Happy New Year's Eve! I'll be staying home tonight, cooking a traditional Mexican dinner for friends and avoiding the raucous of the bars. Does this mean I'm officially old?
It could also mean I'm officially on spending lockdown, starting a month early in December instead of making it a New Year's resolution. I've also put The Mexican on a budget (you could even call it an allowance) and he seems to think this means he can give me a nightly curfew. Quid pro quo, in a way, I suppose.
2008 has been an excellent lesson in money management, cohabitation, paying taxes, working exclusively from home, and a few other things that had previously been foreign to me. I've managed to take advantage of having another body in the house by polishing my cooking skills, preparing at least four meals from scratch per week. My darling other half happens to be of a different ethnic persuasion, so I've taken it upon myself to learn the culinary aspects of his homeland, which has not only yielded very delicious results but has turned into nothing short of an obsession. You may have noticed. (And, even though we technically began cohabitating in late 2007, I can, with total difinitiveness, say that I found any and everything I could ever want in a partner in my man, and that was made very obvious to me this year. The one who'd lay his life down for you without hesitation, the one who changed his entire life just to be with you, that's the only one worth keeping.)
I've also become pretty obsessive about reducing the amount of plastic that gets brought in and thrown away in this house, which brings me to this year's very non-traditional annual recap:
Giving Plastic the Finger in 2008
- I said goodbye to disposable plastic baggies and vowed to never buy another. The freezer bags that I do have will continue to be washed and reused, since they hold up amazingly well. Refrigerator food storage from now on is recycled baggies, glass Pyrex containers (plastic lids, I know, but you have these things forever) and aluminum foil (which gets recycled after use). My next purchase is the Bag-E-Wash, which fits in the dishwasher so I don't have to keep cleaning the bags by hand.
- Adios plastic handle shopping bags. They love to give you at least one of these for every single product purchased at the Mexican mercados. It drives me insane, so I've stopped being polite about it and started just stuffing my items in my handbag, or asking them to please keep their bags for the next person. I still kind of get a funny look when I bring in my stylish little canvas shopping bag for larger purchases, but I think the ladies are getting used to it.
- Reusable grocery bags rock, especially when the proceeds of which go to a good cause. I bought my polyfiber bags at Petco during an animal welfare drive, and 100% of the proceeds went to the cause. They're larger and thicker than most, with an extra long handle for over-the-shoulder hauling.
- My set of three cotton produce bags has recently been reduced to two (due to The Mexican accidentally leaving one at Cub Foods) but I was planning on buying another set, anyway. A great alternative to the plastic roll bags at the store for obvious reasons, but I've found that if you dampen these bags slightly when you put your groceries away, the produce keeps fresher longer. These bags are also awesome for buying bulk foods, which are almost always cheaper, too.
- The City of Minneapolis actually recycles very little plastic (just bottles) and you have to guiltily toss everything else in the regular trash. Good thing the Eastside Food Co-op on Central Avenue in Northeast started a plastics recycling program. They take everything from #1 to #6, as long as it's not foam and it's not dirty. Clamshell to-go containers, blue mushroom cartons, yogurt and sour cream tubs, egg and herb cartons, you name it. Thursdays 3:30pm-7:30pm, Saturdays 10:00am-2:00pm.
- Bag To Nature trash bags are certified compostable (by Canada, anyway) and work just as well as conventional plastic bags. They are slightly more expensive, but I'm recycling so much plastic and composting so much food waste now that I use only one trash bag every 3 weeks.
- I don't know why it took me so long to start buying Preserve toothbrushes, but I sure feel a lot better now that I do. Not only made from recycled plastic, but recyclable themselves; just send your used Preserves back in a postage-paid envelope when you're done. My next set of razors will be from Preserve, as well, since the handles are #5 recyclable plastic. You can buy Preserve products at Whole Foods, The Wedge, and the local co-ops.
- My first introduction to LUSH cosmetics was a handful of hyper-piquant, super chunky bath products that I didn't really care for. But this was a few years ago, before the LUSH boutique opened at Eden Prairie Center or the full-size store at Mall of America. Now that I've had a chance to sniff, touch, test and taste all of the LUSH line, Ive found some great products that I really love (namely the Fever Massage Bar, a scent clone of a $30 lotion I'd been buying at Sephora). Most LUSH products come package-free, save a little yellow paper bag or reusable metal tins.
- Bar soap, which is a no-brainer. There's absolutely no reason I need to continually stock my shower with plastic bottles full of moisturizing cleansers (an oxymoron, anyway), exfoliant gels, shaving lotions, etc. when a bar of good soap and a washcloth accomplishes all. We both like Trader Joe's Oatmeal Ginger Soap.
- Lo and behold, powder dishwasher detergent works just as well as the plastic-bottled liquid stuff, and it comes in a fully recyclable paperboard box. I buy all-natural Ecover, which even forgoes the metal pour spout (which you would have to tear out for recycling) for a handy one fashioned from paperboard.
- I stopped buying the gallon bottles of drinking water (which I'd been recycling) and picked up a three-gallon refillable jug with pour spout from Rainbow Foods. They only sell one-gallon refillables at Cub, so I made the extra trip to pick up the much more convenient larger size. I know I'm supposed to drink tap water to save the planet, but if you tasted my tap water, you'd understand.
- Consciously choosing products that have little or no plastic packaging has been easier than I thought it would be. Peanut butter, maple syrup, spices, soft drinks and condiments all have glass-bottle options, and they're almost always the higher-quality choice, too.
- Restore/Refill containers for laundry soap, fabric softener and dish soap. I always see these at Whole Foods and feel guilty buying the bottled stuff. I'm almost at the end of my jug of laundry soap, though, so I'll be turning over a new leaf on my next trip.
- My PurOlogy shampoo and conditioner will be tough to give up, if I can even do it. Maybe Sarah can figure out some sort of refill program?
- I undoubtedly picked up my two-brick-a-week cheese habit from my dad, and it's not going anywhere anytime soon. But everything I buy comes shrink-wrapped in plastic, which is wholly unnecessary. I know people bring their own containers to the deli or request their cheese be wrapped in paper, and I need to start doing that, too.
Once everyone gets warmed up to the idea of a less plastic lifestyle, we'll start buying much less, which means much less will be manufactured. Plastic garbage already outnumbers plankton in a certain part of the ocean by 6 to 1. How shocking is that? It also kills thousands of animals each year because they accidentally ingest it, mistaking it for food. Disposable pens, cigarette lighters, bottle caps, plastic bags and countless pieces of packaging, toys and miscellaneous parts are all culprits. And the plastic byproducts from the manufacturing of these items are just as plentiful, millions of tiny toxic beebees floating around in our oceans.
So how's about it, guys? If you're not already on board, what do you think about significantly reducing your use of plastic, even making it a major New Year's resolution?