Plan Ahead to Stay Green

brown-paperbags-309963_640Eldest is currently writing a science report on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  I’ve put a link instead of a picture because, frankly, I find it too offensive to post a picture of what we have done to our oceans.  It is to weep.

This month’s posts have been loosely about renewal and rebirth, but before the riot of green that is spring, we are surrounded by the heaps of garbage that emerge from the melting snow, the bleak brown land reminding us of our hidden winter sins.  Chip bags, candy wrappers, pop cans, water bottles.  Oh, the water bottles.  As T. S. Eliot wrote,

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering          
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

I am no fan of spring, and even less of a fan of the sins that the forgetful snow exposes.

Food and drink packaging has to be the easiest green sin for a parent to fall prey to.  We were recently asked to review a food product that I had to decline to review because the ratio of food to packaging was so poor.  In this enlightened age, packaging seems to me to be proliferating, not disappearing.  Why manufacture, sell or buy 24 mini-bags of crackers instead of one box?  Why??  How much more time or effort does it take to throw them into a reusable container?

Don’t answer that.  My rhetoric belies my own waste.  How many times have I failed to plan ahead and had to buy snacks and drinks on the run, leaving a trail of garbage in our wake?

Last year, when the kids’ school instituted a full-time boomerang lunch (all litter goes back into the lunchbox to be disposed of at home), I embraced it wholeheartedly.  I had been a pretty eco-conscious lunch packer even before that, but now I aim to be letter perfect.  Everything goes into reusable containers for lunch.  I avoid at all costs individually wrapped snacks.  Granola bars are not healthy anyway, and if we want a treat, we go to the bakery some days after school and eat the treats right off of the shelf.  The drink boxes, about which I still feel a twinge of guilt, can at least be recycled at school.

This year, also, I made a conscious decision never to leave home on weekends and after school without packing food and drink that would also limit our garbage output.  Sliced fruit, a tub of raw almonds, some quickly-cut slices of cheese.  Water bottles.  It takes less than a minute to prepare and assemble these things, and it saves a world of whining and pleading about vending machine and snack bar “food” at the various rinks and arenas where we often find ourselves on weekends.  Less waste, better food.  Win win.

I am not an eco-warrior, or trail-blazer or even an exceptionally good consumer.  But I am a planner, and planning has made a huge difference this year.  Now, if I could just learn to love drinking coffee out of a reusable, portable mug….

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3 thoughts on “Plan Ahead to Stay Green

  1. I love and appreciate this post. A friend of mine has been trying to live to with only one garbage bag of garbage for the whole year, and has blogged (somewhat inconsistently) about it here: http://onefamilyoneyear.blogspot.ca/

    It amazes me what a little planning can do to save both money and the environment. Since getting pregnant, I’ve been constantly carrying snacks around with me everywhere, though mostly granola bars. I have them shoved into every purse I own.

  2. Thanks for this post! I’m 32 weeks pregnant and plan to use cloth diapers because it pains me to think of the mountain of plastic I would otherwise be contributing. I’ve read about Midway Island before – it really knocks some sense into us and makes us reflect on what it is that we are doing to the environment with each tiny decision we make in our everyday lives. I love your plan to only use reusable containers, would love any pointers on your favorites! future post idea 🙂

  3. Should come as no surprise to you that I can’t click on that link, but I can imagine it well enough, and do plan for food snacks and meals – better nutrition, and saves time and money and garbage.

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