As a child, I distinctly remember school assignments that challenged us to re-use some plastic found in our house. I can vividly recall making a bird feeder by cutting openings into a soda bottle, weaving rag rugs from old clothes and making compost which I bagged and brought to school for show and tell. It’s likely these experiences have had a positive influence on my life (thanks Mom & Dad) as I still enjoy finding ways to reuse materials, turning waste into something useful.
However, what has changed is my growing awareness that the idea of merely reusing materials to extend their life is another clever redirect of corporations. The fact is that less 10% of plastics ever made have ever been recycled! The notion that plastic waste is our problem to manage instead of those producing the products and packaging is one that needs to change. Learn more about the life cycle of plastics in this animated short film.
As with many aspects of our current climate crisis, the solutions may seem too big or too overwhelming. It has helped me to consider what’s within my power to change. When I look around the farm, there remains a lot of plastic! From our product packaging, to the tarps covering hay, the feeders used by our chickens, the water buckets for our sheep and goats and the brushes we use to scrub out water tanks- it’s not ideal. However, it has caused me to look to other areas where change is easier. One of the first was buying these wood and natural bristle scrub brushes. We’ve got one at each of the barns to replace the plastic ones. As a testament to their quality, Ida has sampled one and it held up to her chewing!
Around the house, I’ve found more traction in enacting changes to reduce consumption of plastics. One of the first places I started was by buying refills or buying in bulk- a gallon jug of Dr Bronner’s liquid soap will last us more than a year and I simply refill a smaller bottle as needed. I buy several liters of olive oil and refill a glass dispenser instead of accumulating glass jars. I’ve switched from ziplock bags to paper bags. While I do keep a stash of quart sized freezer bags on hand for preserving produce, we now only use waxed paper bags for packing snacks and leftovers. I’ve embraced the beeswax wraps to replace saran wrap too. While I was skeptical about these, I’ve become a convert. I purchased two of the assorted size packs and find the ranges of sizes is just right.
Many cleaning products are primarily water and so looking around I noticed an increasing number of companies offering refills in many forms. One of these was laundry detergent and a tangible reward of investigating these alternatives, was ditching oversized jugs of laundry detergent! I never enjoyed lugging those around the grocery store while shopping and even worse finding a spot to store them. Switching to laundry strips is a total game changer! They fit anywhere, work great on farm clothes, and never spill.
Likewise with dish soap, switching to a solid round bar of soap made my new wooden handled dish brush even easier to use. This tool enables me to keep my hands dry (important when you wash as many eggs as I do) AND the head is fully-compostable and replaceable which I love. Some similarly useful products include a biodegradable toilet brush, a metal mop with replaceable head and Maine-made re-useable cleaning cloths. While I certainly don’t think reducing plastic can be managed simply by “buying our way out” of the problem, this post may help you look around your home and investigate some plastic free options.
All of the products mentioned in this post are ones I’ve purchased, tried and love.