On my post about the Emergency Paper Towels, my friend Lauren commented that she is glad to get details about how we function without disposable towels. She has been embarrassed to ask, but she wants to know how we get along without some other modern conveniences.
First of all, no need to be embarrassed. (Why is it that whenever I say “Don’t be embarrassed” I always want to add “I like men without hair”? Seriously, it’s not like I’m some sort of Gypsy groupie. It’s just such a great line.) We are certainly not perfect environmentalists around here. We use disposable diapers – 7th Generation brand, which is better but still adding to the landfills. We used cloth for the first child, but London and LA had such water problems that we decided cloth and disposable would more or less be equivalent environmentally. And while I wanted to switch back to cloth with Lilah when we moved here, it seemed like at that point, we might as well just wait the last few months for her to be potty trained.
So, basically, we were lazy.
Second, I think it’s a great idea to share some of the things we do to reduce our negative ecological impact. The fact is that many of the things we do have become such a way of life that I don’t even think about them until I am in someone else’s house. There I am, chatting in a friend’s kitchen, and I see a pile of paper napkins and realize I haven’t seen such items for two months. When we order takeout (and don’t get me started on how guilty I feel about doing that when all those disposable packages arrive, but every now and then, even I don’t feel like cooking), we tell the folks at the Chinese restaurant not to bring disposable forks and napkins. Sometimes, they actually don’t bring them, so I really can go quite some time between paper-napkin sightings.
Anyway, the point is that the way we do things is so much a part of our lives that we don’t even think about it.
Lauren wanted to know how we do without plastic wrap. Truth is, we do use plastic wrap. We go through one roll about every eight to twelve months. We mostly use it when there is nothing else that would suit – although those times are fewer and fewer as we get used to other ways of preserving things. The one time I have used it in the last eight months was to wrap our menorah after Chanukah because it keeps the silver from tarnishing.
If we want to wrap something to put it in the fridge or freezer, we simply put it in one of our storage containers that has a lid. Most of ours are Pyrex, as we try to limit our use of plastic. We save glass peanut butter, honey, and jam jars to reuse, so we store food in those, too. If we are storing something in a bowl without a lid, we just cover it with a plate, and we often store soup right in the pot, covering it with a lid.
If someone is at our house and is taking home something, we wrap it in a cloth napkin or put it in a container. The containers almost always return. Our neighbors are forever returning our plates to us, usually at moments when I am screaming at the kids, but that’s a story for another time.
When wrapping food for lunches and picnics, we use reusable things. I love the stuff at reusablebags.com. I like Wrap-n-mats – awesome. There are several brands of reusable baggies, also quite good. Don’t put these things in the washing machine or dishwasher, though, as it tends to degrade the liner. (I must of course remind you to use as little water as possible when washing by turning off the tap after wetting the sponge, scrubbing, and then turning it back on just to rinse.)
I also got myself some reusable bread bags to freeze or refrigerate bread. My husband bought me a stunning bread box, which is the centerpiece of my impossibly messy kitchen. I store muffins and zucchini bread in my covered cake stand.
So, Lauren, long answer to short question. That’s how we avoid plastic wrap and baggies. What else do you want to know? Be careful what you ask, however, because I just might answer it.