A state-wide ban on single-use plastic shopping bags is in effect here in New York as of yesterday. I am shouting-from-the-rooftops-level excited for this change, since the number of plastic bags I’ve witnessed people accumulate in a single supermarket trip has been known to drive me nuts!
If you’re still not sold on why this is a step in the right direction, here are a few quick and dirty facts: A plastic bag can take up to 20 years to break down. Even then, it doesn’t ever decompose into organic matter – rather, it breaks down into small bits known as microplastics. Microplastics pollute our soil and water, and are ingested by land and sea animals, as well as us.
Plastic manufacturing is also one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases, thereby playing a major role in climate change.
Although supermarkets will offer paper bags (for a 5¢ per bag fee), the goal is for us to bring reusable bags from home instead. In the spirit of the plastic bag ban, I thought I’d share some other product swaps to further reduce single-use plastics in our kitchens. Let’s dive in!
1. Reusable Produce Bags
Carry-out bags may have been banned, but single-use produce bags are still a problem. Thankfully, there are simple solutions: reusable linen and mesh bags. Drawstring cotton bags are my go-to’s for bulk bin items like grains, nuts, and seeds. Mesh bags are perfect for small vegetables, like mushrooms and Brussels sprouts.
As for larger produce (think apples, avocados, cabbage), there’s no need for a bag, just toss those straight into your cart [gently].
2. Stackable Glass Containers
Food packaging is another major contributor to plastic pollution. Instead of buying bagged cashews or rice, I look for them in the bulk bin section of the supermarket and purchase them by weight in my reusable bags. At home, I transfer them to these stackable glass containers. I love that they’re clear, so I can always see the level my inventory is at. Plus, they look great on counters and open shelves.
3. Reusable Zip-Top Bags
Whether you’re storing pre-cut veg or bringing some almonds along for the road, it’s out with single-use Ziplocs and in with reusable silicone zip-top bags. They come in a variety of sizes, and are freezer-friendly and easy to clean.
4. Glass Straws
Whereas plastic bags can take up to 20 years to break down, straws can take up to 200! These reusable glass straws are the perfect solution. The different colors mean one can be designated for each member of your household!
5 + 6. Brita Water Filter + Reusable Bottle
If you thought 200 years sounded scary, try 450 (WTF?!?!), which is the number of years it can take for a plastic water bottle to break down. Even aside from the plastic, the fact that people are still paying for water bottles boggles my mind – especially since most developed countries have potable water flowing from the tap. But I get it – habits of convenience are the hardest to break.
7. Travel Mug
While we’re talking drinks, did you know a typical paper coffee cup can take up to 30 years to decompose? If coffee on-the-go is your thing, might I suggest this lightweight and comfy-to-use OXO travel mug? Bonus: many coffee shops across the country have started to offer discounts to customers with BYO mugs!
8. Reusable K-Cups
While the convenience of single-cup coffee brewers is practically unbeatable, the waste they create piles up fast. Thankfully, reusable K-Cups do exist! Yes, they will add about 45 seconds to your coffee routine, but it seems like a small price to pay.
9. Tote Bags
It’s a good idea to keep a reusable bag in your purse/backpack for unexpected grocery trips or to pick up that after-work bottle of wine. I’m a big fan of the Junes bag – it’s incredibly durable, yet folds up into almost nothing. For larger loads, I love a heavy-duty canvas tote.
10. Compostable Trash Bags
One of the arguments against the plastic bag ban is that many New Yorkers re-use grocery bags as trash bags. The good news is that compostable garbage bags are a thing, and they’re pretty affordable, too.
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