It’s a chilly spring morning, dew on the grass at the soccer field. It’s our day to bring snacks for the team of 7-year-old girls and I waited until the last minute. Early days of plastic-free living, I popped into the store expecting to find an option that will make the kids happy and satisfy my need to avoid plastic packaging.
Cue the laughter.
I walked out with individually packaged Goldfish crackers wrapped in plastic, and juice boxes wrapped in plastic, with their plastic-wrapped plastic straws attached, knowing it would all end up in the soccer field trash cans.
On the first day of my plastic-free journey, I took a look around my house, counting up the single-use plastic items room by room. In my pantry cabinet, the shelves were packed with snacks in plastic wrapping. It seemed an insurmountable task - how would I ever find easy substitutions for snacks?
Months later, I sat at my kitchen table with the editor of Homewood Life magazine, and she asked me “so what do you do for the kids’ snacks?” It was the only question that caused me to stumble. What do I do?
This month’s plastic challenge is to pay attention to the snacks you eat, and to find ways to snack plastic free.
If you take a look at the snack aisles in most grocery stores, you will see everything packaged in plastic, sometimes in multiple layers. When you think you find a paper bag, you will often find it lined with plastic. Forty percent of new plastic produced is purely for packaging. With 300 million tons of plastic produced each year , and 6.9 billion tons of plastic waste floating around the world , that’s a lot of plastic packaging. Soft plastics are difficult to recycle, and most snack packages can only be recycled through TerraCycle here in the States. Snack packaging is one of the main types of litter I pick up, especially any place where kids gather.
Despite these obstacles, we have managed to snack all we want without the single-use plastic. Here’s what you can do to curb the piles of plastic packaging that comes with snack foods:
“Let them eat fruit”
We keep apples, bananas, peaches, plums, pineapple, and other plastic-free fruits on hand for a quick and healthy snack.
When we have group parties, a watermelon is a plastic-free crowd pleaser that feeds a lot of people!
Shop farmer’s markets and stands for berries plastic-free, something that’s hard to find in grocery stores.
Shop the bulk bins
At our local Whole Foods, we can get yogurt raisins, nuts, plantain chips, chocolate chips and many other snack items (and candy!) without the packaging.
Just take your own produce bags, containers or jars, have them tared (weighed & marked) at customer service, and fill them up with the snacks of your choice!
I use the same type glass jar from the coconut oil I use to make soap. I had the first jar tared, so now when I acquire a new jar I just write the weight on the lid myself. Saves a trip to the customer service counter!
Find easy recipes
I’ve said before I don’t love to cook, so easy recipes are a must. We make cookies, treats and other snacks and keep them on hand, sometimes even in the freezer for those inevitably busy days. Here are a few of our favorite recipes:
Breakfast Cookies - you can play around with these; we add chocolate chips!
Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt Cups - use this easy yogurt recipe, then put 1 Tbsp jam or preserves and a drizzle of maple syrup into individual jars. Top with yogurt, seal and place in the fridge for a quick snack.
I have found that my kids have started making their own snacks, to my surprise. Want some cupcakes? My teenage daughter found a recipe and went for it. Cookies? My son did the same! They are learning skills to meet their needs, feeling proud of their accomplishment, and enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Choose snacks in recyclable containers
When I asked my teenager what her favorite plastic-free snacks are, she answered “pickles.” The other two love olives. All readily available in glass jars to be reused as storage or bulk bin containers, or endlessly recyclable.
Keep an eye out for plastic-free options; they’re out there! I was happy to see Cadbury Cream Eggs, realizing they are only wrapped in foil and packaged in cardboard. Of course, I had to buy them….
Buy in bulk
You can cut down on a lot of packaging by passing over individually packaged items for a bulk container of the same snack. Get a large carton of Goldfish instead of the small individual packs. Choose the large bag of chips instead of a small one for each member of the family. You get the idea.
Choose bulk items in the most recyclable container, such as the big recyclable plastic tubs of animal cracker instead of bags.
Take this month to pay attention to what snacks you have in your home and usually purchase. Implement some of the tips for plastic-free snacking listed above, and see what changes you can make to step away from single-use plastic on day at a time!
Take the #12challengePLASTIC and join us today!
Pay attention to the disposable snack items you encounter.
Choose a single-use plastic wrapped snack, and try out an alternative.
Keep trying out different choices and see how far you can go.
Share about your journey on The Clean Up Project Facebook page!