Monthly Archives: March 2010

A better baggie

We all know plastic bags are bad. They litter our streets and beaches. They masquerade as delicious jellyfish and then choke our lovable marine animals. They photo-degrade (very, very, VERY slowly, I might add), breaking into smaller and smaller bits of toxic contaminates. They’re made from oil, a limited resource in such demand it’s worth starting wars over. According to the EPA, over 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are consumed in the U.S. each year. That’s a lot of oil. And a lot of garbage.

If only the evil things weren’t so damn useful!

I found plastic grocery bags (and their paper counterparts) easy enough to abandon, and have been using reusable canvas grocery totes for years. And my purse of choice on the weekends is anything stylishly oversized so I can tote home any errand purchases bag free. Easy.

A tougher opponent, I’ve found, is the sandwich bag – particularly at lunch making time. For my own lunches, I prefer reusable glass containers like these and these from Crate & Barrel (less expensive options are certainly available at your local Target or thrift store – check for things like dishwasher/microwave/freezer safe and BPA-free plastic lids). The only problem I’ve had with these containers is my coworker, who’s been known to knock them out of the refrigerator and smash them to bits on the floor, ruining both my container and my long anticipated lunch.

But I’m certainly not going to send my son to school with glass containers. Plastic Tupperware-type containers have a better chance of remaining in one piece and are less costly to replace when he absent-mindedly throws them in the trash, but I don’t like putting my kid’s food in plastic if I can avoid it. So, what then?

Enter ReUsies, stage left.

Bubble Licious Sandwich ReUsie

ReUsies are reusable cotton sandwich and snack bags. They’re lined with a sort of nylony netting that’s super easy to clean (I wipe mine with a damp cloth after daily use, and throw them in the laundry on the weekends). They come in two sizes and velcro close. And, miracle of miracles, my son somehow manages to not throw them away. How brilliant is that? (Added bonus for me: ReUsies are made by Seattle moms, which means I also get to support/buy local.)

A quick Google search shows that there are similar products available on Etsy (like these and these), though ReUsies are the only ones I’ve used and can personally vouch for.* As an alternative, I’ve also seen plastic baggie dryers (like this, or this do-it-yourself version) that allow you to wash out and reuse regular plastic sandwich bags, but I have little faith that my kid would remember to bring home his baggies.

Next foe to defeat: the plastic produce bag. I use as few as possible, and I wash out and reuse any that aren’t lined with rotting vegetable slime. But I’ve yet to figure out a true replacement. Any ideas?

*This is not a paid or comped endorsement of any kind. The ReUsies folks don’t even know I exist. I just really like their product. Hand to gawd.

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I begin this experiment knowing I will fail

The original inspiration behind this blog was a sudden impulse to live for a year without buying anything new. I would buy second-hand. I would make things. Maybe even barter. But I would purchase nothing brand new.

I dwelt on the idea for a while, and it felt lovely. It felt real. It felt like me.

But then I thought of shampoo. Was I really going to make my own shampoo? What about milk? And garbage bags?  And what about the fact that I don’t know how to make anything? I have a sewing machine, but I can’t even thread the damn thing without my mother’s assistance. And what if, god forbid, I just really wanted some Skittles? I certainly couldn’t make those, and I didn’t even want to think about what buying them second-hand might mean.

The list of “can’t”s went on and on. Dwelling on the idea no longer felt lovely. It felt heavy, and lumpy, and hard. And then I said the same words that have derailed far too many a good idea: “This is impossible. I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing.”

To be fair, I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing. But it’s not impossible for me to learn. I am, in fact, an excellent learner. I still have the report cards to prove it. And it would be silly to wait to document and blog about this little experiment until I do know what I’m doing. Not when there are sure to be so many excellent missteps and opportunities for good-natured self-deprecation along the way.

And so here we are again. I’m not prepared to live for a year without buying anything new. I don’t know that I ever will be, or will ever actually want to attempt it. But the impulse behind the impulse is the same: creating less waste, leaving a smaller footprint, teaching my children to be mindful of the earth. I don’t have to know what I’m doing before I start.

I begin this experiment knowing I will fail, in one way or another. And I am okay with that.

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