Sorry plastic, I’m with glass. And stainless steel. And metal. Because you generate a ton of waste and leak chemicals. It’s over between us.
Today I’m rapping with Stacy Conlin, mom of three, on her decision to go plastic-free. And get this—her family fills the garbage can only once every other month. I had to get the full scoop on this.
Let’s start with why you decided to go plastic-free.
About three years ago I got super annoyed at my garbage can. It’s big and gross and stinky and heavy and really Rick’s job, but he’s out of town half the time, so I was always stuck dragging it up to the curb. I asked myself how do we fill this thing every week! We wasted more than some people own!
Also, remember that whole BPA scare? My oldest had just finished with the bottle then and I had been saving all of my Dr. Brown’s bottles for the bun in the oven. I had bought those because I was told they were the best! Turns out they were one of the worst when it came to BPA leeching in to your precious infant’s milk. So, I already had a bad relationship with plastic, and I was just taking that last step and really breaking up.
Ha! How did you get your husband and kids on board?
I knew we could do without a lot of things, especially all of the plastic in the kitchen that gets ruined in the dishwasher and microwave. I researched some ideas online for about a week then presented Rick with my case. I was nervous. I was about to change some pretty basic functions of our lives and I was going to create some more jobs for him too, so I needed him to be on board. I totally thought he would dismiss me at first and I’d have to apply pressure over time to achieve my goal, but that wasn’t how it happened at all.
He was totally on board. With all of it. I mean, I just told my husband I was about to stop buying potato chips and stop wearing deodorant in the same conversation. He was a GO! Gotta love that guy:) He said that he married an overachiever and he knew that when I decided to stay at home with the kids I would do it in a very precise, thought-out, and distinctly “Stacy” way. He was right!
How did your lives change?
Well, for me it started in the kitchen. I decided to get rid of (give away) as much plastic as possible. Plastic is not nearly as easily recyclable as glass or metal.
This conversion did involve some up-front cost. I bought several stainless steel lidded bowls as well as various types of jars to store things in. I needed some new large utensils to replace all of my plastic spoons and spatulas and such (I now have stainless steel, wood, and silicone, when something pliable is absolutely needed). However, I haven’t bought something for my kitchen since this time. And all of the things I did buy I use and it all still looks brand new.
Walk me through a typical grocery store run. What do you do about produce? Meat?
I take my own cloth grocery bags, produce bags, glass jars, and stainless steel bowls (for deli and meat). And I try my hardest to not buy anything that comes in plastic. If a product does come in plastic, I try to find something recyclable. Yes, sometimes that is still not an option, and I have to buy garbage. But I know I did my best!
That’s funny—buying garbage. But you’re right, we do it. What’s been the hardest thing to find?
Cheese! I cannot find cheese that is available without some type of plastic wrap or something. Unless I get it in a jar at the deli counter. But we’re cheese snobs and that just won’t do.
Okay, so. Let’s talk about the bathroom. It’s hard to avoid there, right?
A lot of garbage can be found in personal care as well. I currently only buy bars of soap that come wrapped in some type of paper or cardboard or nothing at all.
I tried to do shampoo-free (they call this no-poo, and it sometimes involves vinegar) and solid shampoo (looks like a bar of soap and comes in little to no packaging) but neither of those worked for me. I mean, I’m as vain as the next middle-aged housewife and I need to feel good about my hair. Currently we all use bottled shampoo and conditioner that are environmentally friendly (usually from Whole Paycheck…er…I mean Foods) and are packaged in a plastic bottle that can be recycled. I am a stickler about only having one bottle of each at a time in each bathroom. I hate clutter as much as garbage 😉
What’s your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge is TOYS! Toys are, inherently, garbage. They always get broken and ruined and thrown in the big, stinky garbage can. But, I have kids, and kids need toys.
What’s been the hardest change to adopt?
Toothpaste. This is one thing that I cannot get my kids to comply with. They love toothpaste.
You also might be surprised to learn I don’t use deodorant. And I really don’t stink! At least I don’t think I do. I use baking soda to brush my teeth (and haven’t had one cavity since my switch 3 years ago, but that may be because all of my teeth already have fillings;) and, if I think I’m going to be nervous-sweating (meeting at school, etc.), I sprinkle some baking soda in my hand and pat it under my arms. Otherwise, I just wash well. With my bar of soap.
And RAZORS! That is the biggest scam in bathroom today! Disposable razors are ridiculously expensive, tremendously wasteful, and they totally suck. We use an aluminum safety razor with stainless steel blades. So cheap and very effective. I mean it. If you try this, please be careful. There’s a learning curve!
I have to ask about make-up. What’s your secret?
I have very minimal make-up. And I try to buy only make-up (and food for that matter) that comes from a natural source and has little packaging. I only have one of each item. My one transgression here is mascara. I can’t kick my Maybeline Full’N’Soft habit. I just can’t.
Also, clothes are hard for me. The organizer and less-is-more side of me wishes I could make-do with less, but I just really like clothes. For me and the kids. And Rick. Maybe that’s my dirty little secret. I’m better with shoes.
How do you think this has helped your kids learn about our environment?
We talk a lot about garbage and waste with our kids. I know that they see that we do things a little differently than most people we know. (This is especially apparent to them when we pack picnic lunches!) They don’t seem to mind—yet.
We talk about our earth and how we try to take care of it because nature is so beautiful and using less garbage is a part of that, etc. We spend a lot of time outdoors, so the beauty of nature is important to all of them.
Tell me—where do you indulge? Spill it!
We allow ourselves treats now and then. I always have a candy jar filled (with M&Ms or red Swedish fish or something that came in a non-recyclable plastic bag). And just today I bought Charlotte some Oreos, her favorite.
Thank you, Stacy!
If you missed last week’s blog, “Mom’s dirty little secret: give me five” on enticing your kids to eat healthy foods, check that out.
Last year I stopped washing all plastic in the dish washer. The heat is suppose to be bad combination with plastic. I went through my kitchen and threw away all plastic cups, sippy cups (yes we still had a few in the back and my youngest is 6) and all water bottles. I have cleared all my plastic out of my kitchen. I too had the experience of using plastic baby bottles and feeling like I poisoned my son : (
Stacy had great ideas and it is amazing the waste we accumulate. I think I still have a few plastic storage containers I now feel inspired to purge.
Is food wrapped in plastic harmful? I thought plastic was only harmful with heat?
Argh – the plastic kid cups! I am trying to get rid of that stuff, but I can’t seem to part with my colorful little IKEA cups that stack so nicely in the cabinet. Any suggestions for where to find small “juice” sized glassware for kids – let me know!
As for the plastic wrap over food – the food is fine, but the extra plastic can’t be recycled and generates waste.
I have started noticing plastic everywhere, especially while shopping for my kids. If you walk down the snack aisle at the grocery store, so much of it is packaged in individual on-the-go wrappers.