Gifts To Reduce Plastic
If you are hanging out here in the Green section, it's likely you well understand how plastic is the enemy of the environment. So much of what we purchase these days comes packaged in this non-biodegradable material, that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is only the start of our problems. With a deep, respectful bow to my anti-plastic pal, Beth Terry, I've created a plastic-replacing gift guide that may just spark new habits (or at least, awareness) within your loved ones.
Shopping Bags: Let's start with the most obvious one, shall we? I feel like every convention, seminar or event I attend, I am handed a branded shopping bag as if it is an original idea. (Like mouse pads in days of yore.) At this point, I am giving them away to neighbors. Happily, I see them sold in grocery stores and malls so they are not hard to find. Advise the recipient to keep some in the car so they won't forget. If you want to browse online, here are some places to start:
Non-Plastic Produce Bags: These sexy little bags replace the wasteful produce bags we get at the store for those apples, that one lemon or garlic clove. Yes, it takes some training to remember (like most of these products) but now I really enjoy buying my bulk cereal or sunflower seeds in these delightful bags. Here is a shot of my bags (one for produce, one for herbs, one for bread) - the wrinkles prove how much I use them:
Water Bottles: Another obvious one, but not everyone is yet on board. My Mississippi family still buys pallats of water bottles and it KILLS me so I need brazen gifted hints. Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year and that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. Even worse, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are not recycled. Painful but true.
Online Gift Certificates: One of my favorite gifts (giving or receiving) is an iTunes gift card - free music, yay! But that little dancing silhouette dealio is still plastic I'd rather not circulate. Consider buying your loved one an online gift certificate - buy it online and they redeem it online, without that tangible plastic square. Before buying any gift card, first check and see if this option is available.
Glass Straws: Plastic straws are everywhere and yet, they are rarely discussed as a source of waste. Honestly, I never thought much about them until I saw Beth use these elegant glass straws. It may not catch on with everybody but I guarantee you it will plant a seed in their head, which will take root over time. Plus, they just look incredibly cool.
Green Dining Experience: Over the weekend, we visited Ted's Montana Grill, and were delighted to see they used only paper straws. Furthermore, the company strives to run their business 99 percent plastic-free - just one reason that I'll be back. (Bonus info: The straws are made in America and cost Ted's five times more than buying plastic.) There are other restaurants, bistros and cafes that have taken a similar approach so reward them with your business. Find out who in your recipient's area is taking those extra steps in reducing plastic waste and show your appreciation.
Chipotle - our local Denver success story
Food Share: Despite what I said last week about community-supported agriculture (CSA) stress, there's a lot to be said for the lack of packaging that comes with weekly food shares. If there is a bread lover in your life, a bread share would be the perfect item - the gift that gives all year long. Of course, that also means their fresh bread arrives naked! No wasteful plastic. Same goes for a cheese share, mushroom share, fruit share, egg share and so on. Again, you'll need to do a bit of research in to the recipients region to see what works best. Some background resources to get you started:
Local Harvest - Just type in a zip code to find a regional farm/CSA
Eco-Friendly Toothbrush: Here's where I'll steal liberally from Beth. Earlier this year, she did a comprehensive post reviewing all the different non-plastic toothbrush options, including the pros/cons of each. It's yet another item of plastic that we touch every day but rarely think about.
Bamboo Keyboard and Mouse: Again, this is the type of plastic we rarely think about, it is so embedded in our lives that we don't consider its source. Bamboo is one of those sustainable and sturdy materials that look and feel more natural than plastic, because it is.
Pet Toys: One of our favorite cat-sitters, an elderly woman named Harriet, recently commented on our approach to cat toys, "It's so sad that Boudreaux only has trash to play with!" It's true, he gets beer bottle caps, crumpled up paper and random coins - each of which he is happy to chase and retrieve for another chase-retrieve. When I see all the crappy plastic toys marketed to pet owners, I cringe and then pray that ya'll are stronger than that. I can assure you that the animals don't know the difference. Please refrain from buying and instead....
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some 'trash' to throw across the room. Meanwhile, please share your plastic-free gift ideas in the comments section. (Also, here is Beth's list of plastic-free product suppliers.)
Wishing each one of you a waste-free season full of green intentions.
BlogHer Section Editor, LIFE & GREEN; Contributing Editor, Animal & Wildlife Concerns; Proprietor, ClizBiz