Saturday, February 19, 2011
I know what you're thinking, "What kind of a wasteful person buys three cantaloupes in a row when it is completely clear that she was unable to cut and serve the first... and the second?" The kind of person who does such a thing is the same person who bought two cantaloupes on sale for the price of one earlier this week. (For the record, I cut up and served both of those immediately.)
It's not that I wanted to be wasteful, it's that those three weeks were incredibly busy with a deadline looming for a first pass at my novel revisions. There was no time to cook, never mind do laundry or clean. So we had scrambled eggs and mac n' cheese for dinner, and we pretty much ran out of underwear and socks.
I wanted to shake things up. Add some variety to our diet, but I just couldn't find time to cut the melons.
My kids are tired of the now soft apples I've been buying at the grocery store every week since our farmer's market ended. Apple slices come home from school every day — barely eaten, and yes, get tossed into the compost. I can't say I blame the kids because there's nothing worse than a mealy apple — even if it is organic and US-grown. As it turns out, my girls don't care much for oranges, tangerines or clementines either. (Citrus is the only other US-grown fruit we can find in the winter.) I threw half a dozen of those in our compost and gave the rest away to our piano teacher. (He also received a full head of greens, three green peppers, and a handful of onions.)
Mid-way through this crazy period, I relented and purchased pre-cut melon and pineapple hoping I could make sure I wasn't totally neglecting nutrition.
When I went to the basement to dump those plastic containers into our recycling bin, I was wracked with guilt. My husband had forgotten to take the recycling out the week earlier and there was a small mountain in my basement. I was horrified at how much stuff we had accumulated in just two busy weeks — cereal boxes, jars from tomato sauce, macaroni and cheese boxes, milk cartons, old art projects, and homework we did not need. We'd been so busy that we'd regressed to our old wasteful ways: tossing, tossing and tossing away. Instead of cooking bulk dried beans, I bought cans (BPA-free, of course). I bought packaged chicken nuggets, waffles, and popsicles perhaps in an effort to somehow make up for feeling neglectful during such a busy time. It was easy to slip backwards.
Being good to the planet is so more than just recycling. Imagine how much energy it's going to take to repurpose all that stuff. It doesn't matter that soda bottles turn into carpets and milk jugs into cutting board. Just because it doesn't end up in land fill, doesn't mean there won't be an eco-cost.
The biggest challenge I need to work on is reducing my waste altogether — and that's hard when I'm burning the candle at both ends. That's hard for any fast-paced family. The bad news is, there are more busy times ahead, and reducing requires a great deal of planning, careful shopping and cooking. Until my novel is sold, I'm daunted by that prospect.
So I'll just appease my guilt with the knowledge that tossing a cantaloupe ... or three ... into the compost, along with some rotten root vegetables and uneaten lettuce, will not be my worst offense this winter. At least I will have rich soil, and if we're really lucky (like, magically lucky), that soil could be home to some melon plants.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
1) Say gooodbye to bags and hello to reusable lunch bags: Lunch boxes and bags are available virtually everywhere, and there are many different sizes and designs. If you choose an insulated bag, make sure it is lead-free. Many insulated bags can only be wiped down making them difficult to clean if nasty smells or stains appear. This year I ditched insulated bags for machine washable ones, like Mimi the Sardine. These provide greater longevity, but require ice packs to keep foods cool. For older kids, consider brands like Fluff or Rebel Green, which make fashion statements in addition to being eco-friendly. Personally, I steer clear of neoprene products because neoprene is made from a slew of chemicals, but Greensmart makes a large neogreene lunchbag that is healthier and machine washable.
2) Consider Cloth: What's old is new again. Search through your home looking for old cloth napkins or invest in affordable new ones. This is a great way to cut down on wasting paper, and napkins can be washed and used over and over again. You may love your napkins so much, you'll start using them at the dinner table.
3) Bring your own silverware: You can pick up reusable silverware at just about any big box store, like Target or Walmart. Generally speaking, you'll find stainless, plastic and bamboo options. Stainless is best if you just want to toss them into your dishwasher. Plastic and bamboo are lighter, but won't fare as well in a dishwasher. You don't need to spend a lot of money on silverware, and you might even have some left over from when your kids were smaller.
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Tip #2: Reusable Containers
For wet snacks: consider small stainless steel or plastic storage containers. Again, if you're going with plastic, make sure your products are BPA-free and have the numbers 2, 4 or 5 on the bottom. My two favorite brands are Sistema and Decor which are available at The Container Store. They seem to be easy enough for my kids to open and close on their own. Some other brands to consider: Tupperware, Rubbermaid, Fit and Fresh, Inate, and Kid Konserve. Fit and Fresh is especially nice because some of their containers come with thin, ice packs that snap right into the lids and are not bulky. Kid Konserve costs more and is heavier, but being stainless steel, alleviates leaching plastic concerns.
For hot lunches, nothing beats an old-fashioned Thermos. The Funtainer line comes in various patterns and designs.
For dry snacks and sandwiches: consider snack bags and snack wraps, which can easily replace plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and Ziplocs.
Available in various sizes, designs and fabrics, they are often lined with a more hearty fabric, like nylon, to keep food from leaking and staining.
I particularly like Moja Creations at Etsy.com because of their wide range of sizes and fabric designs. Etsy has many other snack bag designers, but we've had mixed luck with durability. I like throwing these in the laundry, and if they can't hold up to washing and drying, they aren't a good investment.
We also like Snack Taxis and Reusies available at Reusit.com. Both of these have held up well to washing and wear.
Candidly speaking, I'm not quite as sold on lunch wraps. While I love that they provide a clean place mat for your child to eat on, the sandwiches don't stay quite as fresh as they do in plastic wrap or foil. (I am cringing even as I admit this.) For a while, I switched back to aluminum foil, but now I'm putting sandwiches in storage containers with covers, and that seems to do the trick!