Part I: Dinnerware and Storage
I am keeping most of our plastic storage containers. They are handy for lunches, and since they're all #5 (polypropylene), I'm not too worried about chemicals leaching out of them (I know there have been some reports of chemicals associated with #5, but I spend all of my work days reading about chemicals in consumer products, and that's not an area where concern has risen above a few blogs). Plus, we never heat up anything or put hot foods in them. And, from a solid waste perspective, I think it would be unconscionable to just toss perfectly good items such as these:
When they do finally die, though (many of the lids are cracking already), I want to replace them with more of these:
I do love my Martha Steward Every Day glass storage containers (despite their plastic lids). Though I suppose I'll need to get more of the glass-lidded types. I'd love to get more antique ones like that blue Pyrex, but C hates them because they're not dishwasherable. For portable food (can't exactly pack glass in school lunchboxes), I bought E, Z and M each one of those LunchBots. I really like that they're rectangular(ish), rather than round, and this model has a divider so I can send them two things in one, but the paint started to chip off the lids, so I was not going to even consider getting more, until last week they (completely unsolicited--I hadn't gotten around to emailing them yet) sent me replacement lids. Apparently one batch had bad paint jobs. So if the new lids work out, I'll probably be buying more in the future.
And we do use some plastic bags--we don't buy them, but they make their way into our home in various ways, and we make use of them until they begin to fall apart. Here's our bag-drying system:
Part II: Food Packaging
"I really don't get how you do all this stuff while working and raising kids. I would be impressed if you were an at-home mommy, but as it is, I am just baffled. I have one less kid than you do, and mine are girls, and so probably can go longer without getting hurt/fighting and I already get much, much, much less sleep than I truly need to, not to mention practically no exercise except in the summer/other vacations resulting in my dangerous fatness, and I cannot imagine forgoing all of the convenience crap that is sending me to hell for sure because I just don't think I can function well enough or drive my kids around if I cut the sleep allocation down to three hours a night. Are there two of you?"
And "splits"--where we break down a big case of something into smaller portions for people, usually get bagged in plastic, depending on who is doing the breakdown. At our co-op meeting, I quietly suggested we go plastic-free, but I think I need to get more assertive in may campaign.
I have also started buying a few bulk items from the limited selection that I recently discovered at a local grocery store. At first I agonized over how to package them--reuse old plastic bags? No, they get lost in my car and usually already have a different price label on them. Make cloth bags? No time, no time. Finally, I remembered one of C's relatives, for some reason, gave us a package of 100 brown paper lunch bags. The boys have reusable lunch bags, so they were just languishing on the craft supply shelf. Now I keep a couple of them with me, so that I can fill them up (and reuse them if I don't buy something greasy) when I'm at that store. The only problem is I usually just end up buying snacks instead of staples (and I do feel bad that I'm taking business away from the small, locally-owned health food store...which prepackages all of is bulk foods in plastic bags)! I have also found that the grocery store has the following unpackaged organic produce (most organic produce is bagged or shrink-wrapped on Styrofoam trays, which kinda defeats the point of it being organic, doncha think?): collards, Swiss chard, beets, lettuce, fresh herbs, scallions and sometimes oranges (though they cost way more than the ones at the health food store). I put these into a nylon grocery bag (which doesn't stop the moisture from leaking through, but who cares?).
The Bottom Line
The problem of our oceans becoming a soup of plastic bits is a global environmental crisis of ozone-hole proportions, and is going to require international action of the Montreal Accord stature if anything meaningful is to be done. But I don't see it as an issue that has even made a bleep on the radar screens of our world leaders. Which sucks, because plastic right now, for the consumer, is the default option. It is just too much to expect consumers to "vote with their dollars." Especially when, as far as I can tell, most people don't even get it, or care. And most of those of us who do, can't make a full-time job of avoiding plastic.
As for me? On Monday I sent C to the store to buy a (plastic) bag of breakfast cereal.