Before I was a mama, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the ways in which our family produced waste, conserved, or recycled. I was born and raised in Washington state and spent six years in Seattle before moving to Denver, so I just assumed things like recycling were what everyone did. So I diligently recycled, turned my lights off, turned the tap off when I was brushing my teeth, and patted myself on the back for a job well done.
Then I moved to Colorado, started working in a hospital (<– they often don’t recycle nearly as much as they could), and had two baby girls. And I think it was mamahood, more than anything, which showed me just how much garbage one little family could make – and alternatively, that there were a couple of really easy changes we could make to do at least a little bit better.
I’ve thrown together this list of five small changes our family has made in an effort to reduce a little bit of the waste we create. While a couple of them are related to having littles in the house, mostly, these little changes (could) apply to all of us. Of note – there is an upfront financial cost to making these changes. I don’t want to ignore that. But, in the long run, these choices will save you money (I’ve already seen that in the 2 years or so we’ve been doing most of these).
5 SIMPLE WAYS TO ‘GO GREEN’ IN THE KITCHEN
Someone got me a Stasher (no BPA, no PVC, no latex) bag a couple of years ago and I fell in love. Once E hit the age of preschool and packed snacks, I could not believe the number of plastic bags we were going through. I was also using a ton in the kitchen, usually just to store half an apple, half an avocado, etc. We now have half a dozen Stasher bags in different sizes, and I truly could not tell you the last time I used (or had to buy) disposable plastic bags.
Composting is required in Seattle, so when I moved to Colorado, I was surprised to realize that is not the reality in most places. Interestingly (and maybe ridiculously), we paid for compost for our yard waste, but never invested in the couple things to make kitchen composting easier. This year I made a goal to actually compost in the kitchen as well – and I am amazed at how much I was throwing in the garbage (even with a garbage disposal). Psst…paper towels are compost. I know you mamas use 1,897 of those a day. I don’t want to ignore that compost has a cost (I believe we pay about $120 annually to the city), but if it’s available to you in your city and it’s an investment you are willing to make, I think you’ll find it’s so easy. Jenn and I both use this compost bin and these compost bags. It never smells → which can definitely be an issue with some bins.
I invested in these early in E’s life – and I am so glad that I did. I was amazed at the number of pouches that littles went through and I could not believe that they weren’t recyclable. There are a couple of companies working towards recyclable and compostable options, but right now, it all is just SO much garbage. I’ve had to buy these Squooshi bags twice, as we do occasionally lose them. Mostly, we use them for applesauce (buy the big applesauces for refills from Costco or Sam’s) and smoothies (and my completely sporadic forays into making my own baby food or yogurt concoctions). I KNOW that they have saved us a decent amount of money AND saved a ton of waste. Pro tip: A bottle brush works great for a quick clean out of the insides.
My mother in law sent me one of these Vejibags a year ago and I fell in love. I have loved it even more in this quarantine season, as popping out for fresh produce just isn’t as easy or appropriate as it used to be. Plastic containers eventually suffocate produce – these bags offer more of the humid environment produce needs to stay fresh up to 2x longer. Also, these bags can be washed just like regular laundry, so that’s a win too.
I feel like I keep saying this, but as soon as I got these, I couldn’t believe how much I used them. These Food Huggers come in a bunch of different sizes, so they fit all kinds and sizes of fruits and veggies. I was always throwing those extra halves of produce in a plastic bag, so this has been another great way to stop using that single-use plastic. Food Huggers offers an ‘avocado hugger’ set as well, but our family prefers this one (it’s large enough that it always fits) for avocados.
Note: For the mamas of littles, I know that cloth diapers are an amazing way to potentially eliminate waste as well. It was not a change our family or Jenn’s family was able to make (related to a variety of reasons), so we can’t speak to that. But, I wanted to acknowledge that very real change that many families choose to make!
I’m laughing a little as I write this, as I know that this is a very short list and these are some very small ways to change our patterns and routines. I know there is always more we could do – but, I am also encouraged by the small ways we can do something today. A little bit is always better than nothing. And I’ve texted enough friends about our compost bin and our Squooshi bags that I figured there may be another family or two who would want to make one of these changes too.
Are we missing a product or change you and your family have made and loved? Let us know. I’m always open to making another change.