The No Plastic Project: Real-life attempts to use less plastic

I'm a pretty good recycler.

I pore over mailings from our county recycling office to see what we can and can't recycle...I pick plastic bags out of the communal bin at my shop - I've even done a bare handed reach into my own trash to rescue a plastic container someone thought was trash. The thing is - with tighter rules on contamination, and fewer countries that want to recycle our mountain of plastic - a lot of the plastic I'm "saving" is probably going to end up as trash anyway.

It's way past time for me to get working seriously on that first R of our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra. I've been feeling inspired over the past months by Plastic Free New Jersey, and decided to start really focusing on how much plastic we use as a family. 

I know many of you already do the things I'm just starting to work on - this is really for my fellow newbies. The people who start to nervous sweat just thinking about the bulk aisle of the grocery store. I'm here for you, friends -  and yesterday, I double applied my natural deodorant (which is in a plastic container 🤦‍♀️) and went for it.

I already had a few mason jars in my pantry, so I found lids that fit, shoved them in my Trader Joe's wine bag, and headed out to the store. We try to buy organic produce when possible, and what I can't buy at Aldi, I buy at Whole Foods. That's where I went yesterday - if I shop the perimeter of the store, I spend WAY less than I do at other stores (except Aldi <3). 

So, when you bring your own jars, you need to have them weighed before you fill them. I stopped at the customer service desk and they weighed each jar (with the lid on) and wrote the weight on top of the lid with a marker. This is so the cashier knows the weight to deduct when you check out (you do not want to be paying extra for the weight of your big old mason jars.) This took all of two minutes and the lady at customer service clearly did this all the time.

Now, head on over to the bulk aisle and choose what you want - or stand there for 20 minutes deciding, and making everyone else feel uncomfortable, like I did. There was a lot to choose from at the West Windsor WF I shopped at. I really wanted the chocolate covered raisins and these truffle looking things, but went with granola, cashews, chick peas and quinoa.  Now, you need to write down the codes for each item so that the cashier knows how to ring you up. Whole Foods provides bag ties and pencils - so, as you fill each jar, just grab a pencil and write down the code from each bin on a bag tie.

The ties didn't fit around my wide mouth jars, but I eventually just tucked them in the ring that goes around each mason jar and that worked out fine.

When I checked out, the cashier knew exactly what to do, though she did have to call a manager over.  Since my jars were large, the weight she was deducting was over the limit she was allowed to do without approval - it just took an extra minute and was no big thing.

So, I'm not saving the planet here - I saved like, four plastic bags that I would have otherwise bought. But, it was a successful baby step. I'm going to do it again - and I made a list of the other pantry items I can get at the bulk aisle and will see if I can find less expensive options at smaller natural food stores.

I also took stock of the plastic I still wound up coming home with, and have a couple of ideas how to reduce that next week - stay tuned! 

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