longer.  But over time the wax will wear off and your wrap will no longer be moisture tight.  Once this occurs, you can simple compost your wrap in your home compost bin – cutting into smaller pieces will help it break down more quickly.

Purchasing a wrap

No Trace currently carries two sizes, 12 X 12 and 8 X 8 inches, and two fabrics – Pears and Pink/Gold Lines. All beeswax wraps come with a matching made from fabric scraps.  Given that the ties are made from scraps, the lengths vary slightly.  

Give them a try – they are an awesome addition to any kitchen!

Groceries have traditionally been one of my family’s largest sources of landfill waste every week – all of that food packaging! Since we started incorporating more zero waste principles into our lives, we’ve been able to eliminate a huge amount of that waste. I thought I’d take a minute to share with you our shopping routines.

The main switch towards zero waste grocery shopping is that we now do the majority of our shopping out of bulk bins and the produce aisle, and at the farmer’s market. Santa Cruz, CA is really blessed with some amazing local grocery stores include Aptos Natural Foods, Staff of Life, and New Leaf, among others. We can shop for nearly everything we need in bulk at these stores. It just takes a little planning and prepping before we go out.

In a typical week, we’ll buy lots of fruits and of veggies to sustain our breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. We buy the loose, unpackaged fruits and veggies, and use our produce bags, as well as some I bought at Whole Foods and on Etsy (before I started making them myself – there are lots of great shops on Etsy!). These bags weigh very little in relation to the produce, but you could write down their empty weight and ask the cashier to subtract it if you like. Fresh fruits and veggies are probably the easiest items for you to start purchasing without packaging.

Fruits and veggies alone won’t sustain us for a week. Our proteins are generally eggs, tofu, cheese, peanut or almond butter, dried beans, and Annie’s cashew pimento spread – another local company and a delicious vegan cheese substitute! And we buy grains like bread, cereal, pasta, and oats, and we always need some snacks and sweets. And then there are usually some pantry staples on our shopping list like flour, spices, tea, oils, soy sauce, vinegar, etc. We are fortunate to find nearly all of these products in bulk in Santa Cruz – Staff of Life and Aptos Natural Food in particular have excellent bulk sections. In order to shop as close to zero waste as possible, I make a list of everything I will buy in bulk, and then make sure that I have the correct container for it. Check my instagram feed (no_trace_shop) for a picture of what I took to the store last time I went.

I had to get 3 liquidy/gooey things last time including honey, olives, and peanut butter. I brought 3 jars and wrote what I needed on the lid of each, and the tare weight. I got the tare weight at home with a little kitchen scale – it gave me ounces but just divide the number of ounces by 16 to get the tare weight. I also brought two beeswax wraps for the cheese. The deli staff will cut a chunk of cheese for you if you ask, and then I wrap it in my beeswax wrap instead of their plastic wrap. They usually give me a sticker, which I show to the cashier. I brought lots of bags for produce, fruits, grains, and other dry goods. And I bring my list and a pen so I can write down the bulk bin code for everything on my list.

There are a few speciality items that require a special trip. When I shop at the farmer’s market, I can get eggs from a farmer, and I can also return any of my empty egg cartons to this farmer. I also get eggs from my in-laws during the sunnier seasons. Otherwise I get eggs at the store and save the cartons for my next trip to the farmer’s market. Sometimes we get chips from a taqueria – at least one taqueria in Santa Cruz will let you fill your own container with chips. We got a medium bag for about $3 last time. We also just started getting our ice cream from a local ice cream shop – Marianne’s. They do hand packed pints for $5.50. It is a bit more than what you get at the store, but you can bring in your own pint jar or take out one their containers, which are paper and 100% recyclable.

Unfortunately, there are still a few things we can’t buy in bulk or from the farmer’s market. These include tofu (we recycle the packaging, though), Annie’s spread, salsa (although there might be taqueria that will let us buy this in our own container), maple syrup, Earth Balance (vegan butter), Veganaise (vegan mayo), mustard, ketchup, and yogurt. The worst of these is yogurt – we could easily go through a couple of plastic tubs a week. I’ve thought about making yogurt at home, but I am reluctant to add another task to my to-dos. We just started making homemade almond milk, though – that is really only 5 minutes! I’ll post on that in the future.

We are making some good strides, though in our efforts to unpackage our foods. I think of it as an interesting mental exercise, trying to get as much as possible without packaging. I’ve also found that our cupboards are less cluttered, look much more appealing, and have very few processed foods in them. You can sneak a peek of our cupboards on my Instagram feed (no_trace_shop). That in itself is rewarding, and also prevents us from stockpiling foods and overlooking older purchases. Have you changed the way you shop for groceries? I’d love to hear about it! Share in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!