Help reduce waste by getting creative with single-use plastic
A short guide of suggestions with small steps you can take to minimize your use of plastic. Being conscious of consumer choices can help to keep a couple of things out of the landfill and be positive change we need to see in the world.
Make draw-string bags of burlap sacks
There are a lot of ways many countries could improve on their sustainability and environmental awareness, and ultimately I know the real problem lies with the companies who make money keeping things they way they are. I know what I am going to write is not a solution, but I have always thought, if I can keep just a couple of things out of the landfill, or make a little bit of a difference in some way, why not?
Troy Mayne / Oceanic Imagery Publication
Being from the United States and living in Spain, a lot of my focus is directed on my transition from the US to Spain and things that I’ve noticed Spain could improve on. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Spain is that you’re not allowed to touch the produce in many shops. Spain has these convenient little plastic gloves that you can use and throw away every time you go to the super market, I’ve seen people use multiple gloves for one visit. And like at home there are super thin plastic bags to put your glove picked produce into. The first thing I started doing was to invert my thin plastic bag and use the bag as a glove so as to not end up creating more single use plastic waste, and avoid dirty looks from the people around me, but honestly, aren’t you guys washing your produce when you get home anyway!?
Second observation in the supermarket: produce bags. We have these in the US too, so no judgment there. But we can all do better. There are some stores, like Carrefour, where you are required to weigh your selection, place a sticker on their flimsy little plastic bags, and then seal it with another sticker. Needless to say, there is no way to reuse these stickered bags. I’ve tried… But even if you shop at a store that doesn’t adulter these little bags, they are incredibly hard to reuse. I try to buy my produce from my local mercadillo or farmer’s market. But in between markets I end up at fruterias or Mercadona/Carrefour.
When I first started going to the mercadillo near my house (I have a lot to say about the mercadillos in Spain but that is a different topic) I noticed many vendors ended up tossing a lot of burlap sacks. I grabbed a few of these and strung a little fabric through some of the holes and made a draw-string bag.
ALMOST zero materials bought. And a couple of big burlap sacks kept out of the landfill. I found myself being nervous to use them, and how people responded to them was hit and miss. I’ve gotten confused looks and questions as to why I would do such things, but for the most part they’ve been received well. I’ve had people tell me that they wish everyone would bring their own bags, they’d save money. But not much, little plastic bags are ridiculously cheap, which is why there’s not much incentive to find a solution to the issue. This was cool for potatoes and oranges and such, bulky things you buy in large quantities, but less great for parsley for example. I also purchased some gorgeous organic cotton drawstring bags when I was at home in the US on Etsy. Esty is great because no matter what country you are in you can apply a filter to only show products made in your region, and this way you can make sure you support your local economy and save (money AND travel energy) on shipping. Whatever it is I need to buy I try to take a look to see if I can buy it locally, if not I’ll check etsy, and sometimes the store id close to you and you can stop by and pick up your product.
I’ve also started bringing Tupperware to my local buther’s and they are super happy to put whatever meat products I buy in my Tupperware. My butcher weighs the tupper before putting the meat so it’s not costing me any extra to bring them, and it always starts good conversation.
All of these silly, seemingly insignificant gestures start some sort of conversation. And for me this is the biggest prize. Our planet is going to suffer much more from a few hundred more flimsy produce bags per year that I would end up throwing away. I take every interaction as an opportunity to educate people as to why I care about the things that are happening, and the little action I can take as a single person to make some kind of difference. If I’m lucky, they might talk to someone in their circle about the hippie foreigner they had contact with spread a little awareness. Ultimately, we are all in this together and my goal is to get as many people aware of little things we can do, as well as the larger problem. Maybe they’ll see a little logic in what I’m doing, maybe they wont. Only one way to find out!
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