Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Over the past weekend, I was back home in Oregon to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family. My mom has been following my blog, and she knew I was trying to live plastic free. She also told my grandma, who was preparing Thanksgiving dinner, about my pledge.
A roast turkey prepared for a traditional U.S....
Great, this is going to go well, I thought.

I have a loving and supporting family, but when it comes to my environmentalist vein, I tend to drive the family a bit nuts. Heck, they’re still just adjusting to me being a pescatarian. Trying to make it five days without purchasing plastic or consuming food packaged in plastic? I figured I didn’t stand a chance.

I guess it’s a measure of how supportive my family is that they tried at all to get food that was plastic free. Even with our efforts to reduce, we weren’t able to entirely eliminate the plastic. Allow me to break it down:

The Jello Incident: The first night my girlfriend and I stayed with her parents in Portland. As per normal, the moment we stepped into the house, we were inundated with offers of food. Normally, I just politely refuse the food, preferring to leave with my waistline intact. However, I discovered almost immediately that my girlfriend’s mother had made an irrational amount of Jello. And by irrational, I mean ten boxes. Of Jello. I knew that Jello powder was contained in plastic bags within the boxes. Plus, all the Jello jigglers were stored in little plastic cups (thankfully, reusable) covered in Saran wrap (unfortunately, not reusable). I figured it would be impolite to refuse all the Jello, so I settled on having one of the cups.

Success at Breakfast: Most mornings over the holidays, I escaped with a banana, eggs, and pastries or rolls that came in cardboard packaging. Breakfast proved the easiest meal. I was forced to refuse to pick up my mother’s cinnamon dulce latte at Starbucks at one point, because she didn’t have a reusable cup. Adding that one to the Christmas list!

The Big Meal (a.k.a how I totally suck at Thanksgiving): I’ve never really been a fan of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Through childhood, I was content with some turkey, a few rolls, and some fruit salad. It took twenty years of my life to decide to opt-in to stuffing. I still don’t eat mashed potatoes, gravy, or cranberries—and now turkey has been replaced by salmon. In other words, I suck at Thanksgiving. So let’s look at where I succeeded and where I failed with my plastic pledge.

Salmon: Bought at a fresh fish market. Unfortunately, it was wrapped in a plastic bag, which I’m afraid was destined for the trash can because of its fishiness. Fail.

Stuffing: Comes in a box, but inside the box is a plastic bag. Fail.

Fruit Salad: Although some of the fruit (apples, oranges, bananas) was plastic free, the berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries) were definitely packaged in plastic. Fail.

Jeesh…I’m not doing very good, am I?

Bread Rolls: Finally, success! These came wrapped in foil from the catering that also delivered our pies. Win.

Beer and Wine: The wine cork was real cork, as opposed to plastic (the virtues of plastic over the endangered cork tree are another issue entirely). However, the beer bottle lids have a little plastic seal, which makes them not entirely plastic free. Fail-ish.

Olives: A guilty Thanksgiving pleasure of mine—and one that comes in a BPA lined can. Fail. At least I’m in good company, since Beth Terry—my plastic free heroine—recently posted a confession regarding these subtle and sinister plastic-lined metallic villains.

Pie and Ice Cream: This came from a catering service, which delivered the pie in a plastic-free box. Was the pie made from ingredients that came in plastic? Probably. I guess I can’t have your cake pie and eat it too. The ice cream container didn’t have any plastic windows, so that was a plus. I’m a little suspicious of ice cream containers though. The cardboard is suspiciously durable. Plastic perhaps?

Lunches etc.: I have to give kudos to my mom on this one, and not just ’cause she’s my mother. She dug up a recipe for these focaccia-bread-like creations that included freshly minced vegetables, cream cheese, and salad dressing. A bizarre combination, to be sure, but also one that was utterly delicious and plastic free—or so she assured me. She also made chocolate chip cookies that, with the exception of the chocolate chips, came from plastic-free baking goods. It got me to thinking that chocolate chip cookies are actually great plastic-free goodies, if you buy the chocolate chips in bulk. That’s probably a post for another time, though.

Conclusion?

Traveling while living plastic free is hard. Add to that trying not to offend your family, or your significant other’s family, and it becomes an even greater challenge. I learned a lot from the weekend. The best part was having a conversation with my parents, my aunt and uncle, and even my grandparents about my pledge off plastic. It made them think about their habits, and it changed the interaction from me preaching to them about environmental degradation to us having a constructive conversation.

When was the last time you talked to your family about reducing waste?

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In my attempts to shop for plastic-free products, I’ve noticed a trend among produce: I can either buy something that’s organic, or I can buy something that’s plastic free.

I first noticed the problem at Fred Meyer during the first week of my pledge off plastic. There, I found that both organic options for carrots had plastic. The carrots were either bagged in plastic, or they had plastic tags. The same was true of broccoli. The organic stuff had plastic tags, forcing me to buy the non-organic option. Even the organic bananas had plastic wrapping around the stems, whereas the non-organic option didn’t.

I thought maybe it was a fluke. Whole Foods would surely have more options. And for the most part, that was true. With a few exceptions, most of the produce had plastic free options, though a despairing amount still had plastic stickers. As an aside, this time of season, it’s nearly impossible to find fruit that doesn’t have those little plastic-y stickers indicating what type of fruit, and whether or not it’s organic. The stickers seem to have some kind of plastic coating to resist water (which actually raises a good question about whether something is really organic if it’s had adhesive on it). Anyway, produce trip to Whole Foods: Success!

Well, almost. I did encounter one more example of having to choose between plastic and organic. The only option so far I’ve found for out-of-season frozen berries is Stahlbush Island Farms, which makes a 100% biodegradable paper-like packaging for its non-GMO berries—note that these are non-GMO, but they’re not certified organic. Blast! I ended up buying them anyway, because I missed having smoothies, and at least this way, I could keep eating berries.

My girlfriend pointed out that some of the non-organic stuff—both frozen and fresh—might come in plastic bags in order to preserve freshness. Since the non-organic fruits and vegetables have preservatives to keep them fresh, it’s less necessary to rely on sealing them up. Between trying to eat organic and trying not to use plastic, I’m just glad I’m not vegan, because I don’t think there’d be much left to eat.