Some of my friends tease me for being so into recycling and not wasting and all that. I’ve even had some awkward social encounters as a result of my natural desire to not waste. I don’t love getting teased, but I do love finding ways to waste less.
Here are some relative painless ways I bring the values of not wasting/reusing into my life:
Bring my own bags to the grocery store
Some stores area friendlier about this than others. I am pretty (unnecessarily) sensitive to the moods of cashiers, so if I bring my bags and the cashier gives me a hard time, I am less likely to bring my bags again to that place. Thankfully, there are a number of stores here that not only encourage bringing bags, but also give you a small discount. Target, Heinen’s (a locally owned grocery store), and obviously Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.
I have a friend who even brings her reusable bags to Wal-Mart, but, alas, I am not as brave a soul as she.
I still use the general plastic bags for lining trash cans, for containing soiled pull-ups, or for wrapping up my Mishpacha magazines before recycling them (because they have divrei Torah, but not sheimos, so double-wrapping is recommended, but, as always, ask your LOR).
It took me a good long while before I got into the habit of remembering my bags (so frustrating to get into the store and realize your bags are at home, or, even worse, get to the register and realize your bags are in the car!), so this is what I do now:
I leave the bags in my car, in the passenger seat, or on the floor on the passenger side. As soon as I empty out my groceries, I hang the bags on the front door so that when I go back to my car I can put them back in the passenger side. And this has worked remarkably well.
I even upped my reusable bag game by ordering these reusable mesh bags for produce, so I don’t even have to use the stores plastic bags for that so much. I love it!
I Ditched Those K-Cups
I got a small Keurig as a gift some years ago, and while I do love the convenience of it (especially since I’m the only one who drinks coffee in our household), I didn’t love having to buy K-cups, which can be pricey, unless I bought in bulk, but then I had to figure out a good place to store them. I don’t have so much room on my dairy counter, and I didn’t love taking up so much cabinet space either, but buying the smaller amounts always seemed so expensive.
Plus the K-cups create a lot of waste, and I couldn’t recycle them (well, not without it being a massive headache). One of my neighbors in Baltimore clued me into the idea of using a reusable K-cups. So I bought something like this, and now I just buy already ground coffee and spoon it in, or I buy coffee beans and grind them myself in my little home grinder.
The pros are that I save money, create less waste, and have to store less stuff.
The cons are that it’s a little annoying to have to rinse out the K-cup whenever I need to make a new cup. It doesn’t rise out super easily and I have to use my finger to get all the grounds out.
Using Real Dishes More
So this one is the hardest thing for big families, especially kosher-keeping ones, in my opinion. I’m fortunate enough to have two dishwashers (amazing luxury that I highly recommend if you can manage it), so this has been something I’ve been able to do more of since we moved into this house with its swank kitchen.
My kids still go through about 25 million plastic cups, seemingly taking a new one for each time they need a drink, so I have a ways to go in training them, but overall, I try to use real plates (and by real I mean melamine, or trays like this, etc.) and real cutlery and real everything at mealtime, which not only saves waste, but saves money.
Because I’m also pragmatic, I still have a very large drawer dedicated solely to paper goods because sometimes I know I am going to be too busy or overwhelmed to want to wash things, or when we have guests over, or whatever other reason I find valid at the time.
I just have to train my kids to not take a new cup every. Single. Time.
Those are my hacks. Is this something you work on at all? If so, what works for you? What doesn’t?
Also, I have a new piece up on Jew In The City, feel free to go check it out!