Did you know that during the holiday season the average household creates 25% more waste? Extra food, shopping bags, wrapping paper, and more. Although the holidays are over, it’s never a bad idea to start being mindful of your waste, and ways to reduce it.
Bags and Packaging
Re-useable shopping bags (such as canvas bags) are trendy and all the rage, and for good reason. The facts are overwhelming when it comes to the benefits of reusable bags (over it’s lifespan it is the equivalent of an average of 700 disposable plastic/paper bags). While many know the harms of plastic bags to the environment (it can take up to 1000 years for just 1 to decompose, and they make up over 10% of washed-up debris on the US coastline), paper bags aren’t harmless either (over 14 million trees are cut down in the US annually to maintain the supply). And at this point, you can’t go anywhere without seeing reusable bags for sale. They’re even stocked full at local secondhand stores if you really want to go green.
And reusable bags aren’t only for grocery shopping. Heading to the mall to exchange or return some holiday gifts? Why not take a reusable bag with you to carry any new purchases.
Another big problem is food waste. While there are many things you can do with leftover food items (leftover meat bones and/or vegetable scraps, make homemade stock which can be used right away or freeze for future use), try to eliminate the waste before it’s created. Know you’re going out of town for the weekend? Lighten your grocery load this week. Don’t think you’ll use that sausage you bought before it goes bad? Put it in the freezer for when you are back in town after your weekend getaway! A few great ways to shop mindfully:
- Go to the meat counter and the deli counter for exact amounts. Don’t get stuck with a full pound of lunch meat when you know you only go through 3/4 of it. You may a recipe that calls for 1.5 lbs of pork, but you can only find a package of 2 lbs. Whatever the situation, you can get any exact amount of meat you need from these counters, and they’ll give it to you with much less packaging than what is displayed in other parts of the store. And as a bonus, oftentimes certain brands and cuts will be on sale at the counter. This rule can also be applied to cheeses.
- Shop Bulk! Shopping in bulk can take some getting used to, but it’s another great waste reducer. Rather than getting a box that is full of small individual packages of raisins or peanuts, you can get 1 bag full of exactly the amount you need. And without a name brand on the product, you’re also looking at a smaller bill. If you want to take it a step further and eliminate the plastic bag you use for your bulk purchase, there are many options out there. For food staples such as rice, pasta, grains, beans, nuts, granola, and even candy, it’s the best way to shop. We’re lucky, because in Ann Arbor there are a multitude of stores that offer a great variety of bulk products, and can even introduce you to new items (try quinoa or wheat berries in place of rice, almost all stores that offer bulk will have options like this).
- Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you need to purchase the full amount. When a sale sign says “3 for $10” oftentimes you don’t need to purchase the full 3 items for the sale price. Find out the sale policies at your favorite stores before you stock up on food you don’t need and won’t use.
- Plan out your meals ahead of time so you know exactly what you’ll need
Still have lots of leftover food after your shopping trip?
- Save leftovers in small 1-serving size containers for convenient future meals
- Donate extra dried or canned food to area food banks
- Get creative and turn those leftovers into new meals (and we don’t mean cafeteria-style)
- And never forget to make good use of your freezer
If you’re planning on throwing a party big enough where your normal plates, glasses, silverware, etc won’t cut it, be sure to select serveware that is made of recycled materials, or is biodegradable. While this at one point was a difficult task, you can find these products almost everywhere. And feel free to get creative, such as offering wooden chopsticks as the only utensils for the event (however, you may want to make sure everyone know how to use them!)